Flash Sale! to get a free eCookbook with our top 25 recipes.

BREW REVIEWS

proriat-hospitality-flENqflm6xU-unsplash
proriat-hospitality-flENqflm6xU-unsplash
proriat-hospitality-flENqflm6xU-unsplash
Aegir Project x Varvar Brew OCEANS APART GOSE (3.9% ABV)

This once-off collab between Aegir Project and Ukraine’s Varvar Brewery pours Ribena red, thanks to the addition of hibiscus. Hibiscus might give the colour, but the fl avour of this gose is largely taken care of by the addition of pink peppercorns and sumac, a maroon-hued spice with a tart, citrusy profi le. These extra ingredients give a prominent whiff of crushed black pepper and complex notes of pencil shavings, citrus and spice. The pepper continues on the palate, backed up by sharp red berries and a distinct minerality. Like Folk & Goode’s Dr.Acula, this is a savoury beer, and one that’s more for savouring and discussing than for swigging by the pint. It’s a delicate beer and while dominated by spices it has a restrained balance. The beer’s light, spritzy body adds to its drinkability. Would I drink it all day? I would not. Is it a well-made, interesting beer? It most certainly is.

Folk and Goode Brewing & Distilling Co. DR.ACULA (5% ABV)

When you pour this beer, you know why glassware was invented. A pewter mug or ceramic stein simply wouldn’t do Dr.Acula justice. This new fruit ‘n’ veg beer from Folk & Goode pours like blood. Well, sort of. It’s deep red, although with good clarity, and topped with a delightful fuchsia foam – something a pint of blood probably wouldn’t have. The nose is confusing, and yet beguiling. There’s some sulphur and then the tell-tale earthy whiff of beetroot – one of the key ingredients in this brew. But there’s also a cherry-like sweetness, brought on by the various berry additions – blackberry, blueberry and blackcurrant. On deeper inhaling, the aroma emits notes of rooibos – sweet and yet savoury, with a distinct earthiness. And then there’s a slight sour note in the background that reminded me of the fermented turnip juice I once sipped on in Istanbul. The base beer – a simple American wheat – is just a vehicle for the additions, although I personally couldn’t detect any of the added vanilla. If anything I would have to say it lacks a bit of beeriness. Blindfolded, I don’t know if I would know I was drinking a beer at all. But overall, it’s a very interesting brew – defi nitely not something you session, but it would be fascinating to use in a food pairing.

The 400 Brewing Company HARAMBE’S BABY (6.6% ABV)

The 6th edition of 400 Brewing Company's sought-after Harambe strayed from the norm. Previous iterations were all around 10% ABV, but this time around it’s clear that brewer Carl Nienaber had a plan in mind: a 6.6% ABV beer in a 660ml bottle with 66 IBUs... you catch the drift? The theme is further carried on in the exquisite label design, a beery homage to the classic horror movie Rosemary’s Baby. So, onto the beer. Think grapefruit meets dark chocolate for the aroma with some light vanilla espresso at the back. On fl avour, the hop notes show off extreme dryhopping and make this beer a bit chewy but in such a nice way. It’s a touch roasty but it still remains very well balanced. I can’t wait to see what happens the seventh time around.

Dancing Hops Brewery KOKOMO HAZY IPA (5.5% ABV)

Dancing Hops Brewery is a new contract brand operating out of Johannesburg, with each of their beers named for a famous song. The brewer, Liam, once gave me a spiced butternut ale which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I was rather looking forward to this beer. The packaging lures you in from the get-go, and the tropical beach on the label seems to be a perfect spot for to crack open a Kokomo. The beer has hopforward aroma with mango and peach working together harmoniously, but also a rich bubblegum note hits on the back end. The fl avour brought about the peach again but with a ripe guava and good bitterness that balanced it off perfectly. It didn't have an intense juice-like profi le to it which I fi nd a lot of the beers in this category give you, and the bitterness level is too high for it to be stylistically accurate, but for me this all made for a much more sessionable drink that I can see myself having often in the future.

Devil’s Peak Beer Company INTO THE MOUNTAINS NON-ALCOHOLIC IPA

This juicy IPA gave off aromas of orange and grapefruit, but I found it a little intense on the palate, mainly due to the high carbonation. These beers do kind of come across as watered-down versions of their beer-styles but for non-alcoholic beers they were easy to drink and gave more fl avour than other non-alcs I've tasted. I'm sure these will be well received by the non-alcoholic market as they offer something different to what is currently out there.

Devil’s Peak Beer Company TO THE SEA NONALCOHOLIC IPA

The latest releases from Devil’s Peak step out of the box and offer us something new: non-alcoholic IPAs. The popularity of non-alcoholic beer has defi nitely increased in the past few years and it's good to see a notable brewery giving us all something different than just a 0% lager. Let’s kick off with To the Sea – winner of a bronze award at this year’s African Beer Cup and for me, the better of the two. The aroma was hop-forward, giving off notes of orange and naartjie with a hint of Corn Flakes in the background. Initially, the high carbonation gives off a palate-engulfi ng soda water sensation, but the naartjie follows through quickly afterwards and brings the brew to life.

