By Lucy Corne
Sometimes beer gets a bad deal. It’s been long-overlooked in South Africa, considered a lesser alternative to a beverage that has dominated dining tables ever since Dutch settlers discovered vines would thrive on South African soil. But as microbreweries pop up across the country, beer is finally threatening to knock wine off its long-occupied pedestal – or at least to share some of the limelight with its grape-based cousin. And just as people are realising that beer can be appreciated in the same way wine can; that beers can be paired with fine food, people are also discovering that a brewery doesn’t have to be a factory-like enterprise found in an industrial area. Join us on a journey across the country to sniff and sip South Africa’s ever-expanding array of craft beers in ten spots that can rival any winery for sheer natural beauty.
(1) Birkenhead Brewery, Stanford, Western Cape
Founded in 1998, Birkenhead has long held the title of prettiest brewery in South Africa. These days there are contenders for the crown, but the well-established brewpub still easily deserves a place in the top ten. Perched on the edge of the postcard-worthy town of Stanford in the Overberg, Birkenhead’s five beers can be enjoyed in the vast garden with an uninterrupted view of the Klein River Mountains.
(2) Honingklip Brewery, Bot River, Western Cape
Husband-and-wife team Mark and Analize Ter Morshuizen are well acquainted with the spectacular view from their rustic taproom – the brewery sits on the family farm, known for its dried flowers. Located between Bot River and Hermanus, the patio and garden are wonderful spots to sip on one of the signature Belgian-style brews while gazing at the mountains beyond. When the sun declines to shine, sip a stout or one of the stronger ales alongside the fireplace, still admiring the view through vast picture windows.
(3) Wild Clover Brewery, Stellenbosch, Western Cape
If there’s one thing that hits you as you take your pint of Double Owl English Brown Ale out into Wild Clover’s garden, it’s that you’re surrounded by open space. The small brewery sits on a farm where the Stellenbosch and Paarl wine routes overlap and in terms of vistas, you’re pretty much spoilt in every direction – the Simonsberg Mountains to the east, an uninterrupted view of Table Mountain to the West and the chance of glimpsing game from the adjoining Villiera Wine Estate. Try the pilsner and Belgian-style witbier on sunny days or the brown ale and porter to warm up in winter.
(4) Cape Brewing Company, Paarl, Western Cape
Scenically speaking, you can’t really go wrong when you set up a brewery in the heart of the Cape Winelands, but even with a wealth of gorgeous settings to choose from, the Cape Brewing Company picked a particularly pretty spot. The brewery shares its grounds with Spice Route Winery and the vistas take in rolling vineyards as well as the iconic mountains that surround the entire Winelands region. The ultra-professional brewery produces German-style beers, including a duo of superlative weissbiers (wheat beers), perfect for summer sipping.
(5) Little Brewery on the River, Port Alfred, Eastern Cape
The clue to this brewery’s scenic success is in the name. It might not boast rolling green hills or jagged mountains, but the quaint brewpub sits alongside the calm waters of the Kowie River as it enters pretty Port Alfred. The pub itself will appeal to history buffs and architecture enthusiasts, a 19th-century brick building that has served as town hall, cinema, bottle store and warehouse over the years. Today it houses the taps that pour Kowie Gold Pilsner, Squires Porter and Coin Ale, the Little Brewery’s trio of easy-drinking beers.
(6) Emerald Vale Brewing Company, Chintsa, Eastern Cape
One of the country’s most remote breweries sits in the rural Eastern Cape, just at the start of the Wild Coast. The brewery itself resides on a farm, where tours and tastings can be enjoyed with vistas of verdant hills and grazing cows. It really is one of the most peaceful places for a pint. If you prefer a little more action with your ale, Emerald Vale’s superb Amber, Gold and Pale Ales are available on tap in various bars and restaurants throughout Chintsa, a sleepy town edged with vast white-sand beaches.
(7) Brauhaus am Damm, Rustenburg, North West
Location, location, location – that’s what the Brauhaus team had on their minds when they bought a KZN brewery and meticulously reassembled it alongside the Olifantsnek Dam in the pretty Magaliesberg region. Of course, lots of thought has also gone into the beer and food, which follow an instantly obvious German theme. Arrive hungry and order the colossal eisbein and a dunkel (dark lager) to enjoy on the dam-facing deck.
(8) Clarens Brewery, Clarens, Free State
Few towns offer such a perfect setting for a brewpub as artsy Clarens in the Eastern Free State. It’s friendly, full of well-priced accommodation, easily walkable and thanks to the backdrop of the Maluti Mountains, undeniably beautiful. Take a peep at the on-site brewery, then order a tasting platter of beer and cider and soak up the chilled-out Clarens vibe in the airy pub or outside on the patio.
(9) Porcupine Quill Brewing Co., Valley of 1000 Hills, KwaZulu-Natal
A foodie destination par excellence, Porcupine Quill comprises not only a brewery, but also a chefs’ school, charcuterie, bakery and cheesery. Boasting one of the largest beer ranges in the country – and some of the strongest beers – it’s a great place to get a group together for a long afternoon of quaffing and nibbling. Take a table at the bottom of the garden, where the gullies and peaks make it clear how this attractive region close to Durban got its poetic moniker.
(10) L’Abri Fountain Brewery, Bela Bela, Limpopo
You only need to view the L’Abri Fountain coat of arms to know that this is going to be an impressive location for sinking a few handcrafted brews. And the crystalline tree-lined river and distant mountains of the brewery’s emblem are not an exaggeration. In fact the logo almost sells this bushveld brewery short, since it doesn’t feature any of the wildlife that can also be found on the farm. This new brewery – one of few in Limpopo – serves a six-pack of regular brews, plus seasonal specials to be enjoyed in the taproom or restaurant.