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SSouth Africa has recently become a hotbed of craft beer and gin innovation. The last few years have seen the birth of numerous small breweries and distilleries. But these thriving enterprises are not simply factories for making beverages. Each brewery and distillery has its own unique story of how it originated and these are often steeped in family tradition and a dash of audacity.
TThey reflect the dreams and determination of individuals who have dared to turn their passion into a thriving business. They have come to complement the tourism offerings, enriching the experience of both the international traveller and the local explorer. They really are a representation of #TheBestOfUS
Visitors from around the globe, eager to sample an authentic South African drink, are treated to a flavorful journey. They get to sip on handcrafted beers and gins that are testament to the country's diversity and innovative spirit.
And for the locals, these breweries and distilleries serve to satisfy their curiosity about the age-old craft of brewing and distilling.
These micro-breweries are crafting stories, sharing traditions, and inspiring a generation to look at brewing and distilling through a new lens.
One of the must-visit breweries is the Ballito Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Shaka's Head on the Dolphin Coast just outside Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal.
The microbrewery started as a hobby to become what it is now. Gary Wilby, the brewer and plant manager, grew up in the Natal Midlands before going on to complete a National Diploma in Analytical Chemistry at what was then Natal Technikon in Durban (now known as Durban University of Technology).
He began his career in the laboratory before moving into various roles within the speciality chemistry industry.
Gary and his wife Ursula left the corporate world to start The Great Railroad Brewing Company in August 2015 and later renamed it to the Ballito Brewing Company.
“We have always been keen home brewers and decided to take a risk and turn our passion into a business. We have had some fun setting up this brewery.”
The company now produces eight international favourites and recently added its uniquely formulated craft Gin & tonic to its portfolio. The Brewery offers an experience which includes a tour of the brewery, education on how craft beer is made and tasting the craft beers. Bookings are essential for the tours, which require a minimum of four people.
The Anvil Brewhouse in Mpumalanga province is another exciting microbrewery to visit. Founded in 2010 by Theo De Beer, Anvil Brewhouse offers an exceptional brew-tasting experience. Named Anvil because Theo's father was a blacksmith, and located in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga it is where unique beers are forged from the finest local and international ingredients, all brewed with on-site water sourced from Steenkampsberge's sub-alpine springs.
Their range includes Blonde Ale, Pale Ale, Alaskan Amber Ale, White Anvil, Bookoo, and Mjolnir IPA. Some of these brews have landed them the prestigious title of Africa’s Brewer of the Year for 2016, 2017 and 2019. These awards are a testament to their masterful brewing skills.
Meanwhile, the rise of the craft gin movement has given life to a new set of players who have entered the market. These include the likes of The Blaq Distillery, a distillery based in Huhudi, Vyburg in the North West and the brainchild of Otshabeng Paul.
Raised in a household where selling home-brewed beer was the only means of income, Paul learned early the value of persistence and hard work. His grandmother was the driving force behind this brewing legacy that put food on the table even in the toughest times.
The company's logo narrates this inspiring tale. It depicts an African mother, a reflection of Paul's grandmother, brewing beer. She is surrounded by children, a testament to her nurturing spirit. The logo also portrays two contrasting houses: a white one with a golden roof, representing a hopeful future, and a black one, recalling a challenging past.
In essence, The Blaq Distillery isn't just a brand, but a story of survival and triumph. The brand is now available for sale in some of the major retailers.
Women have also made strides in this market. Time Anchor Distillery, Johannesburg's very first craft distillery, was brought to life in 2013 by the innovative duo of Shanna-Rae Wilby, Shanna-Rae, an incredibly skilled yet self-taught distiller, and her now husband, Warrick Brown. This was the result of Shanna-Rae's fervent desire to share her exceptional alchemic creations with her community.
Tucked away in the dynamic heart of Maboneng, renowned for being the cultural melting pot of Johannesburg, this distillery takes immense pride in its unique identity as the pioneer distillery of Johannesburg. The distillery meticulously makes small batches of boutique gins, whiskies, rums, and liqueurs, each bottle radiating the undeniable authenticity of its craft.
The distillery invites guests to step into its intriguing world through tours and tastings held exclusively at the distillery. Here guests are privy to the enchanting gin-making process, demystifying the art of distilling and offering a hands-on understanding of their artisanal process.
Guests have the opportunity to explore a myriad of pairing and garnish options that truly amplify the gin flavours.
Their Tasting Room allows for an enlightening and fun-filled gin-tasting journey. From carefully tailored connoisseur tastings, indulgent gin and chocolate pairings to enlightening gin masterclasses, there's something to tickle every taste bud.
Each tasting session is an intimate, sit-down experience. The number of tickets is intentionally limited to ensure a personalised interaction.
The Woodstock Brewery in the Western Cape has brewing beer since 2014 and has a wide variety on offer and promises quite a treat. The brewery’s website states: “Our brewers are always playing around with new flavours and techniques, constantly creating new and exciting brews. We invite you to come and take a tour, sample our brews and follow that experience by enjoying a Bavarian Beerhall style restaurant with a couple of beers at the bar of The Woodstock Beerhall.”
In a bid to foster and bolster the Beer Tourism Industry, the Craft Beer Association of South Africa (CBASA) charted out the Beer Route in 2017. As the name suggests, the Beer Route is a treasure map, guiding beer aficionados through the intricate beauty and vigorous flavours of South African Quality Craft Beers.
As the website attests, "Whether it is scenic sunsets and golden lagers you yearn for, or the warming maltiness and realisation that you have discovered something truly unique; you will find a taproom dedicated to help you discover the best of the best. Search by style, colour, or location - plan your journey into the finest craft beer around and then sit back and enjoy." So, why wait? Embark on this exhilarating journey and let South Africa quench your thirst for adventure and quality brews!
Gin enthusiasts can look forward to a number of festivals across the country. These include the Schweppes Gin Festival to be held in Bloemfontein (9 September), Durban (16 September) and in Soweto (2 December)
Issued by South African Tourism
For further information, contact:
Tel: +2711 895 3177
Note to editors
South African Tourism is the national tourism agency responsible for the marketing of South Africa as a preferred tourist destination, headed by Acting Chief Executive Officer, Nomasonto Ndlovu.