Anvil Brewhouse BOOKOO (4% ABV)

If you were worried about the retirement of Anvil’s founding brewer, Theo de Beer, you can rest easy. New brewer at the helm, Christo Holtzhausen, is doing things right. And I don't think it gets any more right than Bookoo, Anvil's strange, brilliant, and highly addictive light ale fl avoured with buchu and honey. If you don't know already, buchu is an indigenous herb that has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant. I'm generally not a fan of adding buchu to beverages, so it was with some scepticism that I sampled Anvil's buchu-infused beer. Happily, I was proven wrong. This ale's aroma hints at hay bale freshness (probably due to the unmalted wheat), followed by a herbaceous intrigue. But in it is in fl avour that the beer truly sings – mint tea meets blond ale with a side-helping of fresh blackberries. Bookoo is a bonkers beer that somehow works for both beer nerds and non-beer drinkers alike. Beer nerds will celebrate its resemblance to a fi ne Belgian gruit (a beer with added herbs in lieu of hops). Non-beer drinkers will simply love it for what it is: a minty, palate-cleaning and refreshing beverage. I think this beer should be on tap in every local in South Africa. Sadly, it's not. But get yourself to Dullstroom where it is at least on tap at the brewery. – MH

That Brewing Company THAT ALPHA HOPPER SINGLE-HOP IPA SERIES (5.8% ABV)

That Brewing Company’s Alpha Hopper special release four-pack features four single-hop IPAs: same base beer but each showcasing a different hop. This series was a fantastic way to highlight individual hop fl avours. First up, Citra (4/5). As you would expect, citrus and pine came through on fl avour and aroma with a high level of bitterness that assisted the beer brilliantly. The Simcoe version (4/5) was a lot more malt-forward than the Citra, but that’s not to say there weren’t notable hop characteristics – as well as bread-like malt, there was pine and subtle notes of naartjie, peach and plum. The Centennial (3.7/5) had an odd, slightly dust-like aroma up front, followed by hop-derived lemon, grapefruit and stone fruit notes. On the fl avour side, a bitter stone fruit fl avour envelopes the palate straight away and goes through the motions of bitter into sweet and then back to bitter again. There is some tropical fruit hiding in the background but the bitterness made it very hard to pick out unless searched for. And fi nally, Columbus: the dominant aroma was grapefruit with some pine and grass-like notes. On sipping, there was a sweet orange note and less bitterness than I expected. The pine aroma follows through on fl avour as well but the sweet orange and bitter aftertaste takes precedence here. My favourite of the lot with a score of 4.1/5.– BL

Saggy Stone Brewing Co FARMHOUSE SAISON (5.2%)

I've always loved the Saggy Stone Brewer’s Small Batch cans. There is so much information on there, it's like you’re getting a little beer education class while you sip. One glance at the sleek silver can tells you which malt, hops and yeast were used, gives vital statistics like IBUs, and OG and even informs you which Beer Judge Certifi cation Program (BJCP) style category the beer fi ts into, should you wish to taste with the BJCP app open. Sure it might be a little nerdy for some drinkers, but most will take something new away from it. This is the ninth beer in the small batch series, a collab with Lallemand to test out their new farmhouse saison yeast. It’s a hazy, orange-gold beer with a rocky white head. A fi rst sniff gives an aroma of black pepper and grains of paradise, with a fresh citrus note and a faint whiff of lemongrass. It’s not an altogether typical saison, although in truth there is really no such thing. It does have the fruit and spice and it does end dry, though not as dry as most. There’s a fairly prominent banana ester that lends sweetness and the body is a little fuller than is usual for a saison, but overall it’s a highly quaffable beer with lots of depth and complexity. Plan a food pairing around it or just drink it in the autumn afternoon sun.– LC

Woodstock Brewery DANZN WEISS (5% ABV)

Once upon a time virtually every brewery in SA offered a weissbier in some form or another. These days they’re tougher to come by and while I’ll be the fi rst to admit that it’s not my favourite style, I really enjoyed this version from Woodstock Brewery. It ticks pretty much all the weissbier boxes – big whiffs of banana, vanilla and to a lesser extent, clove; a fat and fl uffy body and a good old dose of banana bread when you swallow. It does lose a couple of points on head retention – it lacked that luscious pillowy crown, although the foam didn’t fall altogether. And the bitterness is a little high and long-lasting for a classic Weiss, but largely it’s a very enjoyable example of the style. Following Woodstock’s “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” theme, the beer is named for a catchy tune from Bavarian pop band LaBrassBanda (in case, like me, you were unfamiliar with them, this helpful line from Wikipedia should shed some light: “The name of the band is a portmanteau of the Italian words "la banda" and the English term "brass band", both meaning the same.” Inspired stuff). I’d recommend you don some neon leggings, whack the tune onto YouTube and settle into a couple of cans.– LC

