It is no secret that I am an amber ale addict and I have been known to make some homebrew from time to time. It was, therefore, with entire delight that I visited the place where the local brewing magic happens – Featherstone Brewery.
Craft brew has become quite the trend worldwide and have had a massive impact on the South African beer scene. It is tempting to blame this popularity on hipster snobbery, but the truth is that craft brews offer something different to the market. Simply put, the reason is in the act of ‘crafting’ a good brew and the creativity involved in the process. Micro- and Nanobreweries have the freedom and expertise to experiment with flavours. As a result, the product doesn’t just taste better, but there is a broader range of styles available. Bigger breweries, mass producing the common beer for average Joe, just don’t have these qualities. The older generation might stick by their preferred brand, but the younger generation of boys and girls are a little more adventurous.
Located on Brackenhill farm just outside Grahamstown, Featherstone Brewery draws its name from the Featherstone Kloof area where many an intrepid hiker and trail-runner spends their days. The nanobrewery was established in 2015 by Mark and Clare Riley. It origins are found in Mark’s love of beer and skill in brewing, and the identification of a niche market ready to be filled. Currently they produce about 450 litres of beer a week and would like to expand in future. Some new ale styles, an expansion of sales within the local region, and a beer garden at Brackenhill are all on the cards.
Featherstone produces an amazing array of craft offerings with exceedingly quirky names. Keeping it local, they are all named after local endemic species and landmarks. There is the Oldenburgia Weiss, the Bell-Ringer Rooibos Pale Ale, the Drostdy English Ale, the Golden Mole IPA, Tumble Bug Stout, and the Blaaukrantz Porter. For a ‘nanobrewery’ the range of ales on offer is rather impressive. My favourite? The Drostdy English Ale – I like a maltier taste. The public seems to agree; The Drostdy English Ale and the Golden Mole IPA are the brewery’s best sellers.
As an occasional home-brewer, I know what the secret ingredient in an amazing ale is and it is not what you think. It is neither in the hops, the barley nor the yeast, but the water. Municipal and prepared water just doesn’t meet the standards of the seasoned and refined palate. I admit that don’t have quite as refined a palate as I would like, but even I can say that with the right water source I find the flavour is clearer and cleaner. Simply put, the water allows the other ingredients to work their magic, unhindered. Featherstone gets this right by using water from a local spring in Featherstone Kloof. The local aquifers supply some stunning groundwater – a fact that locals know well.
Featherstone’s beer is currently available at many of the restaurants in Grahamstown, and the Rat and Parrot has the Golden Mole IPA on tap. You can also buy beer direct through their website and have it delivered.