There comes a time in every beer enthusiast’s life when they realise, or rather come to terms with the fact, that not all craft beers are good. Perhaps that’s a little unfair to some of the many micro breweries popping up all over Cape Town of late, but in my experience, not all craft beer is created equal.

It’s almost as if we’re beginning to suffer a bit of ‘quantity over quality’ in the local craft beer scene. Thankfully, some beers occupy the opposite side of the spectrum; they aren’t just good, they’re incredible. Innis & Gunn is one such beer.

The proof of the pie, as they say, is in the eating, so I met with Rowan Liebbrandt at the Bascule Bar in the Cape Grace Hotel. It’s one of a select few places in Cape Town you can buy Innis & Gunn over the counter, and one of their best points of sale.

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Bascule Bar in the Cape Grace Hotel – one of Innis & Gunns’ best sales hubs in the Cape

Rowan is one of the great minds responsible for bringing Innis & Gunn to South African shores, and a familiar face on Cape Town Etc. He brought a satchel (yes, a bamboo and leather satchel) full of a selection of beers, including a few seasonal editions that will be on Cape Town shelves for a limited time this summer.

Thus we began our dip into the infinity pool that is beer tasting with the Innis & Gunn Original. It’s the flagship variant that was first launched in SA last year. The beer is matured in Scotland for 77 days, in white American oak heartwood barrels that were previously used to age Kentucky bourbon. With aromas of vanilla and toffee, it’s the hints of citrus that really make the Innis & Gunn Original the perfect Scottish accompaniment to a homegrown South African braai. It also happens to be the brand’s most celebrated beer, with an impressive lineup of accolades, including Grand Gold at the Monde Selection Awards – which are the equivalent of a Michelin star for food and beverages.

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 I soon found myself slipping deeper into the Innis & Gunn rabbit hole (willingly I might add), with Rowan offering a taste of the Innis & Gunn Rum Finish, one of the three core beer variants offered by the brand. Matured for 57 days over American oak heartwood, the Rum Finish is infused with a blend of specially-selected rums that has it bursting with fruit flavour, but with a distinct spiciness. This beer, too, has won Grand Gold at the Monde Selection, and just one mouthful is enough to make me agree with the judging panel.

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My favourite beer of the day however, proved to be one of the last – the Innis & Gunn White Oak Wheat Beer. It’s a delightfully-refreshing drink made from malted wheat and aged for 63 days in bourbon-infused oak heartwood barrels that have been air-dried for 24-months. The weissbier is also infused with dried bergamot and blood oranges, and it’s sweet and spicy citrus taste certainly goes down like a homesick mole on a hot day.

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Limited numbers of the White Oak Wheat Beer will be available this summer, so you better look for the distinctive label on the amber bottle and stock up the fridge. I warn you however, because if my afternoon was anything to go by, I can tell you now that they won’t stay hidden in the fridge for very long.

Innis & Gunn is available at all good liquor stores and will soon be on the shelves of Checkers and Pick n’ Pay liquor stores in all major centres. They currently have a recommended selling price of around R35 per 330 ml bottle.

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Photography courtesy Innis & Gunn and Jonathan Meyer (Bascule)

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