Cape Town’s Very Own Home Brewing Scene

Jump into the world of DIY brew and experience a whole new side of the Mother City’s craft beer movement

As the old adage goes, anything you can do, I can do better. It’s in our nature to be competitive, and so it’s hardly surprising that as interest in the Cape’s craft beer movement has mushroomed, the DIY home brew extravaganza has begun to gain traction alongside it.

But before we go further, let’s back up and take a quick look at the evolution of specialty ale to get some context.

At the turn of the century, the Western Cape’s own small-batch, all-natural brewing scene took off with the establishment of Boston Breweries, Birkenhead and Mitchell’s. Although originally contained in the hipster crowds, the idea of drinking carefully, ethically produced ale turned out in limited quantity started to make a run for the mainstream in 2011. Since, nightlife venues specifically catering to and celebrating hand-made brews have popped up all across the city centre, including local favourites Beerhouse, Wembley Tab and &Union. Not to mention, from 2012 to 2013, the number of breweries in South Africa grew from 40 to nearly 60.

Author of African Brew and self-proclaimed brew mistress Lucy Corne maintains that this rise in popularity is, in part, due to the foodie nature of the Mother City. “It makes sense that people are interested in beer here, just as they are interested in wine, coffee, etc. The craft beer culture was a logical follow on from the whole artisanal product boom that started with the farmers’ markets, specifically the Neighbourgoods Market. All people needed was to be exposed to new styles of beer, to realise that there is a lot more to beer than a light lager, and the rest just naturally happened.” 

Therefore, as beer drinking migrated from rugby stadiums to trendy market stalls, it is only logical that people began to realise they too could produce small-batch beers. Using relatively common household equipment from their own kitchens, individuals' at-home brewing took off. 

In lieu of this growing movement, beer-making classes are cropping up in the Mother City with the sole aim of teaching the art of craft brewing to anyone looking to get in on the fun. 

Cape Town resident Lynnae Endersby is one such person. This ale and lager expert began Woodstock’s BeerLab BeerSchool in 2012 to share her long-time love of home brewing with students and to give Mother City mad scientists a place to buy resources. 

Once every month, Lynnae’s 14 eager students huddle around stainless steel cooking stations and test their hand at measuring, boiling and straining their very own batches. While Lynnae cautions that home brews take close to a month to mature, from putting the first pot of water on to boil to popping open the bottles of your own mouth-watering ale, it is a hobby every Capetonian craft beer lover must try once. 

“Our classes are growing and becoming more frequent as the home brewing trend is expanding. This new [craft] beer culture is making people think differently about beers and entertain the idea of recreating their own ale with a unique twist,” she comments. 

And those in the brewing community would agree that these unique twists are what make craft beer special. Add different hops here, unique barley there or a pinch of fruit and rooibos, and you have an entirely new brew. It’s what makes home brewing a pioneer’s dream journey. 

Many of Lynnae’s participants have been home brewing for years, some are simply curious about the process and others want to build a microbrewery of their own as a moneymaking scheme. The one thing they all agree on, though, is that craft beer is the next big thing in South Africa and, more so than any other city, in Cape Town. 

Whether you’re an avid beer-lover or a curious first-time drinker, dive into this world and see what’s making the city talk about DIY craft beers. Will you join the trend?

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  • If interested in trying your hand at home brewing, contact Lynnae about BeerLab’s BeerSchool Saturday classes. The BeerSchool offers beginner/partial mash classes once per month for anyone new to beer-making or who would like to refresh their skill set. Alternatively, for more experienced brewers, BeerSchool holds an all grain class once every two months. The price for each of the classes is R730 per person, which includes equipment usage and your very own beer. Classes start at 9:30am on Saturdays.
    Block C, Eleven | The Boulevard | Woodstock | Cape Town| beerschool@beerlab.co.za 

By Cyprien Pearson 

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Keen on drinking your share of the good stuff? Check out our overview of places to drink craft beer in Cape Town.

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