Even though the popular Mitchell’s Brewery opened in Knysna as far back 1983, almost a full decade would pass before the country's legions of hidden craft-beer brewers would emerge from their garages, open brew pubs and microbreweries, and invite the public to taste their artisan brews.

Did you know?

Umqombothi is a popular African traditional beer made from sorghum.

Microbreweries in South Africa have evolved from a hobbyist pursuit into a countrywide trend (albeit with niche appeal) that shows no signs of slowing. At present, there are over 60 microbrewers around the country turning hops, malt, yeast and water into a mind-boggling array of beers.

Traditionally, South Africa has been regarded as a lager-drinking nation, but thanks to the emergence of craft brewing, hop-heads, as aficionados of handcrafted beers are known, now have a wide array of styles to choose from. There are pale ales, alt biers, stouts, Pilsners, double bocks, barrel-aged beers, seasonal beers, smoked malt beers, and beers made using fruit, herbs, spices, honey, wild yeast and more.

Currently, the Western Cape leads the movement championing 'real beer' (real beer being beer that’s naturally brewed using artisan methods and with no chemical or artificial additives), with microbreweries like Jack Black Beer, Triggerfish Brewing, Devil’s Peak Brewing Company and Gallows Hills Brewing Company, to name but a few, producing delicious beers with sometimes idiosyncratic names.

For convenience, and in keeping with the worldwide trend of beer-and-food matching, Cape beer bar &Union offers local and European craft beers on tap, while the Banana Jam Café has 16 local craft beers on tap and offers craft-beer tastings. Both have beer-friendly food menus.

KwaZulu-Natal is so keen on craft beer that it has a self-drive microbrewery beer route. Discover the likes of the Nottingham Road Brewing Company (great pub atmosphere and food) in the Midlands, Quills, the Zululand Brewery and Shongweni Brewery.

Gauteng is another emerging craft-beer destination. Try Gilroy's for British-style ales and pub grub; have a tasty meal and a pint at the Cockpit Brewhouse; or enjoy a beer tasting or a beer-and-food pairing at De Garve Brewery.

Microbreweries can also be found in Mpumalanga, the Free State, the Eastern Cape and the North West. Virtually anywhere you travel in South Africa, rest assured that you’re never far away from the perfect handcrafted pint.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Cape Town
&Union beer bar
Tel: +27 (0)21 422 2770
Email: pigandbeer@andunion.com

Banana Jam Café
Tel: +27 (0)21 674 0186
Email: info@bananajamcafe.co.za

Triggerfish Brewing
Tel: +27 (0)21 851 5861

KwaZulu-Natal
Quills microbrewery

Tel: +27 (0)31 777 1566
Email: info@craftbrewers.co.za

Best time to visit

Most microbreweries are not open to the public, but some do open by appointment, so check with the individual establishment. Brew pubs are different, and most trade during restaurant hours.

Tours to do

Shongweni Brewery runs a tour on Saturdays (except public holidays) between noon and 1pm, at a cost of R60 per person (tastings only for over 18s). Gilroy's runs a tour on Saturday mornings, starting at 9am, at a cost of R90 per person (tastings only for over 18s).

Get around

Most microbreweries can be reached by metered taxi – the preferred option if you’ll be drinking.

What will it cost

Craft beer can cost up to three times the price of commercial beer. Expect to pay around R17 (330ml) from liquor outlets/bottle stores, and around R30 in bars and restaurants.

What to eat

A number of brew pubs, as they're called, have food menus designed to complement the range of beers made in house, or on tap from other microbrewers.