The Paarl Wine Valley is best known for its large-scale wine producers and co-operatives; KWV, Nederburg, Fairview and Windmeul, for example, as well as their acclaimed boutique producers: Vondeling, Painted Wolf and Black Pearl. Today, however, it is not the wine that has brought me to the Valley, but rather an interest in what is brewing along the banks of the Berg River.
The Berg River is a prominent feature in Paarl, running through the town’s very heart before continuing up the west Coast along its 294-km-long course. Its banks are the sight of many different industries which now also includes a new microbrewery, called the Berg River Brewery. Owners Glenn Grier and Shaun Pentz are old friends who left their respective careers in shampoo sales and carpentry to follow their mutual love of beer. They joined forces with Namibian-German brew master Jörg Finkeldey, who has 30 years of craft-brewing experience behind him and developed a range of artisanal beer.
When we arrived, there was a hum of activity going on, preparations were in progress to accommodate patrons for the afternoon’s Springbok Test against Ireland. Shaun explained to us that everything was a work in progress, the signage, for example, had only gone up the previous day and although the taproom has been opened since December, there were many exciting plans in the pipeline – from starting a small kitchen to hosting markets and festivals.
We settled in at the taproom’s bar area, which looks back towards the beer cellar through glass windows. The style of the brewery’s label and decor is steampunk, and if you’ve been to Truth Coffee in the Cape Town CBD, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about. Glenn is a carpenter and has designed lots of industrial-styled wood and copper furniture adding to the steampunk feeling, which I can best describe as Wild West/19th-century Victorian/Industrial Revolution, or something to that effect.
They have four brews, each with their own personality; the Helles Lager, The Mermaid Pale Ale, The Captain Blonde Ale and The Admiral Krystal Weizz. The Helles Lager is their crowd-pleaser; light and easy drinking. The Blonde Ale is full bodied and creamy; and the Krystal Weizz is low in alcohol, very light and refreshing – perfect for us ladies. The Pale Ale has incredible fruit aromas and a more pronounced bitterness.
Tastings cost R25 per person and afterwards Shaun took us on a little behind-the-scenes tour, explaining the various processes involved in brewing. At the moment, their beers are available at the tap room and at various wine farms in the Cape Winelands.
To find out more on the latest and greatest wine farms, check out Kim’s blog: www.boutiquewinerytours.com
Photography courtesy Kim Rabe