Posted on

Highlights from a Year in Beer

So it’s been a year since SMACK! launched…woohoo! Well actually at the time of writing this post it’s been 1 year, 2 months, 16 days and some change…

We launched on Sunday 10th March 2013, which seems like an eternity ago. And you might ask why we let the official one year anniversary go quietly by in March 2014? Well, in simple terms, we’ve been too damn busy!

It’s been a crazy, exciting, (sometimes) stressful, and an all-round insane year.  Brewing, especially on our nano scale, is hard manual labour and we are faced with unique challenges daily that require a brewery ‘think-tank’ session to solve.

When we started out last year, we did so with no rigid goals in terms of sales forecasts and production.  We knew that craft beer growth was taking off in Jozi, but we had no idea to what extent! To say that we have been overwhelmed by the interest in our brewery and beer is an understatement. The people of Jozi want beer – that is for sure.  But it’s deeper than that. They want to know more than just the style of beer they are drinking.  They want to know how the beer is made, how the different ingredients contribute to a different characteristics of the beer, and they want to taste the beer, really taste it, appreciate it, and absorb it. And this makes our little hearts flutter with joy.

When we (there are 3 of us – Grant, Andrew and David) first came up with the whack idea to open a craft brewery, we wanted to educate the beer drinking public, open their eyes, and enlighten them on the world of beer and brewing.  We still have goose bumps when we think back to 2012, when we pitched the idea of a brewery to the head honchos of Maboneng. Our first SMACK! beer tasting was on the streets of Maboneng outside Uncle Merv’s diner, armed with a cooler box of our beer and some beer glasses.

After our launch, the three of us operated the brewery for six months while all having full time day jobs. This was particularly challenging as our routine involved meeting after work at about 6pm and brewing, kegging, bottling, cleaning until about 2am in the morning, then heading home to get 3 to 4 hours sleep before work started. This required some pretty amazing wives and girlfriends to support (and put up with..!) us during those hectic months. In September 2013, Andrew started fulltime and our little brewery started contributing to the economy! We are also proud to also have on-board Mandla, our brewing assistant, and Ntombi, who keeps our brewery looking spick and span.

So we have decided to pick out the highlights from our first year-in-beer.  It’s hard to pick a top 10 as there have been so many, but here goes (in no particular order):

1. 10th March 2013, the brewery launch! 18 months of planning culminated in an awesome launch party…so much so that our patrons literally drank us dry! Check out some pics here.

2. Jozi Craft Beer Fest 2013! This was our first big beer fest we were involved with. We went as wide-eyed first timers and left as beerfest non-virgins!

3. Music in da house! We were fortunate enough to host Michael Lowman who performed an intimate acoustic live performance in the brewery. It was a night to remember as we had about 80 people crammed into the brewery all drinking beer and listening to an awesome live show. Check out a vid of the evening here.

4. Bold & Fearless Brewing! Throughout the year we have tried to push the boundaries of away from the conservative and tried a host of seasonal experimental brews. Among our favourites have been a coffee dunkelweizen, a chocolate porter and a rooibos and honey ale. Our rooibos and honey ale was such a hit that we have since launched it as one of our standard line up, called the Hillbrow Honey!

5. Jozi’s first IPA Day! We were stoked that Arts on Main was chosen as the venue for Jozi’s first IPA day celebration in August 2013. IPA is our favourite style of beer, and it was awesome to serve our Braamfontein Brawler along with IPA’s from some awesome SA microbreweries in our own back yard.

6. Clarens Beer Fest 2014! After breaking down on the side of the road en route to Clarens, we thought we would never make the fest… Thankfully we made it down and what a fest it was! Check out the highlights here.

7. The Belle of the Ball! One of the proudest moments of the year was when our Bree Street Belle Golden Ale received the award for the Best Beer from a New Brewery at the inauguralSAB Craft Beer Champs in Nov 2013. A real cherry on top after an amazing year!

8. BEER = ART. For those who have been to the brewery you will know that we have an upstairs gallery dedicated to showcasing up and coming SA art. It’s awesome to brew and serve beer surrounded by some incredible pieces from young SA artists.

9. The Media Frenzy! Television coverage… radio interviews… newspapers…. magazines… what a ride! An expose of the brewery was aired on Dagbreek on DSTV in late 2013, check it out here!   We chatted to Jenny Crwys Williams on 702, Pabi Maloi on Power FM, and featured in The Star, The Times, Marie Claire, Food & Home, Elle Magazine, check these out over here!

10. You, the craft beer drinking public! Every Sunday when we open to the public, we get a chance to talk beer with the patrons who come through to the brewery. We also get a chance to sample beers that home-brewers bring through to taste. We love this interaction and we love the swelling passion for craft beer and brewing. For that we thank you!

Where to from here? Your guess is as good as ours… We’re holding on tight though!