With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award
The Taproom Craft Beer Pub & Restaurant in Cape Town
The distinguished Devil's Peak Brewing Company local in the heart of Salt River
You get pubs. You get restaurants. Then you get The Taproom – an upmarket space in Devil's Peak Brewing Company’s converted Salt River warehouse where ale lovers can savour impeccable craft beer and droolicious eats amidst the rich aromas of malt, hops and yeast. Cape Town beer culture? It doesn't get more real than this.
"Now and again, there'll be a bang and everyone will look up, only to chuckle as they recall that this is where we make our beer," says Capetonian JC Steyn, the general manager and head brewer at the venue.
And make beer they definitely do. Their most well-recognised range is made up of a fine-tuned selection of familiar English-, Belgian- and American-style favourites that are available in four-packs and on tap in the restaurant – these include the Woodhead Amber Ale, King's Blockhouse IPA, First Light Golden Ale and Silvertree Saison.
But the Devil's Peak Brewing Company also produces a pioneering ‘Explorer’ series (it includes a Black IPA and an Imperial IPA) as well as rotating lines of experimental brews that are exclusively served at The Taproom. Avid craft beer connoisseurs can look out for the brewery’s speciality barrel-aged range (there’s even a wine-beer hybrid) and other occasion-specific creations, like the Valentine’s Day Wild Cherry Ale, all of which can’t be found anywhere else and are usually only available for a limited time. And, truth be told, the thrill of being the first to test a new beer that may or may not live to swathe another palate is reason enough to make this pub your local.
Not that I need more convincing to visit the industrial-chic joint, which, with its trendy aesthetic and infectious vibe, has gone a long way to helping uplift the formerly rundown Salt River area. I’m pretty much hooked on the First Light Golden Ale, a fresh, light-bodied session beer named after the morning rays that bathe Devil's Peak mountain. Views of the stoney peak stretch out from the restaurant’s towering floor-to-ceiling windows, so before the brewers clock in, fit their gloves and kick off the day's duties with a thorough quality check, they can drink in the vista.
The brewers live by the motto 'truth to material' in that they use only the best ingredients suited for the style of beer being made. Nothing more, nothing less. And that's exactly what puts The Taproom at the cutting edge of Cape Town's craft beer experience – while tipping back your glass you know that expert hands are preparing the next batch right here, under the same roof.
"The pub is a part of the Devil's Peak Brewing Company, but it’s also a part of the greater Capetonian beer community. It’s here to introduce people to that community and acquaint them with the diversity and quality of craft beer," says JC. "This is the perfect environment within which to do that. Steam will come out of the tanks and drift over the restaurant. It's brilliant!"
Truth be told, it's an experience that has to be on your list of things to do in the Mother City. And with food good enough to have you ditching even your most beloved restaurants, The Taproom is as much an ideal after-work pit stop as it is a place to enjoy a superb sit-down meal outside of your customary culinary bubble. I can't get enough of it; though, I suspect it has a lot to do with the chef's keen use of barley pop in her oh-so-moreish dishes.
"She'll run out of beer, go to the brewer, grab some straight out of the tanks and be back in the kitchen whipping up her batter with it," says JC. "We put a restaurant in here that literally lives up to the status and stature of the beer."
That it does. The hefty pulled pork sandwich, which, by the way, is infused with Woodhead Amber Ale, is to die for; the bite-sized cheeseburger rocks my post-two pint world and the vegetarian pizza has me on the verge of converting. Let’s not even mention the effect the dessert offering has on me. Two options are available; the pecan & chocolate waffle as well as the Taproom Sundae. I'm told the menu, which now also includes breakfast items like eggs benedict and french toast, has been characterised as 'New York-street style', but honestly, I reckon you'd get away with describing it as 'devilishly divine'. Simple as that.
Which is not to say that you need feel the slightest hint of guilt while dining at The Taproom; quite the contrary. Many of the ingredients are sourced from surrounding areas, and by that I mean within a kilometre's radius of the restaurant. Second to growing your own produce, that's about as sustainable as it gets by anyone's standards.
The bar too holds true to this philosophy and stocks a variety of handcrafted Western Cape wines and the odd local spirit too for those desiring to wet their whistle with something other than beer.
But for most, The Taproom is all about lapping up the ale they've come to love at the source from which it flows, while lounging in the sun on the venue’s newly built balcony (it doubles up as a smokers’ section) and soaking up a breathtaking view of the brewery's namesake: the majestic Devil's Peak mountain.
It's an experience that is every bit as alluring as Cape Town's booming craft beer culture. And its authenticity is what ultimately keeps people going back.
Tip: Want to see how the Devil’s Peak Brewing Company’s legendary ales come to life? Then take a brewery tour, a new offer that gives curious craft beer enthusiasts an exclusive, hands-on experience of the brew-making procedure. Participants get to see every detail of the process, from the malt stage right down to the bottling phase, and are even encouraged to ask in-depth technical questions. Tours take place every Saturday at two time slots: 11am and 2pm. Each tour lasts around 20 minutes and is absolutely FREE!
The Bill: Pints range from R29 to R35, and half-pints from R19 to R23, while a 750ml bottle of speciality barrel-aged beer goes for R140. Kitchen meals cost between R55 and R105, bar snacks run from R18 to R48 and a beer and food pairing board is priced at R120. Breakfast items range from R16 to R70.
By Dylan de Castro
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