Swinkels Family Brewers BAVARIA 0.0% IPA

Until recently, non-alcoholic beers in South Africa have largely been limited to pale lager, one notable exception being Devil’s Peak’s Hero range. Elsewhere in the world, breweries have been exploring non-alcoholic versions of other styles and I’m pleased to see Bavaria’s 0.0% IPA arrive in SA. But does it really taste like an IPA? Well, it does have that tell-tale worty character typical of many non-alcoholic beers, but there is also a background bitterness. In fact, you can tell the brewers weren’t shy with hops, which for me makes this a much more enjoyable non-alcoholic beer than most. It has a fresh, slightly grassy aroma with a hint of citrus fruit and while it’s a little sweet, it’s a much more flavourful non-alc than many. Am I going to ditch my favourite beers and convert to drinking Bavaria’s non-alcoholic IPA? No, but I could very easily see myself bringing two or three to a braai in order to pace myself, or swapping out my usual beers for a six-pack of these when I’m on DD duty. – LC

Aegir Project Independent Brewery LITTLE ROGUE (6% ABV)

Aegir has excelled yet again with this barrel aged sour. Brewer and owner Rory Lancellas has done some amazing things for the craft beer industry and just seems to get better with every new release he brings out. Aged for four years, this sour golden ale really wakes up the nose and palate. The aroma brings a hefty amount of sour citrus and apricot, and it's hard to distinguish much else due to that delightful sour funk. The taste was so tart that my cheeks tingled with a sensation that can only be brought on by a great sour beer. The citrus pulls through on the palate but also brings in some other tropical-type fruits including melon, peach and mango. A fantastic sour that would be best enjoyed on a hot summer's day but will also do nicely on a winter's evening with a plate of aged cheese and a roaring fire. - NIL

Striped Horse MILK STOUT (6% ABV)

The decision to release a 6% ABV milk stout in a 600m1 green bottle is not something that the Striped Horse team would have executed without plenty of strategising. It's no coincidence that their latest beer is a style that is deeply familiar to most South African beer drinkers and no secret that the brand isn't chasing the craft drinker with their close-to-quart sized bottles. But beer is for everyone and there has been plenty of buzz in craft circles about the new stout. And with good reason. Fuller bodied and fuller flavoured than Castle Milk Stout, it a very well made ale and a perfect winter beer. With waves of coffee and chocolate, it hits all the flavour notes for the style, although the sweetness level does inch towards cloying as you make your way down the bottle. If you're really lucky you'll find a place that pours it on nitro, but failing that a quart with your dinner or dessert will go down a treat. - LC

Naked Face Brewing WATERMELON WHEAT (5% ABV)

Enjoying craft beer means that you always seem to be searching for some form of uniqueness. Whether it's a new brewery, a new style of beer or a crazy addition to a known beer style, craft beer lovers enjoy the search for something different. I feel like the Watermelon Wheat is exactly that. Watermelon beer? You must be joking right? Thankfully not. Watermelon is front and centre and engulfs the entire palate with its juicy, tart flavours. The aroma though is more what you would expect from a German weiss and not necessarily from an American wheat beer, with banana esters lending fruit salad vibes. Banana comes through in the aftertaste as well, but the watermelon really shines and makes for a very refreshing pint. - Bl.

Soul Barrel x Kennel Brewery BLACK OIL IMPERIAL STOUT (13.5% ABV)

A dark beer in every sort of way. Jet black in colour, with a dark tan head, the beer gives off aromas of dark chocolate, black liquorice and roasted coffee, with much the same profile when tasting it. Wood-like aromas also line the nostrils, giving off a somewhat earthy smell. A very rich and surprisingly well-hidden alcohol warmth also gave this stout a luscious mouthfeel, with just the right amount of creaminess to line the palate and let the flavour sensation last well after the sip has been taken. This imperial stout is one of the best I have tasted in a very long time. - BL

Hey Joe Brewing Company POST MODERN MONK HAZY IPA (5.5% ABV)

Hey Joe is best known for Belgian beers but in their "Monkin' Around" range, they take on IPAs. Post Modern Monk is the second installment in the range: designed as a sessionable New-England IPA. On the nose, I picked up bright peach, passion fruit, and hints of cedar. The beer delivers a generous measure of fruit flavours, although these veer more toward stone fruit and blueberry than the guava and pineapple suggested on the label. It finishes dry without being overly bitter, which makes you want another right away. Post Modern Monk is a very accessible IPA: smooth and fruity, not challenging, but enjoyable. If anything, I would have preferred a juicier, fresh-fruit flavour from a NEIPA, and that's where it loses some points. But overall, a very well-crafted brew. - MH

That Brewing Company MILKSHAKE IPA (6% ABV)

I have known the guys from That Brewing Company for quite some time now, and I know they have been trying out new styles before they really gained ground in South Africa. The first ever sour ale I tried was from them and its fitting that the first Milkshake IPA I try is from them too. This beer is definitely unique and after smelling pink sweets, Wicks bubblegum, and grassy undertones, I was wondering if I could actually view and perceive this as an IPA. The taste of bitter citrus and freshly cut grass put my mind at ease. Surprisingly for the style, there was no lactose added to this milkshake IPA, and I think that a little more creaminess would have really set it apart. - BL

