Cheers as Simondium microbrewery scoops Best Beer in Africa

Soul Barrel Brewery, a microbrewery team. Picture: Marla Burger

Soul Barrel Brewery, a microbrewery team. Picture: Marla Burger

Published May 28, 2024


In the heart of the Cape Winelands, a stone’s throw away from Franschhoek, lies a brewery built within the old tank walls of the former Drakenstein Co-operative Winery. Today it is known as Soul Barrel Brewery and this year its Ale of Origin brew took the Best Beer in Africa at the African Beer Cup.

“This is one of the most significant accomplishments a brewery can achieve in Africa. The African Beer Cup is the most competitive, intense beer competition on the continent with some of the best judges in the world,” said Nick Smith, brewmaster and founder of Soul Barrel Brewery.

Over 270 beer makers submitted their entries for this year’s African Beer Cup awards that took place at the Jack Black Brewery’s beerhall in Diep River on Saturday. Entries for these awards are limited to African countries only and this year saw entries from as far as Seychelles, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana and eSwatini, to name a few.

“Each continent around the world has its own beer awards and we decided to start an African version of these awards in 2019. Africans have been brewing beer for thousands of years. We also hoping to see a rise in craft brewers in South Africa and encourage new brewers to enter,” said African Beer Cup awards co-founder and director Lucy Corne.

“We follow international Beer Judge Certification Programme (BJCP) guidelines when judging these beers. It is not about whether a judge likes the taste of particular beer, but rather each judge looks for overall agreeability and balance of ingredients. The beer must have both the base style and the speciality-type ingredient or must have followed the process. Is it hop-forward? Average-strength to moderately-strong pale bitter? Does it have a hop aroma that is moderately high or low? And so forth.”

The winning Ale of Origin by Soul Barrel was brewed according to traditional Lambic methods of raw wheat, aged hops and spontaneous fermentation with natural wild yeast in the air. It was then fermented and aged in French oak wine barrels for four years, making it unlike any beer in the world.

Soul Barrel’s Smith further added that their winning beer features local yeast and grains. “We believe in South African agriculture and this is just the start of what we can accomplish with local ingredients.”

This year the African Beer Cup awards had 56 judges including America’s Gordon Strong, who is one of the founding authors of the BJCP guidelines. Strong is also a judge in the World Beer Cup.

The judges are allocated selected styles from the various brewers which they then proceed to taste blindfolded and score each according to how well they align to the international beer-making style of that particular category.

A notable addition to this year’s awards was the African Style for Speciality African Beer and African Grain Beer categories; beers that feature grains traditionally used in African brewing such as sorghum, millet, teff and fonio or variations of these ingredients.

Meyerton-based Swagga Brewery’s Sorghum Ale scooped the African Celebration Award that speaks to this African style of brewing.

Non-alcoholic individual awards went to Heineken 0.0 and Darling Brew’s Just Naked beers.

Gold awards were also issued to the following brewers:

– Standard American Beer: Brewhogs – Brewhogs Platinum Light Lager (South Africa)

– International Lager: Seychelles Breweries Limited – Seybrew (Seychelles)

– Pale Bitter European Beer: Darling Brew – The Wanderer (South Africa)

– Brown British Beer: Hoghouse Brewing Co. – Roadhog Porter (South Africa)

– Scottish Ale: Charlie’s Garage – Beam Me Up (South Africa)

– Pale American Ale: Woodstock Brewery – Rhythm Stick (South Africa)

– Strong American Ale: Darling Brew – Warlord (South Africa)

– American Wild Ale: Soul Barrel Brewing – Ale of Origin (South Africa)

– Wood Beer: Woodstock Brewery – Sugarman (South Africa) and Speciality Beers (Ghana) Ltd – Tale 6 Hibiscus IPA (Ghana)

Cape Times

Related Topics:

cape townbeer