I will not lie, I was a little daunted by the thought of a craft beer festival when I was offered tickets to the Constantia Craft Beer Project Festival. Scenes of herds of skinny-jeaned hipsters milling about en masse whilst balancing glasses of beer ran through my head. The soundtrack (in my head, too), funnily enough, was that of an Oompah band, Oktoberfest-style. It being 2014, though, and my year of ‘getting out there and doing new, exciting, things’, I said yes. Okay, again, in the interest of honesty, every year is my year of ‘getting out there and doing new, exciting, things’, but that’s beside the point.
That is how I found myself on a rugby field in the middle of Constantia surrounded by a couple of hipsters (I was, again, surprised by how few I could see), no less than three stag parties, and a good spattering of fairly evenly spread, demographically (in relation to age and gender only, certainly not racially, which is a pity), beer drinkers.
We gained entrance with my media pass (woohoo!) via a gate ‘manned’ very efficiently by three sweet, highly-cleavaged young girls. I’m assuming the average beer drinker appreciated that but, really? Do we have to pander to that rather sexist prototype? They looked only just of legal age and, as such, were way too young for the majority of beer drinkers passing through. At R120 in (with a free glass), your average skint student isn’t here. Thankfully. (Oh dear, I’m showing my age!)
Around the rugby field were some food trucks, a small bandstand and five cars. Hotrods, I’m told, but due to the fact that the most I can do to discern one car from another is to ask what colour it is, I can’t vouch for this. I can vouch for the fact that there were two very cool blue ones that looked like giant’s dinky cars (see pic). On the field, there were also some umbrellas with hay bales beneath them like enormous, shaded, birds’ nests.
We navigated our way to the large L-shaped Bedouin tent in the corner, also scattered with hay bales. It was (a) in the shade (b) the proud owner of a TV showing Day One of the proteas/Aussies game (the less said, the better) and, most importantly, (c) home to all the brewery stands.
Once settled in a spot from where I could watch people and see the beer stands, we proceeded with our tastings, which was fabulous. How nice to be able to taste so many different beers, all in one place, and meet the people who make them. They were all lovely (the people) except for the Stellenbrau boys, who looked like they’d had a rough night the night before, slouched over their bar, chewing gum. Not great PR, I’m afraid.
I loved the ladies at the Wild Clover stand and really liked their beer names – Double Owl, Blind Mole, Eagle Weiss and, my favourite, the Black Dog Smokey Irish Porter. It’s dark and smoky and tastes like something I’d drink in a Bronte novel, on a misty moor, while writing poetry in Ye Olde English. Well, I would if I weren’t such a poetry philistine. Wild Clover are now up there on my ‘Breweries to Visit’ list.
At the Red Sky Brewery I was intrigued to see a gluten-free beer. Clever them, what with all the hype about gluten-free diets. I liked it, too – hoppy and, surprisingly, tasted like bread to me. It was delicious as an accompaniment to my bratwurst and pretzel from the Raith stand. For those of you going for gluten-free, just leave out the pretzel.
Newcomers to the scene, Apollo, with a fantastic business card that looks like a playing card, were also a hit with me. Their Apollo Blonde Ale may be the craft beer I’m looking for, one that doesn’t try too hard and has a light taste. Another one to visit, out Gordon’s Bay way. Watch this space.
We then made the unwise decision to give the distilled beer a try from Devil’s Peak (see pic). It’s what the students would go for, if they came. Like any 40% (45?), it tastes like proof alcohol. Something like the stuff we’d mix with raspberry syrup and water in the lab at varsity, to make pracs more fun. I think I’ll stick to their beer next time, which I’ve prattled on about before. I really liked their stand, too. Kind of like a kid’s castle, in wood.
I had one gripe. The beers could’ve been colder. Perhaps this is an unreasonable request in an outdoor venue, but I’m making it anyway. Besides that, it was an ideal spot for getting a wide array of tastings from breweries new and old, while watching people – two of my favourite things. Doing the latter, I realised that I had been mistaken when I said the hipsters were few and far between – there were plenty, I’d just been thrown off by the fact that they were wearing shorts, not skinny jeans. Who knew?
Everyone, including said hipsters, seemed to be enjoying themselves, we’d had our fill of tasters three hours in and the three bachelors of the stag do’s were getting suitably rowdier. It seemed like a good time to leave.
Smoothly run, nicely done, I think I’ll try it again next year.