Aegir Project Independent Brewery FIELDS OF SIMCOE PALE ALE (4.3% ABV)

Aegir's Rory Lancellas has become the king of single hop pale ales. Fields of Simcoe is his latest, showcasing —of course —the Simcoe hop. It is, as pretty much all of Aegir's pale ales are, one of those super-quaffers that I find really difficult to review. The main reason for this is that I absentmindedly sip and enjoy and suddenly I've reached the bottom of the can without having written a thing. Luckily, I grabbed a four-pack and so, on the second take, I managed to locate my notepad and pen. Aroma-wise, it's actually quite malt-forward with notes of nuts and a light biscuit quality. The hops, which manifest as under-ripe guava and an earthiness reminiscent of wet leaves, are lingering underneath. Flavour-wise, there is a touch of stone fruit and some pine to be found. Is it the finest of Aegir's run of pale ales? Probably not. Is it still a damn fine beer? Most definitely. - LC

Just Brewing Co. CHEEKY PALE ALE (4.5% ABV)

This pale ale is dark gold in colour with a nice white head that retains itself fairly well. Its very malt-forward and brings on a lot of citrus notes on both the aroma and taste, but blood orange is the dominant flavour. There is some grassiness on the aftertaste, but that hit of orange lines the palate, making other flavour notes a bit tough to pick up. It may be a bit too malty for some, but after a few sips it becomes a very easy beer to devour. - BL

Patiala Brew & Q HARAMBE FIVE (10.5% ABV)

It has been a few months since Little Wolf founder Stefan Wiswedel stepped into the sizable shoes of Murray Stephenson at suburban Cape Town brewery Patiala. It's the second closest brewery to my house so I'm a fairly regular visitor and I can say that Hop Juice, a New England pale ale, is Stefan's best yet since he took the reins. With massive wafts of ripe mango, guava and peach, and just the merest hint of malt sitting beneath, it is quite flawless and very moreish. What I love most is that it still brings a refreshing bitterness. We're of course not talking West Coast levels of bitterness, but it steers clear of the sometimes cloying nature of some NEPAs and NEIPAs. It's a limited edition batch and I'm likely to be back for more soon, so get some while there's still some to get. -LC

The 400 Brewing Co. HARAMBE FIVE (10.5% ABV)

I won't beat about the bush. I have always been scared of this beer. I generally steer clear of beers above 7% ABV unless I'm not planning to leave my couch until morning. But everyone has always raved about 400 Brewing's annual release of this imperial black IPA and this year I can see what all the fuss is about. It is remarkably drinkable for something no high in alcohol and is no complex you keep going back for another sip until you suddenly realise you've finished the can and are restricted to the couch for the rest of the night. There's masses of pine on the nose — a fresh, vibrant hop character that wakes up the senses like a dose of smelling salts. But there's more than that on both nose and palate — there is an underlying dark malt character, with a touch of coffee and just a whiff of leather. It is a special occasion beer but not one to sip in a bar. It is best enjoyed at home, with a classic movie and a big old bowl of biltong. -LC

Richmond Hill Brewing Co. PSYCHIC MIGRATION VANILLA OLD ALE (4.9% ABV)

Richmond Hill has been delivering quality beers for quite some time now and this was no exception. Not many breweries dabble in styles such as old ales, and this was a great introduction. The dark ruby hue and light tan head made the beer look delectable, while the rich malt-forward aroma really intrigued the olfactory senses. The malt notes come through on the palate as well, giving off a lot of toffee and caramel, but it is the Madagascan vanilla pod addition that really shines. This is a beer to enjoy around a fire, reliving the past with some old friends. - BL

Frontier Beer Co. x Naked Face Brewing SOUR BONA (7% ABV)

Sour Bona is kettle soured — a faster and easier method of producing sours than traditional wooden barrel souring, which can take many months — or even years—to achieve a similar acidity level. This collab by Frontier and Naked Face has been done superbly well. The beer gives off nice tropical fruit notes of peach and pineapple, and a slightly spicy tang as well to ensure that the tart punch isn't all you get. A hazy light orange colour with a head that retained itself better than any other sour beer I've had, this beer has ticked all the right boxes . It delivers on flavour, aroma and acidity, and will quench your thirst on any steamy South African day. You'll find it on BestCraftBeer — grab some cans while you can. - BL

Aegir Project Independent Brewery AGE OF THE MANGO (9.1% ABV)

It's not the first time that Aegir Project's Rory Lancellas has had the honour of using Vin de Constance grape must in one of his hybrid beers. This time, the grape juice was blended with golden ale wort (pre-fermented beer) and aged in oak for 18 months. The final touch — 100kg of mango pulp — helped to transform this into a remarkably complex beverage. It kicks off with a wave of funk—that tell-tale barnyardy Brettanomyces aroma. Hiding behind it is a subtle sourness and a waft of mango, although the fruit only fully comes through when you sip. Tropical fruit flavours dominate, offering a juicy, tart mouthful that finishes crisp and dry. It's an extremely refreshing brew that belies its high ABV. Grab a bottle as a Christmas gift for the special beer lover in your life, or simply buy it along with a slab of aged gouda and treat yourself — you deserve it. - LC

