Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South African Craft Brewers Share Their Secrets

(Page 2 of 4)

His ideas for making new styles of beers seem inexhaustible.

"The first I plan to release here will be the Black Forest Stout," said de Beer. "It starts life as an 11 percent alcohol stout, then it's re-fermented with fresh cherries from the Free State [province] and pure cocoa is soaked in the beer for a few days; beautiful cherry and chocolate flavors in the strong stout."

Water comes from the Magaliesberg springs

Nuschka Botha, of the Black Horse Brewery in the Magaliesberg Mountains north of Johannesburg, said two ingredients ensure that her beer is "really special" - barley imported from Belgium, a country known for its excellent beer, and the water she uses.

"We get our water from a natural spring in the Magalies Mountains. A lot of other brewers change their water PH and add calcium and other stuff before they brew, but not us," she stated. "We use our water as is. It doesn't go through any filtration systems, and it is as pure as pure can get. That I also feel changes quite a bit to the flavor of the beer... . So I think that makes our beer very pure."

Botha believes in using ingredients indigenous to particular styles of beer.

"Like, for instance, our Irish red ale - we try to use the hops unique to its name, so we try and use European hops for that. When I brew a dunkel, which is a German dark lager, I'll use German hops."

Unlike many other craft beer brewers who are currently making extremely bitter, highly experimental brews, Botha plays it safer.

"South Africans have such a specific taste bud range as far as beers are concerned that we want to make something that's already kind of out there. We don't want to go way out and try something crazy; we want to make very drinkable beers."

Unashamedly, Botha pays homage to South African Breweries [SAB], often much maligned by other craft brewers for making what they consider to be largely flavorless beers.

"SAB has done a very good job of getting people used to lager, so we followed them in a sense and made a signature lager, our Golden Lager, which is the typical lager. That sells very well - easy drinking, light... ."

Reaching back to mediaeval brews

A network of stony paths leads to Dirk van Tonder's Irish Ale House on his farm in Northwest Province. He believes that simplicity is the secret to good craft beer.

"I try to make beer as close as possible to the way in which beer was originally made all those centuries ago in Europe, like in mediaeval times," he told VOA.

To illustrate his point, van Tonder told how he recently acquired some South African-grown barley.

"I steeped it and I malted it on the floor, like in the age-old tradition. I dry-kilned it in the sun, and then I roasted it in my... wood-fired pizza oven. To this day the people are still asking me, 'When are we getting that beer with that lovely, nutty taste? When are you making that again?' I said, 'Well, when I feel like making malt again ...'"

Van Tonder's passion is to use South African inputs in his beer.

"Every single element of what I called my Brown Ale was South African. So, we don't have to look overseas all the time for wonderful ingredients. It does, however, take more time and effort to make 100 percent homegrown beer, because at the moment imports are more widely available," he said.

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