DEVIL’S PEAK BREWERY compiled by LIZAR VAN REENEN
We are a beer drinking nation and proud of it! It’s been in our blood since the very first time the European settlers were spat out on our shores by our stormy seas. The jolly sailing crew very quickly grew tired of the same old and were soon bored to death. Their commander had to conjure up something for them to do. He stood high, raised his sabre and said: “As of this day, we shall colonize the Cape and set alcohol production in motion”. The European settlers were officially dubbed the “Cape’s Booze Crew” as of that day.
Their happiness however was short lived as a Dutchman with an atrocious hairdo named Jan van Riebeek, too set foot on our sandy shores in 1652 with big, big plans for the Cape. Becoming a man of status and power overnight as our first Dutch Governor, he started a brewery at the Fort (known as the Castle) in 1658 after noticing the growing demand for beer. It was in that same year, that an insignificant little man called Pieter Visagie managed to brew the very first beer using the waters of the Liesbeeck River. Brewing licenses were needed immediately as people became ‘thirsty’ and in need of more liquid gold. Our main man with the funny permed hairdo quickly managed to organize the first private brewing licenses via the back alley in 1664. A bit of mumbling while dragging on his pipe followed by a handshake here, a handshake there and everyone smiling (it was all about who you knew, even back then).
Roughly 200 years after Pieter’s claim to fame, the Cape had a beer rush (much like the gold rush) with breweries scattered throughout the Cape. Only problem was – the British got whiff of the Cape’s good fortune. They made sure that they got the biggest slice of the beer production pie by claiming the Cape as their own. As of the early 1800’s, modern breweries were the order of the day under the new British ruling.
Now years later, it seems like the beer rush has hit the cape yet again, with a whole host of popular microbreweries strutting their brewing skills. A selected few have literally started a beer craft revolution. One such microbrewery that needs no introduction is Devil’s Peak Brewing Company situated in Salt River overlooking none other than the magnificent Devil’s Peak Mountain. General manager and masterbrewer, JC Steyn at Devil’s Peak Brewery enlightens us about their craft beer as well as how and where it all began.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN INVOLVED IN THE BEER MAKING INDUSTRY ? Initially after studying a B.Sc degree in Viticulture and Oenology I worked for 9 years as a winemaker in the wine industry. I dabbled in home brewing but then got the offer to head up Devils Peak from a production point of view.
CRAFT BEER HAS BECOME EXCEPTIONALLY POPULAR IN RECENT YEARS. IS IT MERELY A TREND OR IS IT HERE TO STAY? I think the consumers’ awareness for all things artisanal has increased. I feel the consumer is sick of mass-produced products and feels there is true value in something that is made on a small scale with a hands on approach. These small brands often tell a unique story with passion for the creation of their product putting extra love into it making sure it is distinctive and expressive. And yes, I do believe it is here to stay, look at the US, it is showing amazing growth in the sector.
WHO WAS THE MASTERMIND(S) BEHIND THE DEVIL’S PEAK BEER BREWING IDEA? Devil’s Peak Brewing Company was founded by Greg Crum and Russell Boltman in the year 2009 and went through many shapes and forms with regards the people involved, operational structure and beer styles adopted by the time we launched commercially at the Cape Town Festival of Beer in 2011. By this time Dan Badenhorst had joined and shortly after the festival Derek Szabo joined.
YOUR FIRST BATCH OF BEERS WERE DUBBED THE FOUNDER’S SERIES. BRIEFLY DESCRIBE THE CHARACTER OF EACH ONE.
First Light Golden Ale is what we like to term our gateway beer. It’s the one beer that we try to attract the predominately South African lager drinkers across to the exciting world of ales. It’s a lighter easy drinking beer with low malt and hop characters.
Silvertree Saison is a spicy and fruity Belgian ale. It has a low to medium bitterness with a low malt character. The yeast strain is very specific for this beer and dominates the character of it.
Kings Blockhouse IPA is a decidedly bitter and fruit driven beer with huge flavour and aromatics. It’s not for the faint hearted but it is a truly delicious beer. Voted SA’s best craft beer 2014.
Woodhead Amber Ale is a beer that balances malt and hop characters superbly as to create a very evident malt character with a nice bitter backbone. It’s a darker beer with rich malt characters.
WHAT DOES IPA STAND FOR AND WHERE DOES IT ORIGINATE FROM? India Pale Ale is a pale ale that had its origins in England. As England expanded with its colonies all over the world so did its beer footprint. However many of the beers did not travel very well and often ended up sour on the other side. At some point brewers produced beer with additional hops (hops is well documented for its preservative qualities in beer) and this seemed to allow the beers to survive the seemingly long travel time and arrive in India (one of the Largest British Colonies) in a much fresher state. The style then grew in popularity and with the flourishing US craft beer scene, many judiciously hopped variations appeared becoming arguably one of the most popular styles in the US.
WHAT DOES SAISON MEAN? Saison is directly translated from French meaning Season. In the French-speaking parts of Belgium, water wasn’t always very potable so they made a low alcohol light beer instead to quench the workers (or Saisonniers) thirst during the harvest season. The style has now evolved including many variations and much higher alcohol versions.
DID YOU SPECIFICALLY LOOK FOR PREMISES THAT HAD A VIEW OF DEVILS PEAK BECAUSE OF YOUR BRAND NAME? Initially we started in Somerset West basically out of convenience but always had plans to move to Cape Town and base ourselves as close as possible to Devils Peak. We searched a few sites close to where we are now but when we found this spot with the wrap around nose we fell in love especially with the dream of having the Taproom situated where it is now.
WHO CAME UP WITH THE NAME DEVIL’S PEAK AND WHY? Who exactly, I am not sure but I can help you with the why though. The name was chosen to firmly root the brand in Cape Town. Devil’s Peak is a geological landmark steeped in myth. It has a strong authenticity and sense of place. It is iconic in the minds of all those who have come to experience it, which is what Devil’s Peak Brewing Company strives for.
VISIT DEVIL’S PEAK WEBSITE FOR MORE INFO: www.devilspeakbrewing.co.za