Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South Africa: New South African Beers Flavored With Boer History

(Page 2 of 5)

"Here was beer that was just so different from the boring, gassy SAB [South African Breweries] beer that I was used to drinking in the army. I fell in love with it."

Lex Mitchell, the undisputed pioneer of craft beer in South Africa, opened his brewery in the coastal town of Knysna in 1983, making ales modeled on classic English brews.

"He was way ahead of his time," said van Tonder. "He actually went to university and got a degree in chemistry just so that he could make beer. His sole purpose in doing that was to start his own brewery. He was a visionary, but South Africa wasn't ready for his vision in the 1980s. It's only now that people are realizing what a great man Lex Mitchell was, and still is. I mean, he was even ahead of America's craft beer explosion, which only really took off in the early 1990s."

From his new brewery in Port Elizabeth, Mitchell told VOA, "I've been into beer since I was a kid. I was at boarding school, and we made some pineapple beer in a locker... ."

His brewing continued at university, and eventually landed him a job at SAB in Cape Town. But Mitchell soon became restless working at the company that's now the second-largest commercial beer brewer in the world.

"I always knew I wasn't a corporate man," he said. "SAB was so huge, and my mind worked better in a micro way. I thought there would be much more satisfaction to be gained from making beer in a small way."

Mitchell was inspired by the world's first beer brewers, in mediaeval Europe. "They made beer completely naturally, using pure ingredients and methods, making beers slowly," he said. "I wanted to do that as well."

Testing beer in a gymnasium

Old brewing methods also motivated Moritz Kallmeyer to become a brewer.

"I had the privilege of growing up on a farm with a rural black man from the old era when people knew how to make everything themselves. He showed me how to make beer using sugar and water and sorghum," he explained.

Kallmeyer's mother noticed her son's interest and, in a move that he acknowledged not many parents would make, bought him a book on how to make wine at home.

"The author, Anna Olivier, was an old boeretannie [Boer auntie] who knew how to make everything by hand, and she wrote about how to make all these wonderful alcoholic drinks just by using stuff that you grow in the garden, like mulberries and pumpkins," he said.

"I started making my own wines from apples. And anything that the greengrocer would give me for free I would use, and used Anna's book and I made wine - quite successfully - at a young age."

The next step towards his destiny came when Kallmeyer was 15. He distilled schnapps in his father's old camping kettle, took it to school and passed it around to his classmates. "Naughty, hey?" he said, chuckling.

His hobby continued at university and later in his garage at home, as he pursued a career rehabilitating injured athletes and people battling chronic diseases by means of carefully designed exercise programs.

"I had my own gym and I would brew the beer, taste it myself, decide if it's good or not and then take it to the gym; after the gym session the guys had the opportunity to get a free beer so long as they gave me feedback on what's the flavor like," Kallmeyer said.

Eventually his passion for making beer usurped his career, and in 1997 he opened Drayman's Brewery in Pretoria. After years of struggling and under the near constant threat of bankruptcy, Kallmeyer is finally turning a significant profit because of South Africa's sudden thirst for specialty beer.

Ads by Google

Copyright © 2013 Voice of America. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.

InFocus

Craft Beermaking Takes Off in South Africa

In Search Of A Truly South African Beer

South Africans love beer, but the dominance of the multi-billion dollar industry by large commercial companies is being challenged by a growing popularity for craft beers made by ... Read more »