In the middle of the beautiful, arid, plains of the Great Karoo lies a fertile valley in which a tiny population live, a population of people I have come to love. It’s the place that makes my heart swell, where I can breathe. The first time I drove into this tiny, magical, place – years ago now – my entire being wriggled with joy. It felt like home. It still does, each time I go back. My going back becomes more and more regular.
I had to put that paragraph first. Like my Castle Lite drinking, I must be completely honest about where I’m coming from. The non-expert, but highly opinionated mind, reviews of craft beer that I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to write. I love the place, anything that comes from there has an angel-like glow to it in my eyes. Now you know.
Over the river, on the hillside, lies Two Goats Deli and the Sneeuberg Brewery. Andre Cilliers lives there with his family and herd of goats for the goat’s cheeses he makes. Him and his wife have three sons, who ride bareback through the town, an idyllic childhood from a storybook. Thing is, this is real. The goats are a bit stupid, though, as he says. And he doesn’t only have goats. He works really, really, hard.
But I need to write about the beer he brews. Three delicious ales he makes using the water from the natural spring that runs throughout the year in the village. He adds no preservatives or additives, just malt, hops and… urm… the essential beer ingredients. Hey! I’m still learning.
We went in December (for the gazillionth time) and sat beneath the trees in the garden (a welcome relief from the beating Karoo sun) drinking the beers and eating goat’s cheese and kudu salami with relishes and home-baked bread. Bliss.
First, my favourite, the Karoo Ale. It’s golden, like the hills that surround Nieu Bethesda at sunset (I know, I know… I can’t help being mushy) and is crisp and refreshing, with a good amount of the bitterness beer needs.
Then there’s the Honey Ale, which smells like honey and has a distinct honey aftertaste. It’s gentle and always reminds me of Maya the Bee. Oh dear, that gives away my age again, doesn’t it? It’d definitely be(e) her choice, were she a beer drinker.
The third one he makes is a dark, roasted ale, which is my second best. It’s not as heavy as many of the other dark ales that I’ve tasted, but perhaps I’m biased by drinking it in my favourite place on earth.
They’re available on tap at the brewery, and in bottles, and it’s worth making a little trip into the middle of nowhere to get it. This middle of nowhere also boasts the best bookshop I’ve ever been in, Dustcovers. And some amazing artists. Oh, and there’s the Owl House, too, which would need its own post, and is the main attraction to visitors to the town. Go. Book yourself in for a night or two, there are plenty of places to stay, and you’ll want to have a second, and third beer, believe me. Staying overnight is necessary.
As a visiting salesman said to me – slightly too close to my face for my liking, but I liked his prose so I let it be – in The Ramstal Pub one evening after spending the afternoon at the Sneeuberg Brewery:
“I took my first sip of that ale and I felt like angels were pissing on my tongue.”
(Sorry Mum, if you’re reading this, I’m just quoting him.)
This piece was written for Land ‘n Sand.