Craft Beer in South Africa


Craft beer in a contemporary South African setting, is more than just a product, it is a fashion. The general definition of craft beer is a beer made of barley, water, hops and yeast and is brewed by an independent and traditional establishment. In examining the craft beer hype, we can see the role it plays in our lives and whether it is justified.

In the past, the beer industry has been dominated by lagers made primarily by South African Breweries (SAB). There has been a noticeable rise in popularity of speciality beers over the past few years. According to CraftBru, which keeps track of South African craft breweries, the number of South African craft breweries in 2013 was in the 30s, and has risen to 214 in 2017. The rise in the number of breweries can only be accredited to an increase in demand for the product, which is due to the human nature of succumbing to societal trends.

Brewing craft beer has become something of an art, which contributes to the number of breweries that are arising. SAB has hosted the Intervarsity Brewing Competition for the past 10 years and had 16 competing teams from top tertiary institutions this year. UP has a microbrewery which was sponsored by SAB and became active in 2008. The UP microbrewery team is made up mainly of chemical engineering students.

A significant difference in normal beer production compared to craft beer is that the manufacturing of conventional beer is industrial and takes the form of of a production-line, while the latter is artisinal work done by a passionate brewer. Often, craft brewers use better quality ingredients, such as spring mountain water and speciality hops. Charl van Schoor, who is currently doing his masters degree in economics, says that to him craft beer means “decadence”. He notes that there is a current trend in society that means we are pulled towards a more artisanal lifestyle. Part of this inclination is wanting to know where our products come from so that we feel less alienated from it. This means we prefer purchasing products that we know are made by someone with skill in the relevant field and uses good quality ingredients.

UP students Jonathan Buley and Anneri Oosthuizen say that there is a strong correlation between craft beer consumption and more elite establishments and gatherings. We see evidence of this when looking at some of the most prevalent places to drink craft beer in Pretoria, DK Burger, Hogshead, and Capital Craft Beer Academy, all of which are situated in affluent areas and serve food that is described as ‘gourmet’. This may, in part, account for the popularity of the beverage, as people generally want to engage in activities that raise their status.

Adding to the craft beer excitement is that local celebrities are getting involved with this trend. The band Fokofpolisiekar, which has it’s own brand of speciality beer, Fokof Lager, partnered up with Jack Parow, who produces Parow Brandy, to make a special edition stout named Cape Cobra. This further commodifies the image that the entire craft industry is selling, and appeals to a wide range of people with a wide range of tastes.


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