Purely Pretoria Craft Beer Festival, 2016

10:29 AM Jmo 0 Comments

It's no secret that beer and travel go hand in hand. Swapping stories with a local or a fellow traveler over a beer is one of the fastest ways to a new friendship, regardless of culture. Another perk to beer-travel is that a good beer can tell you more about a culture with each sip. Local ingredients, the talent and tradition of the brewer, the history of the brewery and the country of origin...all come together to create one of the greatest social lubricants: Beer. 

And in Pretoria, South Africa you will find not just "beer", but GOOD beer.

The craft beer scene in South Africa is drastically on the rise. There is currently over 160 craft breweries operating in this nation of 53 million people, with the number of brewhouses increasing what seems to be daily! This weekend was a glowing example of that rise of local-pride with the 1st annual Purely Pretoria Craft Beer Festival at the Hazeldean, Cowhouse Market.

The first-of-its kind festival hosted 8 breweries (Friar's Habit Craft Brewery, Hazeldean Brewing Co. , Stimela Brewing Co., Zepplin Brewery, Drayman's Brewery and Distillery, Legend's Brewery, Frontier Beer Co., and Leaky Tap Brewery)  from Pretoria; an enticing 40 beers to taste and try. 

Hanging with the guys of Friar's Habit Craft Brewery: Louis Van Der Merwe, Christopher Klapwijk, and Jaco Cilliers.

 I've been fortunate enough to have a front row seat to the exciting rise of the craft beer scene here in South Africa. My boyfriend is one of the owners and brewers of the local, Pretoria brewery Friar's Habit Craft Brewery. And. I'm lucky enough to have been donned "Official Taste Tester". It's a difficult job, but someone has to do it...

The craft beer scene here is young and exciting. I've tasted many South African interpretations of American beers and South African contemporary-classics all their own and I must say that this Michigan girl is converted. Of course I'll still hold true to my Michigan beers roots, but there's something special happening here in South Africa.

 But, I've also seen first hand the time and dedication it takes to bring a passion for beer to the masses. These brewers work hard. Many 3am weekday nights, loss of beer due to load-shedding (loss of power due to government regulation) and other circumstances,  attempting to juggle the "day job" and family with the brewery life, and a long-list of learning curves go in to each beer. But the hard work is absolutely worth it. I can't say I've ever seen this many people before so excited to talk about their "job".

Stimela Brewing Co. chatting to Friar's Habit and company.

Here's Chris! (Dig my SA shades?!)
I remember two years ago when I first came to South Africa, it was hard to find anything but a lager! And more difficult to find was someone willing to try anything but a lager! Or Brandy & Coke. But things are changing. The craft beer section of "bottle stores" nowadays is beginning to look like my old college town of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rows and rows of deliciousness: IPAs, American Pale Ales, California Commons, Golden Ales, Stouts, Dark IPAs, Pumpkin Porters (Yes, even the Pumpkin Spice craze has crossed the Atlantic.) are now making an appearance. 

Friar's Habit was serving up their California Common, Nitro Irish Red Ale, Honey Weiss, and Friar's Rabbit IPA
("It's hoppy!") at Purely Pretoria, 2016.
 I must give special thanks to Marius Botha and his team over at Hazeldean Brewing Co. for organizing the Purely Pretoria event. I remember sitting down with Marius not too long ago when the idea of celebrating Pretoria breweries came up and he's a champion for following through on it! Craft beer isn't just about the beer, it's also about the communities of people involved. And that being said, we had an excellent time and we can't wait until the next one!

Jaco Cilliers, mechanical engineer and brewer of Friar's Habit Craft Brewery.

Interested in more beer stories? 
Check out these other booze-related stories from The Ticket, The Ride:
-Beer Prices Around the World
-Clarens South Africa Beer Festival, 2015
-My Personal Top 11 Party Destinations 
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