Hey Joe Brewing Company PAPA JOE SERIES BELGIAN STOUT (7% ABV)

When dedicating something special in your life, a lot of people would immediately look to an idol that inspired them or maybe a family member who helped lead them on the path they have chosen. The inspiration for this beer however, came from the brewing team's furry four-legged friends: McGruff, 011a and Simon. This unique beer doesn't follow a specific beer style but rather creates its own. Roasted molasses malt aromas are backed by some Arabic coffee and dark fruit. On the palate, coffee dominates again but with sweet malt, dark fruits and dark chocolate in a supporting role. There is a level of creaminess that really helps make this beer moreish, and I believe that many a stout fan will thoroughly enjoy it. - BL

Jump Brewing NEW ENGLAND IPA (5.7% ABV)

"One Time Only", the can proclaims and this is the philosophy of brand new Jump Brewing, brainchild of Murray Middleton (ex- Metal Lane). The first of Jump's one-off, single batch brews is a NEIPA brewed under contract at Devil% Peak. If the first bite is with the eye, as they say, then Jump's debut grabs you before you've even opened it. There's a lot of info on the can from tasting notes, hop varietals used, suggested serving temperature and IBU count, as well as a few other quirky splashes. Happily, what's inside the can is just as good as the label. It begins with a whack-you-in-the-face aroma of guava, mango and touch of green pepper and once it warms up a little, a hint of papaya. It's hazy without being fully opaque and despite the low IBUs (20), still manages to remain balanced and give a refreshing finish. "Here for a good time, not for a long time", the label tells you. Buy some while you can. - LC

Saggy Stone Brewing Co SABRO BRUT IPA (6% ABV)

The Brut IPA is a fairly new addition to the beer world and brings in new taste profiles to delight our ever-relentless search for unique beverages. Its a style of beer that was invented in 2017 at a brewpub in San Francisco and is best described as an IPA with a champagne-like dryness. Saggy Stone's Sabre, named for the hop used to bring it to life, is a shining example of this. Bursting with citrus, peach and tropical fruits on both nose and palate, this beer style's unique champagne-like dry attributes bring a perfect balance and allow for an endlessly drinkable summer-time beer. - BL

Northern Bru KUILA LAGER (5% ABV)

It's no great secret that craft beer has a diversity problem, so it's great to see the first coloured-owned beer brand launching in Cape Town. Kuila Lager is the debut beer from the new contract brand, Northern Bru. Deep gold and with a slight haze (it's unfiltered), it's certainly a more interesting brew than the average pale lager. Malt-forward and complex, the beer impresses with aromas of lightly toasted brown bread and a subtle herbaceous hop note. There's a mouth-filling sweetness up front, but this quickly gives way to a lingering bitter finish. Rich and malty, it's going to make a great food beer and I can imagine plenty of them getting sipped around the braai this summer. A quirky talking point is the ring pull bottle cap — unusual and at least in our household, rather tricky to master... - LC

Old Potter's Brewhouse APPELKOOS TROOS BERLINER WEISSE (4% ABV)

If there's one thing that Trevor Gerntholtz from Old Potter's is known for, it's his gregarious nature so it's no surprise that the brewery's latest release was a collab through and through. The recipe was put together by Stefan Wiswedel (Patiala), Olaf Morgenroth (Franschhoek), Mike Hallls (Feral) and of course Trevor himself, with the beer brewed on a rainy weekend in September with a dozen or so Cape brewers and beer lovers in attendance. So how did it turn out? It's a refreshing, well-made and moreish beer that serves as a good intro to sour styles. Appelkoos kicks off with a great whiff of honey and a more subtle note of under ripe yellow plum (or perhaps apricot, since the recipe utilised 50kg of them). It doesn't quite manage to capture the lactic sourness typical of the style but it's certainly a fine summer sipper that will refresh on even the hottest of days. - LC

Richmond Hill Brewing Company GIMME SHELTER ELDERFLOWER SAISON (6% ABV)

The story behind this beer all stems from the alcohol ban brought on by the pandemic. You couldn't sell beer but in the second ban at least, that didn't mean you couldn't make it. Richmond Hill invited the local homebrew club to shelter in the brewery and join forces on this saison brewed with elderilower and orange peel. The aroma was floral as well as malty with a light citrus character, but a pear-like aroma took centre stage. The pear notes stem from the elderfower and they made for a really delicious treat of a drink. There's light carbonation and minimal bitterness but it still makes for all-day refreshing beverage that would be best enjoyed during the South African heat. - BL

Triggerfish Brewing NOT QUILTY (0,5%)

The first thing you notice about this beer is the colour - it's a beautiful, bright shade of copper and certainly has more going on visually than most local non-alc beers. Aroma-wise it's also quite the wow moment - a prominent whiff of treacle toffee and a touch of toast. Rather than being brewed to 0.5%, Triggerfish's non-alcoholic ESB is brewed as usual, with the alcohol being removed later. The result is a beer with a bit more body and a lot more malt character than many alcohol-free options and it might just scratch the itch for those who normally find non-alc brews to be insipid. The beer is set to become a permanent part of the range, with other experimental non-alcs to be found on tap at the Somerset West brewery.

