How did you get into brewing beers?
Our brewer Stephan [Meyer] was born 50 km north-east of Clarens and, while running his IT business in Pretoria may years ago, wanted to return to his roots. We bought our farm in Clarens in 1999 with the plan to establish apples and cherries, which we did from 2000-2004. While waiting for the first harvest, we were considering all the options for using all the windfalls out of the orchard and decided on cider. We tried with the windfalls from our first and second harvests, which were all dismal failures. We sought help from the Worthogs Brewing club in Pretoria (who now have 3 branches countrywide) and they not only set us on the right path but also ignited Stephan’s passion for brewing. He is a true beer lover and was blown away by the variety of beers during a trip to the UK in the early ‘90s and could not wait to start brewing his own. Soon we were brewing more beer than cider!
What is the most enjoyable part of brewing beers?
For us it’s seeing people’s perception of beer change when you explain what you set out to achieve with the beer, when they can actually taste what you are describing to them, when they delight in the enjoyment of a great beer and leave a converted craft beer drinker. And, of course, the brewing process itself is a lot of fun: selecting fine ingredients, using fabulous equipment, and waiting for the yeast and hops to do their thing until such time that you can taste the beer.
Which beer is your most popular?
If we have to choose one, it would be our Clarens Red – an American amber ale with a delightfully fruity hop character.
What is the best kind of food to have with a great beer?
There are some classic food and beer pairings – like chocolate and stout, mussels and wit bier – but to be honest, spicy foods, wholesome and hearty foods and some cheeses do justice to great beers.
For you, what is the difference between a good beer and a great beer?
A great, standout, wow beer is one where the beer is perfectly balanced. So, for example, an IPA would be bitter but not harsh, balanced with loads of hop character.
What makes Clarens Brewery different from other breweries?
Firstly, we are a brew-pub – you can have a beer (and maybe something to eat) right in the middle of us brewing. And we are so much more than that – besides our own range of four fruit ciders, we distil our own craft gin, apple brandy, and whiskey. We have a range of seven fruit liqueurs as well as three fruit juices. Most of the fruit for these products come from our own orchards.
Which part of Capital Craft Beer Festival 2016 are you most excited for?
We love going to Pretoria! The people are super supportive and great fun. It’s a highlight in our calendar since we get great feedback from the market while having a blast. We can’t wait!