As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I’m a small town girl and being in the city (even though I live in it and love it) for too long creates all sorts of claustrophobia that makes me Not Very Nice. It is because of this that it’s a good thing for the world in general, that I make regular trips away from the clogged roads and peopleness of the cities.
Thanks to my occasional blogging for What’s On In Cape Town (see my piece here), the perfect opportunity came up – a little jaunt to Darling, for the inaugural Darling Summer Beer Festival at the ‘new’ Darling Beer Tasteroom and Brewery. I say ‘new’, because it was also the first anniversary of their new premises. And what a celebration it was.
So off we went, packing the newest member of The House in the Middle of the Street – Tinks, the labrador – and us into The Silver-Winged Unicorn, stopping first to show Tinks the sea for the first time (what joy!) and bump into a lovely old friend walking with her just-as-lovely Mum and sweet baby. Once cooled by the sea and sustained by some delicious tapas at Damhuis in Melkbos we ambled along the road to Darling.
Darling is a quaint town, with an even-more-quaint name, and the Darling Brewery – just over the train tracks and down a dust road in the ‘industrial’ part of town – gives added dimension to a town that offers an incredible number of things to do, despite having a population of only 10 000.
After meeting up with one of my oldest friends, SJ, we dropped our things at The Granary and off we headed to the brewery.
Saturday was hot and blue-skied and the summer wind was howling, blowing up the dust from the road leading to the brewery and almost blowing us over getting out of the car. It was perfect beer drinking weather. In the grounds of the brewery there was plenty of shade and shelter in the form of two Bedouin tents, all set about with hay bale seating and pallet tables. There’s a kid’s jungle gym in the garden of the brewery that’ll ellicit squeals of happiness from every and any child.
Felix, the fabulous brewer who we’d met on our previous visit, decked out in lederhosen, welcomed us and introduced us to his two friends visiting from Germany, and so an afternoon of chilled beer, relaxed vibes and great company began.
It being a beer festival, there was plenty of beer to be had. Served icy cold, all of Darling Brewery’s favourites were available – the Bone Crusher, Sun Gazer and Gypsey Mask, to name just three – and also their new lager, the Blood Serpent, Africa’s first carbon neutral beer, how fabulous! To get into the festive spirit, a glass of the seasonal Red Goblin was just the ticket. Inspired by the Samango monkey, it has subtle overtones of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger.
There were guest brewers and bands playing and food being cooked and eaten (including some of the best spare ribs I’ve ever tasted. Unfortunately I forgot to take note of the name of the stall. Fall-off-the-bone, juicy marinade, lip-smacking stuff). [Edit: I’ve been informed the rib spectacularity was from The Flying Pig. Look out for them and, if you’re lucky enough to be near them … eat their ribs!] I liked the ‘braaibroodjies with a twist’ idea, too. And the best thing about it was the wonderfully mixed crowd of both locals and visitors to Darling. City pretension had not been allowed through the gates, and it made my heart soar.
An entire paragraph must be dedicated to Darling Sweet’s toffees. Orange and pomegranate toffee. It’s the stuff of dreams. Dreams, I tell you. You have to stop and be still when you eat it, because it’s a taste explosion that I’d imagine Willie Wonka would’ve made, had he made toffees and not chocolate. Sublime.
After making friends with a local farmer’s wife who, it turned out, is the cousin of one of my neighbours and one of my favourite people in Nieu Bethesda (how small the world is) and a wonderful young guy who explained the process of bottling with a passion I’ve not seen often in people about their careers, we headed off to sit on our stoep and watch the spectacular sunset and quaff wine while talking Saturday Sundowner Talk.
Perfect small town soothing for a city-dwelling small town girl, thanks Darling.