Hg2 Cape Town co-author Keith Bain braved the wind yesterday to track down the lesser-known brews at the launch of the first-ever Cape Town Festival of Beer.
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Beer festivals—like the oompah bands inevitably playing there—are decidedly old school. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be cool—and a great way to combine a thirst-quenching taste for the good life with a crash course in distinguishing an Old Wobbly from a Naked Mexican. Beer sits close to the very heart of the South African drinking experience—homebrew-style beer is an essential part of many indigenous African cultures, used in traditional ceremonies and as part of community celebrations. What’s more, the fan-base for big brands churned out by global giant, South African Breweries, makes it one of the world’s biggest beverage corporations. So, the atmosphere at a South African beer festival comes with a certain predictable enthusiasm, a definite gut-tingling excitement; add to that the onset of a beautiful summer, and you have all the makings of a, well, festive festival of brewing.
Surprisingly, Cape Town only yesterday launched its first major festival dedicated to beer, following a more niche-market artisan beer festival held here in September. As everyone knows, Capetonians need no excuse to get their drinking hats on, but given the opportunity to try out unfamiliar ales and lagers, this needn’t be simply another excuse to get legless. Make a beeline for the Darling Brew stand; their Native Ale has the best-designed beer packaging I’ve seen in South Africa, and their Slow Beer will hopefully soon be making waves in bars and hotels throughout the city; the brewery came to life earlier this year, birthed in the eponymous town of Darling, not far from the city. You’ll also want to spent time gathered around the lovely folks from Napier Brewery; another small town business, this time from the Overberg region, you’ll taste and feel the love they cram into their brews. There are plenty more as-yet undiscovered surprises between the familiar territory of Peroni, Grolsch, and Black Label, but the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on a single one of them is to arrange your tastings in a straight line, and try not to get distracted by the roving beauties selling raffle tickets. On the other hand… get distracted, get social, drink deeply, and definitely use a taxi there and back.
Oh, and yes… there was one kick-ass oompah band, featuring at least one world-class jazz musician filling the air with the sounds of a jubilant summer.
The Cape Town Festival of Beer (www.capetownfestivalofbeer.co.za) runs until Saturday evening (that’s tomorrow night, so hurry), and is fittingly taking place at Hamilton’s, a rugby field right next door to the behemoth Cape Town Stadium.