The province of KwaZulu-Natal, fondly known as the Zulu Kingdom, recently launched a Brew or Beer Route, similar in many ways to the wine routes of the Western Cape. This route provides a showcase for a number of breweries, both tiny and large, in the province and the beer they produce. These include The Congella – United National Breweries in Durban, South African Breweries, in Prospecton, Durban Firkin Hophouse Micro Brewery & Pub at the Pavilion Shopping Centre in Westville, Durban, The Nottingham Road Brewery at Rawdons Hotel in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, Wartburger Brauhaus , in Wartburg , The Ijuba-United National Breweries in the Battlefields of Dundee, The Shongweni Brewery and the Zululand Brewing Company in Eshowe.
A visit to the brew route includes demonstrations of the art of beer making, beer tasting and the opportunity to purchase gift packs of the beer produced by the breweries of the Zulu Kingdom. The route also provides the tourist with the opportunity to 'get to know' the diverse tourism attractions of this province.
Shaun Standeaven started The Standeaven Brewery out of his love for cooking and the experience in mixology gained whilst working on cruise ships. Initially he created four recipes and has today expanded his repertoire to six beers.
His parents, Keith and Christine, own the Shongweni Farmers’ Market in KZN – the well-established and popular fresh produce and craft market, so Shaun slotted into the family business without a problem. "I couldn't do it on my own, but with my dads assistance we decided to give it a go,” Shaun said. Together they scoured the Internet and books and, with their first kit of old SAB kegs, they brewed the very first 40 litres. As is to be expected, there was a lot of trial and error along the way.
While they were testing the first batch, Sean realised that the beers had over carbonated. "There was a massive bang when I cracked open that first beer. It sprayed everywhere, leaving me with a little bit of foam at the bottom of the bottle.”
Shaun believes that just as food is a social product, so is beer and it enhances the meal experience as a whole. In the past, restaurants would develop their food with wine pairing and now there is growing trend towards pairing beer with food as well. The Bohemian Pilsner is an easy-drinking, daytime beer that pairs well with foods that have acidity or spice. The spice or acidity brings out the flavours, enhancing the balance between the bitterness and sweet elements of the beer. The crisp bitterness of the Bohemian Pilsner would help to turn down the heat in a chilli-laced Mexican dish.
Their Press Club Stout is made to be a very dark stout, not too sweet, with an aromatic coffee and chocolate undertone that complements a rich meat dish such as oxtail or venison.
The African Pale Ale is not as big and bold as your typical pale ale. It’s made to be a well-balanced beer with both fruity and malty undertones, but at the same time to have the bitterness on the finish that one would expect from a Pale Ale. Best paired with anything that goes on the braai – the wood smoke alone will enhance the flavours that the beer has to express. A perfect pairing would be a dish that has a good marinade with sweet and spicy flavours – Shaun’s personal favourite would be sticky ribs.
Following a very successful launch and an award at the Durban Good Food and Wine showin 2012, The Standeavan Brewery beers are now available in Cape Town and Johannesburg. His beers are now in such demand that they have had to increase production.
“In the micro brewing business quality and consistency is key – when you drink a beer it should evoke the same memories as the very first one you had. You don’t want to love the beer one day and hate it the next because it tastes different.”
"All micro-breweries are different and that’s what makes our industry so special. Every brewer will make beer differently, even if starting out with the same recipe. We all have our own approach and style. Our beers are my passion and expression in a product. When I first started, I promised myself that I would always make beers that I would enjoy drinking first and foremost."
Shaun's drive to produce a quality product stems from the thrill that he gets every time he sees someone's face when they try his beer, or a new beer that he has made for the first time. "When you see them experience the flavours and the surprise of all that beer holds. That moment when they reflect to see if they enjoy the flavour of the beer. That is what makes my job truly special”.