Sabie Brewing Co.

Name: Sabie Brewing Co.

Location: Sabie, Mpumalanga

Website: www.sabiebrewery.com

This week, we visited the Sabie Brewery as part of our sort-of annual trip up to the bush. I didn’t know about Sabie Brewing Co. until we tasted some brews at Solstice festival earlier this year. I promised them we’d be up in September for a brewery tour and a better taste. So when we got up there, I mailed the brewery and organised said brewery tour for a bunch of us. It was the one thing I wanted to accomplish on the trip.

So we head to Sabie town (about a 30 minute drive from Hazyview, where we were staying) and met with John, the restaurant manager and executive chef, who settled us in with a beer (I had a Long Tom Lager – a dunkel) while he set up. Then we headed through the back entrance to start our tour in the courtyard where Shaun, the brewmaster’s initial 20 litre brewery is on display. John took us through their various ingredients, starting with grain. The grain room is packed to the ceiling with various local and imported barley and wheat. They have a small mill on site as well.

We then had a really interesting talk to Shaun about the water in the area, which comes through the old mine drainage tunnels. That water is pumped directly to Sabie at a pH pf 8.4, and while the water the quality is excellent, they do treat their water to get the pH to the correct levels for their various brews.

After the water talk, we went into the brewery itself. It’s a mixed set up of 5 modern fermenters (where fermentation and conditioning happens) with a kettle, mash and lauter tuns as well as fairly rustic brewing schedule and various bits and bobs. Shaun and Brian (brewing assistant) brew about once a week – often starting at 3am. The fermentation and conditioning times differ between the brews, and depending on what stock is low, or is in highest demand is what they brew. Brian does experimentation alongside the main brews to create new recipes – which often become their “Wild Card” brews.

Ok – on to the beer. Sabie has 6 beers at any given time. They have 5 regular brews and 1 wild card brew. The brews are:

GlynnsGoldGlynn’s Gold – a pale ale. This is their “gateway” beer for those who aren’t yet convinced about craft beer. It’s a wonderfully fresh, even crisp ale that is their most popular brew.

LongTomLagerLong Tom Lager – a dunkel lager. This dark lager has a richer, maltier flavour and is slow conditioned. It was my favourite of the lot.

ShangaanStout

Shangaan Stout – a dry stout akin to a Guinness. It is rich and complex with coffee notes. Even in the blistering heat, this stout was awesome.

DravidianDraught

Dravidian Draught – an IPA. The deep amber coloured IPA was really well received by all of us – it is wonderfully hoppy with touches of caramel sweetness.

WheelbarrowWeiss

Wheelbarrow Weiss – a estery weiss with typical banana and clove notes. It’s a fairly mild weiss but really refreshing, especially in the Lowveld heat.

CockneyLizCockney Liz – porter. This is their Wild Card brew. It was my least favourite of the brews, but only because the rest were so delicious. It’s a brown beer, typical of the style with balanced malt sweetness, bread flavours and bittering hops.

A couple of last thoughts about Sabie Brewing:

  • I love their creative beer names and labels – these are guys are are dedicated to their craft but have a bit of fun along the way. I also loved that they don’t waste their spent grains – they go to pig farms to be used for feed as well as being used for their grist bread.
  • While my business hat wanted to disagree, I love their dedication for staying in the lowveld and not getting caught up in distribution wars. As far as Shaun is concerned, if you taste one of his beers at a festival, you might come visit the brewery in Sabie. His goal is not to be everywhere, it’s to bring people to Sabie (“good for tourism and a better beer experience”).

Do yourself a favour and take a long weekend trip up to Sabie and visit the brewpub. It’s really worth it.

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