Guys, it’s been a wild ride for the last few weeks or so, having done SA on TAP, Capital Craft as well as Solstice (plus some random minor events in between). I’m taking a sneaky sigh of relief that beer fest season is winding down until spring, because… hell, my liver and wallet are not coping :-p
That being said, what a fest to wind down with. Solstice has been going for 10 years, and it seems as if it’s only growing but it’s still a smaller, more intimate festival with 18 brewers showing off their wares this year. There was a lovely mix of the usual suspects (Copperlake, Agar’s, Darling, Two Okes, Jack Black) and a few new faces including Brouer Broers, Lazy Lizard, Legends Brewing, InMind Brewing, Krügerbräu and Frontier.
We got to the fest at around 12 – which was too late. By then it was already busy. But that’s life. As usual I started with a Tomahawk IPA from Agar’s. I like to start festivals with a beer that I know well, so that I can look around and plan the rest of the day. Well, this year, I just took my friend Ashleigh around from the beginning to end. This time, I actually finally did a tasting tour! Normally I just taste some stuff, and generally get shit-faced while buying half pints. So this year, I did it right!
We started off at Brouer Broers, who are contract brewing at Mainstream. They had 2 beers on tap: a blonde and a wit. Both were actually lovely beers, no off flavours, no nasties in there. The wit was particularly refreshing. But what I really loved was their branding. It looks a little like postage stamps and is really well done, especially for a brand new brewery!
We moved to Two Okes and tasted their sensational Imperial Stout as well as the Butternut Porter that got them best of show at Capital Craft. As usual, Hennie and Ruth were very welcoming. We had many fat chats that day. But for my money, that Imperial Stout is tasting the best it’s been. It really is great!
From there we visiting The Keghouse for their Pumpkin Ale (a favourite of mine) as well as their Chili Chocolate stout (another fave), but also tried their Wit. It seemed (along with Weiss) that it was a popular style at Solstice this year. It was also really fitting because it was a hot winter’s day. After that we visited Dog and Fig – who also had a really lovely Weiss on tap. The other brewers on the day were raving about the Dog and Fig Weiss – so that tells you something. Meanwhile, I was blown away by their Stewige Stout. I’ve had it before, but again, this batch was stunning.
From there, we hit Agar’s for a full tasting. The Wild Berry Ale was a favourite amongst some of my friends there, but the showstopper was the Tomahawk IPA. Jake and Mike tried a new process with this batch and leaving it unfiltered. I don’t really know if it’s better of worse, I just know that I love that beer. Their Black Mamba stout was tasting delicious too – well done team!
Next up was Legends brewing. Now this confused me – it seems that either Legends is the commercial side of The Keghouse, or they’re contract brewing there. I’m not sure. What was pretty cool was that they had quite a lot of gear for sale. I like it when breweries bring shirts (especially).
From there we visited Chameleon (hello Oatmeal stout!), Darling and Jack Black. We also briefly hit Rockland and Black Horse too. I’m always a little disappointed when Darling bring their well known beers only. To be fair, they brought their oat ale this year too. But since they’ve released so many new beers, let the market try them! Instead of always bringing the Slow or Native.
The next big stop was Lazy Lizard. Here I am going to complain a little. They didn’t have beer on tap, so that meant no tasters (and no half pints even) – you could only buy bottles. So we spent the R60 on 3 bottles and shared them amongst ourselves only to find that they really weren’t very good. I’m always happy to pay for a pint after a taster if I like it, but I didn’t like having to buy bottles just to taste… at a beer fest… so there’s my rant.
We chatted for a long while to the lovely folks from Mainstream. I gave them a little bat for not having labels that stand out as one brand, but regardless I really like their beer. This time they had a Weiss on tap, and it was delicious! They also promise that they’re trying out a super secret new recipe for something totally different. I can’t wait!
After Mainstream we tried something from InMind brewing. I’d never heard of them and clearly they’re still starting up. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember what the lager or (generic?) ale tasted like. By then we’d probably had quite a lot of tasters. But it also could be that they didn’t stand out that much. Good luck to them, it’s always great to see new faces!
The show stopper was next. We’d heard about this beer truck thing – the Frontier Brewzer. I’m sure I’ve heard of Frontier before, but somehow I’d not associated such “coolness” with them. They have a modified Land Cruiser that they’ve turned into a mobile bar with taps. It’s fantastic! Plus they generally had a good vibe, t-shirts on sale (gorgeous ones too) and fab beer. They had a Red Rye ale (very nice), a lager (also very good – nice and crisp) but their pièce de résistance was their Solstice Sour. This was a Barrel Aged Sout Wheat Ale, aged on Marula Fruit. Sours are a bit of an acquired taste, but I tell you what, it was amazing. I met up with a good couple of friends and brewers through the day and everyone was going bonkers for the sour. It really was that good. So there you have it, #beeroftheday goes to Frontier for their Barrel Aged Sour! Cheers to that!
Post the sour, we played some beer pong (thanks Copperlake :-)) … and then hit the La Trappe stand. It’s always a good finisher for a fest, because hell, if you’re not drunk enough yet, you will be after a good Dubbel!
So that was Solstice, and what a 10 year celebration it was! See you next year!