The Micro Brewery 03/31/11
A quaint brew house in the heart of the Eastern Cape offers more than just beer. Roline Bosch has a taste...And wants more!
According to Urbansprout.co.za a fast-emerging green trend for 2011 is the establishment of micro-breweries and nano-breweries. Micro-breweries are small-scale breweries that produce, distribute and sell their beer and ale locally. Since products are sourced locally and the production size is small-scale, the carbon footprint of these brew houses is often far less – and consequently their impact on the earth is much smaller than those of the big boys in the market. This means that with micro-breweries on the rise, Port Alfred-based The Little Brewery and its adjoining eatery, The Wharf Street Brew and Pub, are right on green trend, and a firm favourite with the town’s patrons.
Port Alfred is a small, yet bustling town that is often seen as the hidden pearl in the oyster of the Eastern Cape, because its unique offerings are quaint enough to maintain the “local is lekker” status quo, but big enough to capture the attention of visitors every holiday season. On such a holiday visit, I walked into the The Wharf Street Brew and Pub and felt like I had stumbled into a living piece of history, telling an important story by offering something special, yet casual, in only the way seaside folk can.
Ian Cook, owner of the Little Brewery and The Wharf Street Brew Pub, has established a brew house and a restaurant in Port Alfred’s second oldest building. He saw the opportunity to create something that stays true to the natural and historic element of the town (which so often is transformed into a modern mishap), by creating two adjoining spaces that not only tell the story of this coastal jewel of a town, but also offer patrons an experience to remember that will surely see them return on their next visit to the town. He achieved this by: exposing the original stone-faced walls lining the restaurant interior; staying true to the original architecture by revealing wooden beams and small staircases; and telling forgotten stories about the town through large black and white photographs placed on the walls, most of which he sourced from the town’s library.
I started off with a tour of the tiny brewery, guided by Ian. Listening to him speak about the three beverages he produces, Squires Porter, Coin Ale and Kowie Gold, one cannot help but anticipate the sweet reward at the end of the tour – a taste of all three beers – because you know that the liquid in your glass was made by following a careful, meticulous and attentive process. An informal tour, with anecdotes that were both personal and informative about the beer making process and the town’s history, I was quite glad to feel part of this unique experience, knowing that there’s only one place like this along the Sunshine Coast.
Then Ian took me through to the restaurant, where I tasted the three beers in a relaxed atmosphere. Although my knowledge of beer is limited because of my unashamed love affair with wine, I can happily report that each had its unique colour and flavour, which muddled in my mouth to form a “I like all of them!” sentiment. The company I found myself in loved the beer, and all agreed that the three are Kowie winners. The ale, naturally darker, was my favourite. The Kowie Gold was light, golden and tasty.
But what makes this different to a cellar tour in any beer distillery? It wasn’t the barrels, or the story-telling technique with fitting images that grabbed me about this brewery; it was the experience that you seldom get from any one else that made me want to tell you about this place. Ian has a unique passion, and with him hosting the tours, he manages to keep the walls of his brewery alive in their old age. I also think that by supporting local and smaller initiatives, we enrich our understanding of, and interaction with, our true selves.
The Wharf Street Brew and Pub is an amazing initiative for a small town, where Cook saw the potential – by telling its stories on guided tours of his micro-beer distillery, and displaying giant life-sized images of how the town used to look in his restaurant-cum-beer cella – to be the talk in not only Port Alfred, but also in the country. You won’t be able to find the beers the further you travel from Port Alfred, but if you’re in the surrounding areas like Kenton and Kleinemonde, you’ll be able to get your hands on this liquid gold, and the beer definitely leaves a lingering taste in the mouths, and minds, of locals and visitors alike.
A unique mix of story-telling, hands-on investment and tasty beer (of course!) on offer makes this a quaint and wonderful stop, whether Port Alfred is your destination, or whether you move on in your journey. Call +27 46 624 4947 or visit www.wharfstreetbrewpub.co.za for more information.