It’s been a long hard slog, but over the past year I’ve managed to get to every major beer festival in South Africa (barring the Jozi Craft Beer Fest, which was an epic fail on my part and one for which I apologise).
So before the next slew of beer fests arrive I would like to present to you the first probably-not-annual Beer Festival Awards of South Africa (which I’m calling the Beefies for short). These awards have been voted on in the most democratic of ways (assuming we’re thinking of North Korean style democracy) – by a panel of one. All views are mine and I welcome your comments, though if you disagree with my choices, you are probably wrong…
Well, Cape Town Festival had 101 beers on show – and I tasted all of them. But there were a few too many lagers, so for sheer diversity of beer styles and for putting craft beer on a deserving pedestal, our first award goes to Clarens Craft Beer Festival, where I counted 56 styles among the 92 beers available. It is still the connoisseur’s festival, where sipping and savouring is the order of the day.
Only one fest boasts a bathroom that looks like you’re backstage at a catwalk show; one festival that makes me look around and think – there is no way these girls (or guys for that matter) are drinking copious amount of beer. The award for hottest attendees goes to We Love Real Beer. I think this year I might just don a muumuu and stop trying to compete.
Contrarywise there is also a festival where hipsters are outnumbered by hippies and I actually feel overdressed. This is a festival of bagpipes and old men smoking pipes; of hemp pants and more beards than beers. The festival that best encapsulates beer’s inclusive, non-pretentious philosophy is of course the Solstice Festival.
It’s amazing how badly-thought out the food stalls are at some of these events. It’s time for organisers to realise that beer is a beautiful beverage that deserves better than being paired with a boerie roll or yet another pretzel. I suspect there’s a forthcoming fest that will show us what food and beer is all about, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the fest where I felt best-nourished was the Cape Town Festival of Beer, where there was everything from wood fired pizzas to sumptuous steak rolls; gourmet burgers and the best fish tacos this side of Acapulco.
OK, so I wasn’t there, but having just returned from a nationwide trip dropping in on every commercial brewer in the country, I heard the story time and time again – “we ran out of beer by 2pm”; “we couldn’t believe the response”; “Lucy you’re an absolute moron for not turning up”… The festival that seemed best-loved by brewers was The Jozi Craft Beer Fest.
For the weak of bladder, somewhere to deposit the by-product is almost as important as the beer itself so why do I spend hours in queues only to find there’s no water, no toilet paper and almost universally no soap? Only one festival got the toilet situation right so my Happy Bladder award (bet you’re glad there’s no statuette for this) goes to the Oktober Bierfest for its sweet smelling toilets and separate urinals.
To be honest, there’s no such thing as a bad beer fest and I’ve loved every minute of all of them but someone has to win. The Best of the Best was the fest that was really all about the beer – the love of it, the taste of it and the joy of drinking it to a mountain backdrop. My beer fest of the year (and I did consult two friends on this so it’s definitely a democratic choice) is……Clarens!
Can’t wait to see the next instalment of each of the above festivals and to see what the new festivals can come up with – look out for the Hop n Vine Festival in Cape Town on July 20th and 21st 2012 and SA on Tap in Joburg on August 4th 2012. And to all who plan beer fests, the gauntlet is down – let there be more beer styles than toilet trips, let the music play, let there be seating and tables; let there be food worthy of any bistro and toilets so clean I wouldn’t mind eating my gourmet lunch on them if the mood took me!
Winners of the first Beefies, please feel free to give your acceptance speech below – I’ll even email you a trophy if you want to put it on your virtual shelf.
Festival-goers – which were your favourite festivals? Tell us your highs (and lows if that’s how you roll) below.
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