Feathersone Brewery GOLDEN MOLE NON ALCOHOLIC (0.5%)

This would be a great beer to test out your tasting abilities on, since its flavours and aromas are so very subtle. There is a slight- and I do mean slight- aroma of toasted bread and just a hint of spice, but other than that, this could be the cleanest beer you've ever sniffed. Like Devil's Peak's Hero range, Golden Mole is brewed to 0.5% rather than being brewed as normal and having the alcohol removed afterwards - a difficult and costly process. The beer is based on the brewery's Golden Mole IPA and while it's dry-hopped, the hop character is tough to pick up. Still, the beer is crisp and has a highly refreshing carbonic bite. There's just enough flavour to know that it's not carbonated water but perhaps not quite enough to recognise it as a beer.

Hey Joe Brewing Co. NON ALCOHOLIC WIT IPA

Although the name n a little baffling, I do have to applaud Hey Joe for thinking outside the box with their first non-alcoholic offering. The use of wheat is smart, giving the beer a bit more body than some of its alcohol-free compadres, while the dry hopping gives it a decent fruity character. The beer kicks off with a fleeting zap of citrus which is followed up by a slightly tart taste - the same sort of tartness you except from a witbier although at a mom pronounced level. Right at the end, a sweet, worry character takes over leaving you with a lasting, if not entirely refreshing finish.

Noon Gun Brewery THE GENERAL (0,5%)

It's billed as an IPA, but don't expect a hop bomb: this General definitely hails from England rather than America. Provenance aside, this is one of the best non-alcoholic beers available in South Africa at the moment. There's actually quite a lot of malt complexity in the aroma - toast, toffee and just a suggestion of gingerbread biscuits. The aroma prepares you for yet another overly sweet non-alcoholic beverage, but what the beer lacks in hop aroma is certainly makes up for in hop bitterness. I tend to find most non-alcoholic beverages too sweet - that's why I generally drink tea, coffee or water when I'm not enjoying a beer or a glass of Shiraz. But The General is actually plenty bitter enough for me and perhaps even too bitter for some drinkers. I found it surprisingly moreish and finished the bottle long before I finished writing this review.

Devil's Peak Brewing Co. HERO TWIST OF CITRUS (0,5%)

For me, the latest addition to Devil's Peak's non-alcoholic range is the best of the bunch and one of the most drinkable non-alc beers available in South Africa right now. I absent-mindedly sipped on a pint of it while chatting at a Cape Town bar one lovely lockdown day and for a moment I even forgot it wasn't an actual beer. The Twist of Citrus uses the same natural flavouring as Grapefruit King's Blockhouse, so if you're a fan of that, then you'll likely enjoy this - just remember that, like many non-alcoholic beers, it lacks the malt body you might be used to. Twist of Citrus is the third in the Hem range, after the original Zero to Hero - a heavily dry-hopped pale ale - and the lemon version. The latter will appeal more to those who aren't big fans of ale. The lemon overpowers any beery flavours, although it offers a much more bitter and refreshing altemative to a soda.

Devil's Peak KING'S BLOCKHOUSE GRAPEFRUIT (5.4%)

With massive whiffs of grapefruit, the new take on Blockhouse goes down almost as easily as breakfast juice, although the 6% ABV starts to show itself about half way down a glass. It's all but impossible to pick up any malt hem and some would probably find it a little heavy handed with the grapefruit. Me: well, if there was a kind of reimagined reinheitsgebot and only one fruit was to be admitted, then grapefruit would be it. As it warms up, just a touch of digestive biscuit-like malt escapes the glass and the hops start to make their presence known, with subtle whiffs of mango and guava lingering behind the grapefruit All in all, it's a great beer that will appeal to fans of IPA and pale ale and most definitely not appeal to those who don't enjoy grapefruit — LC

Naked Face NAARTJIE NECTAR (5.4%)

Pale ales love citrus fruit, so it's no surprise that the latest addition to Naked Face's core range of beers is a cracker! The aroma bursts with naartjie, underpinned by some tropical fruits which add depth and dimension. These same notes are present in the flavour, set atop a base of toasty, biscuit and honey-like malt which complements, but plays a supporting role to the citrus and hops. There is a soft hop bitterness offering a great balance and drinkability to the beer, which finishes quite dry with lingering naartjie flavour. — RC

Patiala PATIALA IPA (6.5%)

