The Art of craft
The Art of Craft
Craft beer is steadily becoming the new standard of drinking
A new and exciting trend is slowly taking over the city of roses. Whether you’ve heard it from the grapevine or at your local bar, craft beer is the latest must have beverage. To understand the current fascination, ON POINT Magazine spoke to Bloemfontein brewer, Phillip Coetzee about opening his own brewery.
Coetzee’s The Famous Brew & Still is currently the only craft brewer and artisan distiller in the continent. Coetzee started brewing 17 years ago. While studying Electrical Engineering at the Central University of Technology (CUT), Coetzee was entertaining with his own brews of ginger and pineapple beer.
“Because students are always looking for something on the house, and although all of it was consumed and everybody enjoyed it, I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the ginger beer and the pineapple beer. Then I decided to research on the proper European style beers that are made from barley and hops.”
Coetzee came across a home brewing club, The Warthog Brewers, in Pretoria. Through the club he was able to find the necessary ingredients needed to brew the beer and the necessary books to learn from.
The trick with beer brewing is its exclusivity and experience. Coetzee had not been selling the beers at first and brewed it for friends and family. The space he used to brew his beer was rented out for over three years — but he was not brewing yet.
“It was a catch 22, we had to start renting the warehouse and then we could start producing our first beers,” he shared.
Coetzee mentions that craft beers are typically lower in alcohol content. It’s about enjoying something of quality. And, if you’re enjoying that quality you don’t need eight or ten beers. You are happy with two or three.
“And that’s the culture we want to develop more in Bloemfontein,” he says. The problem he has experienced with Bloemfontein crowds is their conservative approach towards products.
“They are used to doing something their way and they don’t necessarily do something new that easily, especially if it’s more expensive than what they know. Unfortunately craft beer has always been more expensive than commercial beer, because it’s made in small quantities.”
So what makes a craft beer, a craft beer? Coetzee shares that it’s in how you experience the beer. “In the craft beer industry, folks want to know that it’s hand made, they want to speak to the guy that makes it. That’s part of the culture,” says Coetzee, noting that breweries that become popular tend to lose this important element. “Craft breweries that tend to become too big lose that. My idea is to always remain fairly small. The moment you become too big you can’t say you do it by hand anymore, theoretically you shouldn’t call it craft or artisan beer anymore.”
It’s with this expectation that you will find that those who do enjoy craft beers are not looking for a turn-up but an experience.
“It’s for people who want to have different flavours and tastes,” Coetzee explains.
Currently, according to South African Breweries (SAB), the current trends in craft breweries is canning of the product. Over 40% of individuals interested in starting breweries look for methods to can their beers. Although canned beer might bring questionable eco-friendliness in its trade, some of the trends in craft beer industry this year include sustainability. Blood Serpent became one of the first eco-friendly breweries in South Africa released under Darling Breweries.
The brewing process itself is not so complicated but it goes through quite a specific process. After much malting, boiling and fermenting the beer takes a weeklong process the beer is kegged and ready for consumption. The trick is, they need to be consumed fresh.
“Three to six weeks is usually the optimal time to consume a craft beer, and it’s healthy,” says Coetzee, adding that brewer’s yeast is a fundamental ingredient in craft beer.
“Brewer’s yeast is sold in a little capsule as a vitamin supplement. So it’s very healthy for you, it’s one of the largest sources of vitamin B. So it’s really good to have it in a beer. The only reason the big guys [commercialised beers] take it out of the beer is for the shelf life. But folks will realise that when you drink craft beer it’s actually healthier than your normal beer,” he says.
Coetzee adds that as much as craft beer may be a healthier option it’s also important to look after it. In terms of crafting and production whether your own or from a store where you sell it, and what happens sometimes is that it could be left out in the sun while being delivered at a store.
“Eventually when the customer buys they will taste the beer and they’ll realise that the beer isn’t perfect and they might think it’s the brewery and it’s not necessarily the brewery but it was how the beer was treated once it left. It’s a living product; it’s got yeast inside of it. And it you don’t look after it properly, you will have problems,” says Coetzee.
He also notes that it is important for distributors like restaurants or grocery stores to also be educated on craft beers.
Coetzee also notes that it is difficult selling craft beer commercially. Although The Famous Brew & Still has a mobile unit those hosts at different kinds of events, they made little profit from bottling and selling to bigger stores.
“There’s always a middle man who takes part of your profit margin,” he mentions.
“Bottling is quite a process; the bottling itself, the labour involved, you have to clean and wash the bottles yourself, you have to maintain the bottles at the right temperature, you have to package it properly, so that you don’t have breakages when it goes out,” says Coetzee, “then you get to the restaurants, some don’t pay well, some you struggle to get your money, it’s a part of the industry that I didn’t enjoy.”
The Famous Brew & Still currently sells at different events from their trailer to the customers. They also offer a mobile unit to for tastings, birthdays or corporate events. To contact them, view their official website at www.brewandstill.com or contact them e-mail or call at email@example.com, 084 627 7626.