Did you know?
A 'firkin' is an old English term for a nine-gallon barrel of lager.
With its distinctly tropical climate, KwaZulu-Natal will never compete with the Western Cape's famous winelands – but it can offer a fabulous beer tour!
Following the province's beer route is not just about drinking beer (although it goes without saying that you’ll be tipping many a tankard, should you so wish) – it’s as much about discovering the history behind the brew and the art of beer-making from exceptional brew masters at eight of the region’s breweries.
Try the Khangela Brewery in Durban, well known for umqombothi, a traditional beer made from maize (corn), maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water. Umqombothi is popular among a large proportion of South Africa’s beer drinkers.
Near the coastal town of Amanzimtoti lies the South African Breweries (SAB) Prospecton brewery, one of the most modern in the southern hemisphere. SAB is the South African division of SAB Miller, the world’s second-largest brewery.
In the Durban residential suburb of Westville, the Firkin Hophouse Micro Brewery and Pub sits atop the Pavilion shopping mall, where lagers, ales and stouts are available on tap, along with its speciality brews, Foxx Lager and Foxx Red Ale.
Forming part of the Midlands Meander arts and crafts route, the Nottingham Road Brewing Company creates naturally brewed ales and lagers using spring water from a well on site, as well as quality hops and malted barley. Look out for names such as the Whistling Weasel Pale Ale and Pie-Eyed Possum Pilsner.
The Wartburger Brauhaus in the town of Wartburg – which has a large population of German speakers – follows the dictates of the Reinheitsgebot (a beer-production regulation) to create freshly brewed beer every week. Using German-imported ingredients, Swiss and Bavarian brewing partners produce Wartburg Brauhaus Helles, described as midway between pilsner and lager.
Dundee, once the site of fierce Anglo-Zulu battles, is home to Ijuba-United National Brewery, which produces and distributes mild sorghum beer. Known as Ijuba ('dove' in Zulu), the beer is made using traditional brewing methods. Also try sample its Nini-Nanini – sorghum beer with a banana or pineapple flavour.
The Shongweni Brewery boasts five premium handcrafted beers. Tours of the facility are popular and include tastings.
Zulu Blonde Beer was born at Eshowe’s Zululand Brewery, founded in 1997 by the Chennells family. This flagship beer was launched internationally in 2010 to supply 800 pubs for the JD Wetherspoons International Real Ale Festival. Out of 50 different ales, Zulu Blonde was voted number one and sold out in the first week of the three-week festival.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
KwaZulu-Natal Beer Route
Best time to visit
Any time of year, but summers (November to February) are hot and thirsty, so this makes it an ideal time to tour. If, however, the roar of a fire and companionship in a cosy pub sounds appealing, then rather do it in winter.
Around the area
The Midlands Meander art and craft route features more than 200 places to visit and browse for books, wooden items, rugs, furniture, curios, foodstuffs and loads more.
Tours to do
A KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander tour; or visit the popular Drakensberg mountains.
On a formal tour, you will be driven to each destination by bus.
Length of stay
The tour takes a few days, but there is so much more to see in the area that it's worth staying longer.
What to eat
The breweries that have pubs offer traditional pub fare such as bangers and mash, and pies and chips
Gift packs of beer to take home with you.