You see, this year Ramfest had ‘gone craft’ by securing Stellenbrau taps for the event, and getting the brand to sponsor their smaller, carnival stage. It was a risky move in my opinion, as Ramfest caters mostly to metalheads, most of whom are famous for their love of Black Label (In general. Apologies to any other fellow metalhead craft beer enthusiasts).
The partnership was clearly set up as a result of Ramfest founder Dawie Fourie’s connection to Stellenbosch, where Stellenbrau’s operations are based. He too operates out of the university town, and it makes sense to keep it truly local when choosing to go craft.
The partnership between Ram and Stellenbrau was given a test run during the Lamb of God shows in Cape Town and Johannesburg in January, but I couldn’t get a true sense of the audience’s reaction to the experiment as the Cape Town show was beset by slow barmen and shoddy organisation. At one point I stood in line for for almost 20 minutes for the kegs at the outdoor taps to be changed, as it involved a staff member having to pick his way through a crowd of 5 000 to get a fresh keg at the back of the venue.
That experience gave me pause and was the reason I took along a case of my own beer to Ramfest (I admit it was Black Label – they don’t allow glass into the venue, so craft was out of the question). But, those issues didn’t crop up at the Cape Town Ramfest, at least not for me. At one point I ventured around the back of one of the beer tents, and could see a massive amount of kegs waiting to be tapped just a few metres from the bar.
So I arrived on the Friday of Ramfest, armed with my emergency beer, and curious to see how the Stellenbrau would go down. From a personal perspective, I was keen to get stuck into a few pints of their Alumni ale. I’d had a couple at the Lamb of God show and much preferred it to their Craven lager. Unfortunately, only the lager was on tap on the Friday, so I spent the first 24 hours drinking that. It was only on Saturday that I found the Alumni Ale, but there seemed to be only one tap serving it, at one of the three bars at the festival. A pity, but at least I knew I could find it.
Reaction from fellow festival attendees to the beer was lukewarm, at best. Most of the guys I spoke to said they were bummed about the price (R25), especially since last year the SAB brews were only R20. I understand that Craft beer is worth paying a little more for, but for your average guy on the street, they’re looking at how if affects their pocket first, and couldn’t care less if the lager they’re sipping on is mass produced or not. A few I spoke to even said they were sticking to the Rum and Coke on offer, as you were getting a double serving for the same price.
And this is where I think Stellenbrau could have done a better job. At no point in the weekend did I see anyone attempting to set up a tasting point, or handing out flyers explaining anything about Stellenbrau. If there were any, they weren’t well signposted, as I was specifically looking for them. I’m not sure if they assumed people attending the festival would be familiar with their brewery, but it seemed to me most weren’t.
If they had been a bit more vocal about who they were, and what their beers are, perhaps they would have seen greater uptake from the attendees, and introduced a few more people to the idea of buying craft on a more regular basis.
I’m sure Stellenbrau did well out of the event, but it’s a pity they couldn’t do more to convert more people to the craft beer movement, especially since they had a captive audience of at least 10 000 across the two venues, most of whom would be unfamiliar with their beers.
Overall, though, it was great to be able to sip on something other than mass-produced lager throughout the weekend, and being able to get my hands on an ale at a music festival was great. Here’s hoping other local music festivals opt for craft beer in future.
By Dan Gillespie, managing editor and copy editor in the Sports division at Highbury Safika Media
Wild Clover Farm, R304
Stellenbosch, Western Cape
(021) 865 2248
Wild Clover opened in 2012, the dream of homebrewing buddies Ampie Kruger and Karel Coetzee. It’s a small setup whose tasting room looks out on to gorgeous grounds and sweeping views beyond. There’s a pizza place on site as well as a coffee roastery, wine tasting (Ampie is a garagiste winemaker as well as a brewer) and the farm is family-friendly, especially on Sundays at the Lazy Daze market.
Part of the ‘Cape Beerlands‘ (a region formerly known as the Cape Winelands of course ), Wild Clover is on a farm in the northern reaches of Stellenbosch – though it makes more sense to visit as part of a Paarl trip rather than a Stellenbosch route.
Wild Clover is super-easy to access from Cape Town – it’s just over half an hour, traffic permitting, along the N1 and on to the R304. It’s so close and easy to get to that there’s nowhere en route really worth stopping, but lots to do in the area to make a day of it. At the very least, you should combine a Wild Clover trip with a visit to Cape Brewing Company, the other side of the N1.
Wild Clover produces four beers. The Double Owl English Brown Ale is the flagship brew and gets rave reviews at beer fests. In winter, the Black Dog Porter (named for the brewery pet) is a good bet, while the Blind Mole German Pils is ideal for the region’s stifling summers. The most recent addition to Wild Clover’s beer menu is Ampie and Karel’s take on a Belgian witbier.
The on-site restaurant serves great pizza if you don’t want to stray far from the bar. Further afield, pick up a picnic from Joostenberg’s superb deli or go for an upmarket lunch at Glen Carlou, a little further east.
Besides the beer
Wild Clover backs onto the Villiera Wine Estate, which offers free wine tastings, self-guided cellar tours and excellent guided game drives – highly recommended. There is, of course, lots of wine tasting to be done in the area, with highlights including Anura, with its cheese tasting, Simonsig, which offers cellar tours and of course, Villiera. There’s golf available close by as well, at the Devonvale Estate (which also has wine tasting, a restaurant and a spa). For something a little more child-friendly, try Butterfly World in Klapmuts.
One too many
It doesn’t get any more convenient than this – there are charming self-catering cottages sitting right on the Wild Clover Farm, so you can sip their wine and taste ales to your heart’s content without worrying about how to get home afterwards.
When to go
The brewery is open Friday-Sunday from 12pm until 6pm, or by appointment.
There will be beer, there will be pig, there will be family fun and there’ll even be free entrance for mums on Mother’s Day. This is what’s in store at the first Hops Harvest Festival to be held at Stellenbosch-based brewery Wild Clover from May 10th to 12th.
The hop farms might be 400km away in George, but brewers Ampie Kruger and Karel Coetzee decided to honour the close of the hop harvest with a weekend-long beerfest. There will be plenty of familiar brewing faces, like Birkenhead Brewery, Stellenbrau, and Darling, newer additions including Cape Brewing Company (CBC), Lakeside Brew Works and The Winemaker’s Club plus Nine Degrees Plato who I, for one, have never heard of before. And, of course, the brown ale, porter, pilsner and witbier from Wild Clover will all be on tap. For those who prefer a different tipple, there will be cider from Windermere and Everson’s plus wines from Villiera and Notre Reve, the on-site garagiste winery that keeps Ampie busy when he’s not at the kettles.
Soak up the beer with some wild boar on the spit and if you don’t have a designated driver, make sure you take advantage of their shuttle services to get home afterwards.
Where: Wild Clover (R304, Stellenbosch)
When: Friday 10th May 4pm–10pm, Saturday 11th May 10am–10pm, Sunday 12th May 10am–10pm.
How much: Tickets are R100 for adults and include all beer tastings. Mums get in free on Sunday and entrance is free for kids. Tickets are available online from Quicket.
More info: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 865 2248.