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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!


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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.

A black and white blown up image of the ships lining the river wall waiting for supplies outside the now Wharf Street Brew and Pub from back in the day

Photos line the stone-faced walls in The Wharf Street Brew Pub

The pub area of the restaurant where you enjoy your tasting beer

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.

Inside The Little Brewery

The sweet reward... A Kowie Pilsner!

Squires Porter, Kowie Gold and Coin Ale

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.

Ian Cook samples his produce

The Coelacanth is an icon of the Eastern Cape as it was thought to be extinct, but found by mariners off the coast of East London in the 1930s, and is now known to still live in our oceans

This tunnel, directly under the pub, was used in the early 1800s by seamen off the ship to fetch fresh water. The tunnel linked directly to the ship waiting in the river.

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.

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6 Responses to this article

 
editor March 31, 2011 Reply

Looks like it was a great experience. I will definitely check it out if i am in the area again.

Just a question, do you know if any animal byproducts are used in the beer making process? It seems that most breweries don’t, but some do in part of the filtration process?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism_and_beer

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Pieter March 31, 2011 Reply

Reading this article it certainly does two things to me. One, need to have a Kowie Gold now and second, have a desire to visit this quiet little pub and share some stories, with pub owner Ian Cook of years gone by in that beautiful town of Port Alfred.

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Michelle April 1, 2011 Reply

This place is a gem. It saved our Christmas holiday last year – finally, a place that serves decent food in the gastronomically-challenged town of Port Alfred. It was booked up days in advance though, so if people are going over the holiday period they should definitely make a booking!

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Roline April 1, 2011 Reply

@Editor: The Little Brewery does not use any animal products in their filtration process. This is Ian Cook’s comment:
“Animal products are sometimes used in the filtration process, although it is quite rare (the animal products concerned come from fish, in these cases, and they make up a very small part of a product which helps to bind the yeast to the filter candles during filtration). However, this is not something which we do, and I can assure you that our products are entirely free of any and all animal products.”

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Roline April 1, 2011 Reply

@Pieter: Indeed! The beer is quite delicious and I wouldn’t mind having one right now… It is Friday, after all!

@Michelle: Glad you also had a good experience. I can’t wait to go for a meal the next time I visit – I am sure it will be delicious! What do you recommend?

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Roline April 1, 2011 Reply

Some readers may be interested in the development, or the sustainability of such an establishment. Ian comments that there is a major drive to develop the area:

“Since you were in Port Alfred at the beginning of the year, there has been a very determined move to develop Wharf Street (where the brewery and restaurant are situated) into more of a tourist attraction – but still keeping true to the historical origins of the place. Our brewery has expanded into the next-door building, and there are some exciting plans afoot to re-juvinate the rest of the street. These are going to take a few months to get going, but should be up and running well ahead of the start of the next ‘season”.

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