Meander Chronicle Reporter
I know people who drink a lot more beer than I do, but I’d still rate myself a beer lover. And, as a follower of the amber nectar, sitting slap-bang in the heart of the Midlands isn’t a bad place to be.
Others worth a mention are Balgowan Brewery and Happy Days Brewery. There may be more, forgive me if I don’t name them here.
Call me biased, but the one closest to where I live, Nottingham Road, is the best in my view, and I’ve been known to blissfully sip on a Pickled Pig Porter or two, relaxing in the cosy environment of the old country hotel. Their craft beer has also been around for decades and come a long way in terms of quality and consistency. Lions River and Clockhouse are knocking on the door, consistently producing the good stuff.
They’ll be lining up
This Friday, August 6, is a significant day for beer lovers, International Beer Day, and beeries will be lining up at the pubs and beer gardens (socially distanced and responsible of course), to sample their favourite tipple. It’s a chance for beer producers to recover from the various lockdowns and regulations and celebrate all things beer.
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The 1000 Hills Brewing Company, part of the 1000 Hills Chef School campus, is another dedicated local follower of the craft, and creates a range of five limited edition beers. Brewmaster Trevor Maarschalk is ably supported by 1000 Hills Chef School students, who learn the art of craft brewing as part of their second-year curriculum – hence the beers all having academic-inspired names. So a pipeline of knowledgable and skilled beer lovers is being created to help further the development of the craft in SA.
When Trevor turned 50, he was looking for a change in career and lifestyle. For decades he had brewed beer in his garage at home, so when the 1000 Hills Chef School and Brewery came up for sale in 2016, Trevor and his wife Desiree bought it.
“We wanted to do what we love, and felt it was time to give back,” said Desiree.
The school, established in 2005, offers a two-year full time Professional International Chef Course which provides industry-ready culinary training. Included in the curriculum is pairing of beers and wines with food. “It is an essential combination,” explains Trevor. The students are encouraged to get creative with their own flavour profiles when experimenting with new beers. Caramelised popcorn and apple pie beer, for example, have both been given the thumbs up as potential new flavours.
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The brewing company offers five distinctive craft beers brewed across the pale ale and lager styles, covering a range of flavours and appearances, available bottled and on tap. If visitors are indecisive or want to try all the options, they can order a tasting tray to sample each of the five lines.
The Classroom Café fine dining restaurant and bistro-style café are the practical training ground for the students, and is open to the public during the day every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
And there’s a strong Midlands connection to this brewing operation. The 1000 Hills Brewing Company is part of a co-operative, sharing facilities, resources, equipment and costs with Clockwork Brewhouse and Doctrine Brewing.
Clockwork Brewhouse is an all-woman concern, run by Megan Gemmell – a UKZN Pietermaritzburg MSc graduate who fell in love with the notion of brewing on the varsity chemistry campus. Megan must surely be the envy of many – she is one of the few South African BJCP (beer judge certification) judges, and only one of two in KZN, which means she has the certification and accreditation to be a beer judge, and travels around the country judging craft beer. She works together with Londy Mbanjwa. The dynamic duo has been brewing together for more than three years.
Megan’s partner, Dion van Huyssteen, heads up Doctrine Brewing, which specialises in small-run, bespoke, unusual beers which include imperial beers, rich Baltic Porters, and African wormwood-infused pilsners.
The founders had three reasons for starting International Beer Day: to gather with friends and enjoy the taste of beer; to celebrate those responsible for brewing and serving beer; and to unite the world under the banner of beer, by celebrating the beers of all nations together on a single day.
And surprise surprise, International Hangover Day falls on … Saturday, August 7!