With Steve Miller at the helm, Garagista Beer Co. celebrates craft beer and cider tradition (you may remember the brand from the viral ad campaign separating hipsters from hopsters). CTE.com chats to Steve about serious beer brewing, without being too serious.
How did Garagista begin?
The Garagista concept was sparked by a trip to California to race a car at Laguna Seca. Taking a short vacation I was amazed at and enthralled by the craft beer phenomenon that had taken root on the West Coast. With a background in beer myself (I was, in a previous life, the Global Innovation Director for SABMiller) it didn’t take much to envisage trying something similar in South Africa.
The brand has its roots in motor racing folklore, with Enzo Ferrari somewhat disparagingly calling the small British privateer teams of the 60s ‘garagista’, or mere garage owners. However, their ingenuity, creativity and harnessing of new technologies soon had them challenging the F1 status quo. Our beer and cider brand also attempts to combine time-honoured artisanal craft with modern technology.
With craft beer picking up as it has, how competitive is the industry for microbreweries such as yourself?
At first blush every new microbrewery could be viewed as a potential competitor. But I think that the industry is still so nascent that really every new brewery is adding to the stature of craft or boutique beer and cider. There are so many styles of beer to experiment with, and still relatively few consumers experimenting with boutique beer that the competition is helping to grow the category.
How would you describe the beer drinking culture in Cape Town?
The words I would use are ‘evolving’, ‘experimental’, and increasingly ‘more sophisticated’. The boutique beer and cider business is still small in comparison to the States or UK, but Cape Town is the epicenter of the renaissance of flavourful, personality-driven and artisanal beers and ciders in South Africa. Obviously mainstream ‘bland and blonde’ lagers still dominate the landscape but increasingly consumers are improving their brand and product repertoire and becoming more knowledgeable about craft beer and cider and how they are produced. This is really exciting for all that are involved.
What inspired your (very successful) ad campaign earlier this year?
While I am a huge fan of the boutique beer and cider phenomenon, I’m also a little concerned that beer should not become too conceited or too pretentious – as the old saying goes, ‘posh beer’ is almost an oxymoron. So I wanted a campaign that shouted that Garagista had arrived on the scene and also humorously start a dialogue on how to keep craft beer real. Fox P2 picked up the brief and took a loving pot-shot at the archetypal hipster (if such a thing exists!) which was also hugely ironic because you can’t get much more hipster than opening a boutique brewery and cidery in Woodstock, especially when you have an art gallery attached! We’ve had a lot of fun making the campaign and laughing at ourselves in the process.
What does a normal day at Garagista look like?
Clean, brew, clean, bottle, clean, keep records, clean, get out and sell, keep records, and clean. Did I mention clean?!
What beers do you brew, and where can readers find them?
Our flagship beer is our Pale Ale. We also have a No Sulphur Added Apple Cider and a hugely popular Pomegranate Cider. Every month we create a limited edition beer or cider, usually not more than 200 bottles, which are now selling out in a matter of days. We’re on tap in some of the major craft beer on-premises locations, in the better craft beer bottle shops, and are finding our way into top-end restaurants. And we’ve just ‘exported’ our first product to Joburg.
Photography Gareth van Nelson/HSMimages.co.za