KZN brewery wins best beer

1000 Hills Brewing Company brewers Trevor Maarschalk and Megan Gemmell.

1000 Hills Brewing Company brewers Trevor Maarschalk and Megan Gemmell.

Published Nov 25, 2023


Durban — The 1000 Hills Brewing Company's The Foreign Exchange Student, a Belgian ale, won best beer in the country at the National Beer Awards.

The awards, which took place in Cape Town, are an important event on the beer calendar since launched in 2015. In partnership with the Beer Association of South Africa, they recognise local excellence in the art of brewing. This year the judges had to choose from over 180 entries.

The 1000 Hills Brewing Company, based in Botha's Hills in KwaZulu-Natal, forms part of 1000 Hills Chefs School where students learn the craft of beer brewing as part of the syllabus.

Trevor Maarschalk, owner and one of the brewers at 1000 Hills Brewing Company, said the win came as a huge surprise, describing it as a true David and Goliath story.

"We are a small brewery doing 500 litres per batch compared to commercial breweries who do thousands of litres. We specialise in handcrafted batches and most of our beers are served through the taps at our restaurant. We are honoured to have won, especially having gone up against some incredible beers.

“This beer is a winter warmer brewed as an English barley wine. It's not like a lager where you would have a few on a hot day, it’s one you would sip around a fire. It’s very rich, complex and almost like a port. It has rich malt flavours, dark plum, some cherry and a bit of chocolate and in the aroma you would get dried fruit and multi caramel. It is high in alcohol at 9% compared to commercial beers which are four and a half percent,“ said Maarschalk.

1000 Hills Brewing Company brewer Trevor Maarschalk. | SUPPLIED

He said they had been refining the recipe for this beer since 2016.

"We have been facing challenges like all other breweries with load shedding. With no electricity, temperature control becomes an issue. We sourced yeast that is more resilient to temperature variation,“ said Maarschalk.

Jean Vincent Ridon, organiser of the competition, said it was great to see in a country that drank mostly lager beer, that more exotic styles can be perfected to world-class level.

“This type of beer has a level of complexity and layers. They are as complex as any great wines. It requires a lot of discipline and great skills to make these beers so beautifully. Their score was the highest in the competition. It's a classic triple Belgian style which you enjoy by small sips. The sweet spices on your tongue are incredible,” said Ridon.

The beers were assessed on factors such as aroma, appearance, flavour, mouth feel, and overall impression.

The category winners were:

  • Best Light Beer: Jack Black Brewing Company’s Brewers Lager
  • Best Dark Beer: The Franschhoek Beer Company's The Stout,
  • Best Speciality Beer: 1000 Hills Brewing Company's The Foreign Exchange Student
  • Best Hoppy Beer: Cape Brewing Company’s CBC Pale Ale
  • Best Red and Amber Beer: Richmond Hill Brewing Company's Two Rand Man Irish Red Ale.

Other beers awarded gold medals with 1000 Hills Brewing Company included Richmond Hill Brewing Company’s Two Rand Man Irish Red Ale, Jack Black Brewing Co’s Brewers Lager, Darling Brew’s Black Mist and Doctrine Brewing’s Will-o’-the-Wisp.

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