Review: Cape Town International Beer Festival 2012

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Festival of Beer at Hamilton Rugby Club, Cape TownThe Cape Town International Beer Festival is apparently the largest festival of its kind in the southern hemisphere.  Even if it were the smallest, an opportunity to attend a beer festival would not be refused by most people.

I made the pilgrimage to the Hamilton Rugby Grounds in Greenpoint on a chilly and overcast Saturday and was greeted by fierce winds that looked as if they might uproot the festival, but the organisers did well to tie everything down, keeping the jollity and beer well sealed from the occasional downpour.

Aiding the transport of beer revellers to and from the festival was a fleet of three-wheeled Tuk-Tuks (an unusual sight in the mother city), keenly commandeered by drivers who seemed excited enough be to zipping along in real-life bumper cars. I did envy them.

With more than a 150 beers available at the festival from local and international producers, most people were pretty excited, even those who probably didn’t consider themselves beer aficionados. Each draught of beer generally cost R 25, and tasting samples were available for free.

After a tour of all the stalls, almost all beer tastes could surely be accounted for. On the other hand, one had to complete the tour, a task that many (including myself) began with earnest idealism whetted by curiosity only to find themselves shipwrecked on a bench sipping ‘Double Owl’ while watching the rugby and listening to another festival-goer recount in slurs how they had been politely invited to wee on someone at a beer festival in Port Elizabeth.

“Good thing this isn’t Port Elizabeth” I reflected with infinite wisdom.  Like many of those around me I had found my composure crumbling in the face of such a dazzling variety of beer: Indian Pale Ales, stouts, chilli beer, cherry beer, the American-styled Amber Ales, the lagers with pine and citrus undertones and so many more it made the head spin even before sampling. I was surprised that local sorghum beer Umqombothi – surely one of the most widely drunk beers in the country – did not feature. Hopefully it will be available next time.

One could also find an array of tasty treats to complement the beer: Mexican food, delicious ribs in small polystyrene buckets, as well as pizzas and German style krauts in rolls.

The proliferation of local beer brands over the last few years constitute a craft beer revolution that has become recognised and cemented by events such as this. Beer has been made and drunk for thousands of years and it will be interesting to see how microbreweries and craft beers assimilate into a legacy dominated by mega conglomerates. My guess is that craft beer is here to stay.  I’ll certainly be doing my part to support it.

Jacob Claassens

The Cape Town International Beer Festival took place 23 – 25 November 2012.

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