The largest selection in Africa of beers on tap (16) and bottled beers (99) is available at newly opened Beerhouse, on party mile Long Street in Cape Town. The Beer List states that ‘we see ourselves as (part of) the world beer revolution’, and Beerhouse plans regular events to ‘incubate the ideals of craft’ and to celebrate the world’s oldest and greatest beverage’!
One cannot miss the strong beer yellow painted building exterior opposite Mama Africa. The Beer Hall is upstairs, once a bead outlet. The decor of the beer hall is quite plain, with some TV screens, and framed pictures of dressed up beer bottles in felt, representing traditional dress from around the world. The backs of wooden benches are painted beer yellow, and banquettes have been upholstered in the same colour. While they were renovating the building, they found attractive raw brickwork, and left some of it at the top of the walls. Lovely wooden floors had to be tiled, as the dust was affecting shops downstairs. Interior decorator Justin Plunkett of Joom came up with the theme of 99 beer bottles, after the well-known song ‘99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer. Take one down and pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall’. The song counts down to 1 beer bottle, ending with ‘No more bottles of beer on the wall, no more bottles of beer. Go to the store and buy some more, 99 bottles of beer on the wall’. One long wall has the word ‘cheers‘ written on it in different languages.
I went back to Beerhouse yesterday to interview owner Randolf Jorberg, after having attended the blogger function last week. The quiet spoken yet dynamic owner does not like to be pigeon-holed, likes variety, and does not like doing one thing or being in one place for too long. The 32 year old lives in Bochum in Germany, but grew up in Eckernförde on the north German Baltic Sea. This gave him the love for the ocean, and he wanted a second city home with a rural feel and at the ocean, a city in which he could get around with his knowledge of German and English, and Cape Town met this requirement, having first come here on holiday in 2007. His daughter was born last year, and her pending birth was the impetus for Randolf to move to Cape Town full-time, yet traveling to Germany regularly for projects. He has worked in online up to now, and has never run a hospitality business before. He has set up and sold online businesses, and has even initiated and runs an annual sponsored OMClub online party networking event in Cologne, now attended by up to 6000 online users who attend for free. He does not plan to replicate it in Cape Town.
The idea for Beerhouse was born from a youth dream of ‘mal ‘ne Kneipe öffnen’, and the available space on Long Street was perfect to make the dream of a pub come true. The future dream is to open Beerhouse Johannesburg and Beerhouse Durban, after only three weeks of operation. Randolf says it may be a blessing to not have hospitality experience, as he has no set ideas, and wants to approach everything from a customer perspective. We talked about staff, and he has already experienced staff disappointments. He believes in investing in his staff, and they have already been on brewery visits. The staff bonded when they helped paint the interior, and placed the 6000 beer bottle caps on the bar counter under a glass top. They were involved in the decision about their work dress, resulting in black T-shirts with ‘we got beer‘ in yellow on their back. It is Randolf’s goal to attract locals to Beerhouse all year round, and he says that they will never compromise on beer quality. For the blogging party hostesses dressed in Dirndls, traditional Bavarian dresses worn especially at Oktoberfest, offered tasters of beer as a welcome drink. Randolf himself braved the cold night in Lederhosen, but emphasised that he is not a Bavarian!
Murray Slater is the General Manager of Beerhouse, and volunteered his services when he saw the developing beer hall in April, having been in London for eight years, and run the Powder Keg Diplomacy bar and restaurant in London in his last year there, having recently returned home to Cape Town. The bar specialised in craft beers, so he knows his beers, and he compiled the beer menu. Randolf told me that most of the imported beers have been imported via distributors, and some of his and Murray’s favourite beers are now brought in by them. Maxwell Jansen is also a Manager of Beerhouse.
The Beer List creates thirst appeal, in a neat hardcover folder with a beer image on the outside. It declares its pride in the ‘curation of craft beer brands‘, and that they are served at the optimum condition by ‘knowledgeable and passionate staff’. Michael was a particularly friendly server when I attended the blogger function, allowing me to take the Beer List with me, to save me writing down everything whilst at the function. I returned it when I met with Randolf yesterday.
The Beer List is informative about the styles of beer:
* Lagers are bottom fermented at cold temperatures using lager yeast, and styles include lager, pilsner, and dark lager.
* Ales are top fermented at warm temperatures using ale yeast, and include golden ale, blonde ale, abbey tripel, saison, pale ale, American pale ale, English Indian pale ale, American Indian pale ale, Imperial India pale ale, English bitter, Scottish ale, brown ale, amber ale, Belgian dubbel, Belgian strong dark, porter, and stout.
* Wheat beers are hop fermented with a split grain and wheat mash specialised yeast, with Weissbier and Wit Bier being styles.
The 16 draught beers are described in detail, with alcohol content (ranging from 4,5 – 6,5%) specified. They include Radler, Lakeside Beer Works Heffeweizzen, Windermere cider, Van Hunks Pumpkin ale, Mitchells 90 Shilling, a number of Devil’s Peak ales, and Birkenhead Honey. The beers are poured from a back bar, most unusual for South African bars, assisting in a smoother flow of service for the bar staff in getting to the taps. Randolf said that he expected the SA Breweries beers Black Label and Castle Milk Stout to be strong sellers, but they do not feature on the list of most ordered draught beers.
The bottled beers are divided by type on the Beer List, and there are 24 lagers, 65 ales, 10 wheat beers, and 10 ciders. Each brand varies in price (R20 – R100), its alcohol content is specified, its type specified, its country of origin stated, and tasting notes are provided. Some interesting sounding names are Braumanufaktur Hell, Versus Goliath, Porcupine Quill Kalahari Gold, Delirium Tremens (!), Triggerfish Ocean Potion, Brewdog Dead Pony Club, Badger Fursty Ferret, and Floris Strawberry. I couldn’t help seeing Whale Tale on the Beer List, described as ‘tail-smacking good‘. The best sellers in the short period of operating are Delirium Tremens, Duvel, &Union Steph Weiss Beer, and La Chouffe. A very small selection of wines is offered, being Bob’s your Uncle (R50), De Morgenzon Sauvignon Blanc (R170), and Groote Post Old Man’s Blend (R30/R120).
The menu is part of the Beer List, prepared under the guidance of their former Belgian chef Jean, who has been replaced by a British chef. Smaller bites all cost R30, including Bitterballen, Flammkuchen, giant onion rings, and French onion soup. There are three price levels in the larger portion sizes: R55 for prego steak roll, Flemish dark beer stew, beer marinated pork belly, boerewors, and beer roulade; smoked salmon costs R75; and curried prawns and fillet steak each cost R95.
Given its location on Long Street Beerhouse is likely to do very well, already attracting up to 500 patrons on busy nights. The prices are reasonable, but one can order more expensive imported Belgian and German beers too. It is a great marketing opportunity for beer brands, especially craft beers, to expand the taste repertoire of Cape Town’s beer drinkers, by exposing them to 99 beers and more, a list which will change regularly! Beer House opened on International Beer Day at the beginning of this month, an auspicious start!
Beerhouse, 223 Long Street, Cape Town. Tel (021) 424-3370 www.beerhouse.co.za Twitter: @BeerhouseonLong Tuesday – Sunday, from 12h00 until ‘late’.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage