IT’S BEER O’CLOCK
I love beer. Always have. Which was surprising to some 10 years ago when beer was a drink predominately enjoyed by men. Today, however, with the rise of craft beer and the exciting new flavours being introduced to the wonderful world of the traditional brewskie, it seems that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. And the bandwagon is growing at a rapid rate!
I recently chatted to two brewers in Cape Town who are part of The Brewers Co-op, an association of people who voluntarily cooperate for the mutual benefit of making great beer. Richard Andrew, who started The Brewers Co-op in June 2015, and passionate fellow brewer, Gijs Molenaar, are part of this exciting cooperative that is taking craft beer in the Mother City by storm.
InFlight (IF): The Brewers Co-op consists of 14 brave and hop-hardened brewers and two creative gurus who are involved in the social structure of the co-operative, as well as the designed space of the bar. Can you tell me who these people are and how the collaboration began?
Richard Andrew (RA): The co-op was started by a group of 16 people, 14 of whom were brewers. I kicked things off. I was a home brewer and wanted to get to the next level where I could sell beer as a hobbyist, and still keep my full-time job. With the help of some friends, I put together a prospectus and informational posters and placed these at homebrew stores, and I contacted beer community organisations (like South Yeasters homebrew club in Cape Town).
GONE ARE THE DAYS WHEN CRAFT BEER AND MICROBREWERIES WERE TERMS THROWN AROUND EXCLUSIVELY BY HIPSTERS. IT IS NO SECRET THAT OVER THE PAST DECADE, SOUTH AFRICA (AND THE REST OF THE WORLD) HAS EXPERIENCED A RAPID RISE OF ARTISANAL HOP HEADS ALL ON A MISSION TO PRODUCE EXCEPTIONAL BOUTIQUE BEER. INTRODUCING THE BREWERS CO-OP IN CAPE TOWN – A SPACE WHERE THE COMMON LOVE FOR HANDCRAFTED BEER IS CREATING SOME NEW AND EXCITING ADDITIONS TO THE BEER REVOLUTION.
From this, a group of interested brewers formed and over a series of meetings an initial group of 14 brewers and two non-brewers came together to design and fund the brewery and bar.
Gijs Molenaar (GM): I had been brewing for five years in Amsterdam, and when I moved to Cape Town I wanted to continue that passion. I met one of the co-op brewers at AfrikaBurn and he told me about the concept of the bar and brewery. I was sold. As soon as one of the shares became available I bought it and have been brewing ever since.
IF: Can you tell us a bit about your particular brew?
RA: I make different beers all the time, hence my brewery name “HopHazard Brewing”. I tend to make session-strength hoppy beers.
GM: I like to try different things, to have something special on the menu. My latest beer is a Belgium Lambic, something you don’t really often find in South Africa. Which is unfortunate – I think its slight sourness and light alcohol percentage make it a perfect beer for this climate.
IF: What are some of your favourite hand-crafted beers and why?
RA: It depends. As long as it tastes good. I think the nice thing about small-scale brewing is that the result is different almost every time. It is easy to brew a good-tasting beer, but it is hard to brew a perfect beer and keep the taste constant.The devil is in the details, and every step in the process has its influence. I think some of our brewers in the bar are perfectionists and brew amazing beers.
IF: All the brewers at the co-op have day jobs and brew beer in the evenings. What do you do during the day?
RA: I’m a software engineer.
GM: I’m a scientific software engineer, working for SKA South Africa helping astronomers process the data coming out of a big radio telescope.
IF: The Brewers Co-op is trying to make the craft beer scene in Cape Town a hit amongst tourists and an expat meet-up event takes place every month. Please tell us a bit about this?
GM: Twice a month we organise a special evening for travellers, expats and couch surfers. We start at 17h00 when it is happy hour in the bar. Sangritas, a Mexican restaurant next door, has discounted food for expats and travellers. Everybody is welcome! The vibe is very open and people coming there want to meet other people. Many locals also come. It is the perfect place to go if you are new to town and want to hang out with others, explore the city, other beer breweries and experience all fun things Cape Town has to offer.
IF: What are some of the craziest ingredients you have heard people putting into their hand-crafted beer?
RA: Beer can be made out of any ingredient that has starch or carbohydrates, so around the world there are many historical beer styles that have interesting ingredients by modern standards. For example, Gruit is made with all sorts of medicinal herbs like mugwort, yarrow, juniper and many others. There’s a beer in Scotland called Kelpie that has seaweed and uses barley brown with seaweed fertiliser. Yeast is everywhere and wild ales use environmental yeast instead of a specific strain of beer yeast. Rogue Beers (a large American craft brewery) made a beer with yeast from their brewer’s beard – which must be one of the more interesting things I have heard of!
GM: We currently have a watermelon beer on tap which is quite refreshing! I tried a cucumber beer in Amsterdam last year which I think I want to try to brew here too.
FollowThe Brewers Co-op on Facebook to stay up to date on meet-ups and to experience the magic of craft beer for yourself: @BrewersCoopCPT.