Although this is the fourth beer on Patiala's menu, it is the first brewed in-house — and it's a goodie. On the day the beer quietly launched, I happened to be at Patiala with a group of beer lovers (well OK, brewer Murray had messaged to say the new IPA was on tap so we made a beeline to be the first to try it). Among our number were two visiting beer aficionados from the UK. Gary, upon sipping Patiala's IPA proclaimed it to be the best beer he'd tasted on the trip so far. I won't say it's the best beer I've had this year, but it is a very good IPA Lots of ripe orange greets you when you inhale. There's a definite hint of caramel hanging out in the background when you sip, but there's no doubting that hops are the star here, with waves of ripe peach and dried apricots. For me, it's a little too full-bodied, meaning I couldn't have more than a couple, although that being said I did polish off a pint and a half of it pretty quickly... — LC

Shackleton ICEBREAKER (4.5%)

In one of the most creative collaborations South Africa has seen in some time, Shackleton Brewing Company teamed up with Bevplus and Dematech to create this crisp Kalsch, brewed using water from Antarctic ice cores. Based on Shackleton's popular flagship Kalsch, the beer was dry-hopped with Smaragd which offers a fragrant, floral nose and pleasant spice on the palate. It's a very drinkable beer that will pair well with a board of soft cheeses, a sushi platter or a light and fruity dessert. Although sold in a 750m1 bottle, its not a brew that's designed to age, no grab one of the limited edition bottles while you can and sip on something that travelled some 7000km to make it into your glass. — LC

That Brewing Company THAT MUST B-BRUT IPA (7.1%)

The latest in That Brewing Company's experimental series is a Brut IPA that uses Chardonnay must alongside the wort. The initial aroma has a beautifully subtle malty and fruity hop sweetness, but then the white wine character sneaks through, contributing a uniquely brilliant dimension to this style. Like the aroma, the malt flavour stands up first, but then allows the grape must to sneak in gently and take the stage. The malt and grape characteristics are wonderfully balanced, with neither fighting for the limelight, and it manages to remain beer-like. We expected this beer to be demanding on the palate, but the mouth-filling carbonation and very dry finish makes it an easy yet remarkable beer. — MG & DvH

Yng Gns SESSION ALE (3.5%)

Yng Gns brewery is the new kid on the block in KZN, and we were excited to be able to try their beers. They offer an IPA, APA and a session ale, the latter being the one we opted to review. On initial pour, you are greeted with a lovely light floral hop character with a slight fruitiness and a touch of malt graininess to add complexity. This pale golden ale delivers a bready malt flavour with just enough hop fruitiness to keep it interesting. At only 3.5% ABV, this beer is remarkably flavourful, and you'll happily drink several more. - MG & DvH

Afro Caribbean x Dissident x Red Dot LIFE IS A DETOUR (5.5%)

On a recent trip to Singapore, brewers from Afro Caribbean and Dissident joined up with local brewery Red Dot to brew a collab that honoured ingredients from their respective lands: sorghum and rice. On retuming to SA, the team recreated the brew —a session IPA hopped with cascade and southem passion. There is a decent whiff of hop — a floral note, reminiscent of geraniums or maybe violets — I need to up my game on floral smells. Flavour-wise, this is a weird beast. On first entry I picked up a woody, grainy note that I didn't enjoy at all. Then a wave of stewed fruits cheered me up, but was quickly replaced by a weird chalky flavour that I attribute to sorghum and don't entirely love. And in the end, that floral hop aroma came back in flavour form. It's a deeply interesting beer and while I don't love it, I do appreciate the unique flavour profiles. I'd recommend it with food — something fragrant and spicy, like a Thai green curry or peri-peri prawns. — LC

Lakeside x Impi DARK WARRIOR BLACK IPA (5.5%)

Ah, the black IPA, that forgotten fad of beer. It's the fidget spinner of beer, if you will. The Livestrong bracelet of beer. The ice bucket challenge of beer. One minute everyone was doing it and the next it was relegated to the vaults, revived only occasionally by those with a particular penchant for nostalgia. Well I have that penchant and I'm happy to see another black IPA in our fridges, albeit for a limited period. This is the second in Lakeside's Dark Warrior collab series with Impi and it's quite a sexy beast. Mahogany in hue with a thick and fluffy tan-coloured head that you just want to dip your tongue in. On the nose there's pine, leather and a touch of mocha. I might have like a bit more hop punch, but there's definitely some humulus character. I likewise would have enjoyed a bit more hop bitterness to go alongside the roast character, though it does finish with a fresh, almost minty note. I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, then suddenly half the glass was gone and I was cracking another can — got to be a good sign. — LC

Jack Black's MEGA ALE (8%)

Jack Black's latest limited release is a tweaked version of the imperial IPA that won best in show at the 2018 Cape Town Festival of Beer. At 8% it's towards the lower end of the imperial spectrum, and it's perhaps a little too easy-drinking —this is a beer that could quickly get you into trouble. I believe the term is "dangerously drinkable". It's a veritable fruit salad on the aroma - pineapple, lychee, raspberry and a touch of mango, though the fruits are all a little muted, as though they're dried or tinned rather than fresh from the tree. Ifs a fairly well-balanced beer that displays Jack Black's distinct malt character, but unlike some high ABV brews, ifs not too sweet You wouldn't exactly call it a hop bomb, but it does offer a decent bitterness. Overall, a well-made and enjoyable beer that would be great with a curry or a plate of mature cheddar. —SD

