The craft beer scene has been growing in the South African landscape for some years, and now has its own tourist route mapped out in the traditional wine-tasting regions of the Western Cape.
Craft breweries in Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, Helderberg, the Breede River Valley, Overberg and Route 62 regions have come together in a collaborative project to develop a Beer Route, complementing the offering of their more traditional brethren. It is the brainchild of Craig Claassen, general manager at Neelsie Travel.
The beermakers want to encourage a positive culture around craft beer, as having value beyond just the sale of beers, says Craig. “Being such small businesses, they also offer a very personal feel to their service.
“Quite often the brewer himself is there to talk to you as you are trying their wares. We like to say that you are considered more of a patron than a client or customer.”
Intuitive Maps and More
Craig developed a website with intuitive maps that allow any user to use standard satellite navigation to get to the breweries on the list, without the need for special apps. Beer fundi site users can search the map by beer style or location if they prefer a particular taste.
In addition, physical maps are available on the route to take with you, which is a hit with tourists. Many brewers offer to sign their location on the map, providing a heartfelt and personal memento of their trip.
“I don’t think anybody realised how many of these privately owned craft breweries there were until we started trying to count them,” Craig muses.
“But the great thing about them is that they share the same great setting as the world-famous wine farms that the Wine Route is known for. And as we are maturing as a beermaking region, we are finding that our offerings and consistency is getting better and better.”
Family Friendly Taprooms
Another big plus for the initiative is the collective’s move towards taprooms. These are family-friendly facilities that serve alcohol, as well as food and snacks.
Some facilities have created large open spaces and offer picnics, while others provide full food services or niche products like waffles and themed foods. All generally offer beer flights (a selection of tasters), much like at a wine tasting.
Private tours of the route can be requested, and there are plans to establish affordable route-based transport solutions to encourage responsible driving.
The Twenty En Route
- LilyPatrick Brewery
- Sir Thomas Brewing Co.
- Zebonkey Brewery
- Wagon Trail Brewery
- Stellenbosch Brewing Company
- Wild Clover Breweries
Breede Valley and Route 62
Helderberg and Southern Route:
Words by Anton Marshall