There’s a craft revolution happening in KZN, with an enviable array of artisanal brews to choose from. Here’s our round-up of the best distillers and breweries in the area.
Poison City Brewing
Edgy, passionate, and vehemently KZN-centric, this brewery has made international waves with Durban-born Graeme Bird and Andre Schubert at the helm.
“Our first four products were traditional craft beers and our latest product is South Africa’s first cannabis beer,” says Graeme, who now lives in Umdloti, but still spends time in his beloved Durban.
Based in Station Drive, their beers are all made in small batches, “with the quality of our ingredients being key to our success,” he explains.
The craft beers; The Bird (a German style lager), The Punk Rocker (an English Pale Ale), The Other Bird (a Czech Dark Lager) and The Poison (An IPA), are available in a limited number of places in the major cities.
“Our Durban Poison Cannabis Lager is a premium lager and is produced in much bigger quantities. We’ve sold over a million bottles since it was released in September 2018 and it is available in thousands of bottles stores, restaurants and bars across the country,” says Graeme proudly.
“The hemp seeds we use in the brew also add a wonderful flavour,” adds Graeme.
They won silver and bronze awards in the 2018 beer label awards.
Their beers are available nationally in bottle stores and restaurants, including in Ballito and Salt Rock.
Go to poison.city, Facebook @durbanpoisonbeer, Instagram @durbanpoisonbeer
“We’ve sold over a million bottles of our Durban Poison Cannabis Lager “since it was released in September 2018”
No other beer has had quite the history of this legendary brew, that bravely launched in an era when SAB was the behemoth of breweries in 1972. Its famous namesake, Louis Luyt senior, still managed to capture 14 percent of the market in the beer’s first year, explains his son Louis junior. However, despite a partnership with Anton Rupert, Louis senior eventually sold his shares to Anton, and after a short-lived existence, the infamous lager went off the market.
Phoenix-like, it resurfaced in 2009 in Ballito, but admits Louis junior, microbreweries in South Africa were not quite a ‘thing’ yet, and despite doubling the volume each year, Luyt Lager was “ahead of its’ time.”
“We sold off the equipment to Cape Town,” explains Louis, and the brewery went into hibernation again.
Now, Louis Junior has resurrected his father’s beloved beer, almost as an ode to his dad’s legacy, but also because he quite simply believes in his product.
Over time, they’ve drawn from key players from the industry, including Gordon Den, a master brewer and SAB legend, Gerry Fischer, Hu Barber, and former SAB and Firkin brewery man Paul Simms, and Silindile Mpungose.
Carbonation is key, says Louis, explaining that Luyt Lager’s carbonation is very low – they rather look to natural carbonation, and don’t want their customers to feel ‘full’ after enjoying their brew. With four-percent alcohol, Louis prides himself on the beer’s drinkability.
Having only re-launched in December 2018, Luyt Lager is available on tap at Mozambik, and Fish Factory restaurants.
Got to luytlager.co.za, Facebook @luytlagersa, Instagram @luytlager
You could win a 4-night stay at Pumula Beach Hotel for 2 adults and 2 children. Visit luytlager.co.za for details
Blackstrap Craft Distillery
It all started with a chance coffee in 2016 when Theo Vermaak and Alex Etchells were first introduced. “What was supposed to be a 20-minute chat, turned into almost 12-months of brand building, brain storming and ultimately the combining of our individual dreams; to open a craft bar (Alchemy) and craft distillery respectively,” explains Alex.
The North Coast plays a major role in their concept development. “The name Blackstrap Craft Distillery pays homage to the region’s rich history of sugarcane,” explains Alex. “During the process of refining sugar from sugarcane, a by-product is created through boiling cane juice to harvest sugar crystals; namely molasses or treacle, also known by its trade name, Blackstrap. This also forms the base of all the alcohol we produce in the distillery today.”
“Our distillery has the ability to produce a range of products, including gin … We aim to produce unique, small batch spirits, with a focus on quality over quantity.”
Their first product Ginsala; an East Coast inspired craft Gin, is the culmination of 18-months of work to represent the flavours of the region’s Indian cuisine. Childhood memories of eating curried pineapples on the beach inspired them to infuse the flavour, combining the spice components which make up a Masala Curry spice. For this, they won a Gold Medal for Ginsala at the 2019 South African Spirit awards Trophy.
Ginsala is available from their on-site bottle store, alternately most local liquor stores. (If they don’t have it, ask them why not!)
Go to .blackstrapcraft.com
The label of Zulu Rum is a symbolic one, depicting the very beginning of the association of rum with the Zulu army. The story goes that the first time the Zulu people came into contact with rum, was when they defeated the British Army at the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879, and captured their rum rations.
The idea for Zulu Rum first occurred to Clinton Wyness when travelling through the rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal, which were blanketed in sugar cane. He thought it strange that the province did not have its own rum, knowing that most other sugar producing areas, such as Mauritius, the Caribbean and Australia all had a flourishing rum industry. Hence he approached good friend Wayne Oliver, who provided additional resources, and is now a partner.
Having won the 2016 “The Fifty Best Gold Medal for Best White Rum” awards, and numerous Michelangelo awards, the first local rum produced from the sugar cane in KwaZulu-Natal has established itself as a firm favourite, and is being exported internationally.
“Zulu Rum is made from molasses, sourced from KZN and it is a no age statement rum. We use one copper pot still and two stainless steel column stills in our process,” explains Clinton.
Zulu Rum is available in selected bottle stores and Spar Tops, with a Zulu Gold, and Zulu Impi variety.
Go to zulurum.com, Facebook @zulurum, Twitter @zulurum
Ballito Brewing Company
After teaching themselves to brew in 2014, KZN-born Gary Wilby (who is the brewer and has a chemistry degree) and his wife Ursula are currently brewing eight styles of craft beer, with an IPA in development. “We have also recently began blending our own unique craft gin and tonic,” adds Ursula from their Shakashead premises.
Their Ballito Belgian Ale, Irish Red Ale, Shaka’s Impi Lager and Belgian Witbier are all testaments to a European heritage rooted in Africa.
Ursula details their process, on which they pride themselves: “Beer consists of the following four ingredients as laid out by the German purity law of 1516; Reinheidsgebot i.e. water, malted barley (grain) hops and yeast. The malted barley we use contains starches which we convert to sugars. The resultant sugar solution is then boiled with the addition of hops. This is then cooled, and yeast added. The yeast intern ingests the sugars and the bio product is alcohol and carbon dioxide. The CO2 produced during the fermentation is then reabsorbed and this is what gives our beers its carbonation.”
“Our product is 100-percent organic, with no artificial enzymes and adjuncts.”
You can purchase directly from the brewery or any bottle stores from Ballito to Kloof, and as far as Winterton and Drakensberg.
Go to balltobrewing.co.za, Facebook @Ballitobrewingcompany, Instagram @greatrailroad