Cape Brewing Company DOPPELBOCK (8%)

We love the Wolf (CBC's master brewer Wolfgang Koedel), and if you've ever met him, you'll know there's nothing subtle about him. It's the same with this beer, the latest in the Brewmaster's Reserve Series from the CBC brewing team. It pours copper-brown with a tan head that just keeps sticking around. Toast, caramel and chocolate aromas are backed up by malt sweetness, and those aromas are echoed in the taste. Low hop bitterness and ample ABV make for a balanced beer and a clean, if a little boozy finish. Turn on the German national anthem and shout it out - Prost! — GG & KT

Jack Black's Brewing Co. WOLVES OF WINTER (5.5%)

It's the second year that Jack Black has released their seasonal stout and this year the beer received some winning tweaks. It pours deep, deep brown with a dense, moussey head that only falls slightly. The aroma is fairly subtle — a touch of leather and a background hint of dark chocolate. But where this beer really shines is on the mouthfeel. It's luscious and velvety— not too full bodied but far from this or watery and with just the right amount of carbonation. As well as chocolate and a hint of coffee, there is an unmistakeable note of biscuits in the background. Think of a chocolate digestive dipped into a macchiato, then translate that into a beer. Wolves of Winter is perfect with or instead of dessert — grab a four pack of it while you can. —LC

Stellenbosch Brewing Company CANN-O-BLISS LAGER (4%)

Although Poison City was the first SA brewery to release a "cannabis beer", Stellies is the first to use cannabidiol (CBD) in a commercial brew. At 5mg per can, it% a fairly small dose. The jury is out on the CBD dosage to get the best benefits, but it% generally considered to be at least 20mg, so you're going to have to finish a four pack if you're looking for relief from anxiety, sleeplessness and general aches and pains (and let's face it, a four pack of most things will do that in the short term). If you're expecting a big dank whiff of weed, you'll be disappointed. Cann-o-Bliss — a pale lager — is a fairly subtle beer with some malt sweetness on the nose, low floral notes and a hint of spice. There's a slight herbaceous flavour and a low grainy sweetness, though the beer finishes pleasantly dry. It's a crisp, refreshing beer that will go down a treat on a sunny day. The first batch sold out in record time but a second, larger batch will be ready by the time you read this. — LC

Nguni Brewing Company BALTIC PORTER (6%)

The first impression brings strong aromas of caramel, dark fruit and chocolate, softened with light vanilla; this limited edition beer from Nguni Brewing Co has been aged in white oak, which really brings a luxurious smoothness to the beer. The flavour continues what the aroma promised, with a beautiful balance of flavours with no character overpowering the others. We love a good Baltic porter for the many layers of flavour they present; however there was a slight lack of alcohol character in this one which would have really rounded it off. That said, it is remarkably drinkable, and we easily found ourselves wanting another pint — MG & DvH

Camelthorn Brewing Co. IPA BEER (5%)

Camelthorn, being part of a fairly large brewery, has taken the predictable step of trying to make their IPA a mass-appeal beer which is, according to the bottle, "surprisingly easy drinking." And it is easy drinking, though it's unlikely to get the hopheads excited. At 5% ABV and 40 IBUs, it's really more of a pale ale than an IPA, but it does have a nice grapefruit and floral nose and is distinctly more bitter than many other local brews whose labels promise an 'easy-drinking' IPA. In a way, it's reminiscent of the earlier American IPAs, which were more about using hops for bitterness than aroma. There is quite a bit of caramel-malt sweetness on the palate but this does actually work nicely with the bitter finish and the copper colour suggests a good amount of speciality malts in the mash. —SD

Hey Joe Brewing Company WIT (4.4%)

There's a strong floral nose at first, then the violets give way to a slightly muted orange peel note. I've had the beer on numerous occasions and never picked up on the buchu listed on the label —a difficult ingredient to use subtly but in this case it's perhaps a little too subtle! Slightly bready and slightly sweet, at least up front, the beer finishes with a tartness that is characteristic of a Belgian witbier. It's a little full-bodied for the style, but that doesn't detract from the refreshing character of Hey Joe's flagship. One thing I would add is that the beer is quite superior on tap — plan a visit out to the taproom (open at long last) to taste it at the source. — LC

New Brixton Brewing BRIXTON BITTER (4.5%)

New Brixton's flagship beer is a moreish, flavoursome exemplar of the English bitter style. It's odd that we don't see more bitters here in SA, but even if we did, I suspect that this one would be leading the pack. The art deco-style label design is a joy and the beer also looks good in the glass: deep amber and crystal clear. Aromas of candy floss and aromatic malts predominate. Taste-wise, the ale has a solid biscuit and caramel backbone supported by herbaceous, earthy bitterness. It finishes dry with a slight woody aftertaste. This will be a great pairing with any traditional Sunday roast. — MH

    Top Articles

    Top articles featured in On Tap

    Arts and Crafts

    Making a Splash

    Cruizing KZN