Part two of my and Mrs. Sip’s adventures in South Africa… for part one, go here.
Our arrival in Cape Town, South Africa, provided another opportunity to immerse ourselves in both the craft beer and winery worlds, while taking in one of the most beautiful cities we’ve ever visited. We quickly grabbed a few bottles of brew to have with our lunch, including Boston Brewing Johnny Gold Weiss Beer and Van Hunks Pumpkin Ale, as well as Jack Black’s Brewing Skeleton Coast IPA. The two Boston Brewing selections were better, but we would come across Jack Black’s again later.
Our dinner that evening was at Mama Africa, which featured some absolutely amazing entertainment, with the band doing things with xylophones that I never imagined was possible. They would also break into extended drumming acts, which were completely mesmerizing. It was here that I took on another drinking challenge in the Flaming Ox Wagon (Olmeca Edicion Black Tequila with Galiano, Sambuca, and Stroh Rum, set on fire and doused with a Springbok shot). I also enjoyed a Robben Island Iced Tea (similar to a Long Island Iced Tea); Cape Brewing Co. Amber Weiss, as the African brewers seem to be doing things with Weiss and Wit beers that North America isn’t willing to experiment with; and Darling Brew Black Mist, advertised as “A blacker than black ale with an inviting creamy head”.
Over the next couple days, we tackled the cities Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour, which featured four different routes, including one that took riders to three wineries. Of course, Mrs. Sip and I were game, starting with Groot Constantia, the oldest winery in South Africa. There, we split a chocolate and wine pairing, as well as a regular set of vino, giving us access to each of the 10 wines they had available. The chocolate pairing was fantastic, prompting us to buy a bottle of Shiraz and its accompanying secret spices and vanilla chocolate bar.
We also stopped at Eagles Nest Winery on this diversion, where we enjoyed samples of Rose, Viognier, Merlot, and Shiraz in one of the most peaceful, quaintest settings I’ve seen a winery put together. It should also be noted that the pours received at wineries throughout Cape Town were very different from what we’re accustomed to at home, where a sliver of nectar is sometimes all that is available to taste.
A few days later, we were off on another wine tour, this time to the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek regions outside Cape Town. Our first stop was at Anura (formerly known as Frog Hill), where Mrs. Sip delighted in a wine and cheese pairing and even the anti-cheese Sip Advisor got into the act. After sampling their Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rose, Pinotage, Malbec, and Syrah (the latter two being my favourites), we were leaving the estate when our guide pointed out they also brewed their own craft beer. Given we were lucky enough to be the only people on our tour, we asked if we could stop for a tasting there too and were treated to Wagon Trail Brewery’s Long Road Lager, Settlers Weiss, Wagon Trail Pale Ale, and Ox Blood Amber Ale (coming in at a whopping 14%).
Next up was Eikehof, which is a small family-owned winery set among another beautiful vineyard. While chatting with one of the owners, we sampled Rose, Sauvignon Blanc (my favourite among the whites), Chardonnay, Merlot (my pick for best red), Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. With two wineries down, lunch was on the horizon and that meant a chance to change things up and avoid palate fatigue with some brews at Elephant and Barrel. Here, we tried two Jack Black’s beers, the Lager and Pale Ale.
Taking advantage of our “private” tour, our guide offered to take us to the Cheetah Outreach, where we were able to have close encounters with a meerkat named Sebastien and a cheetah named Joseph. The long day wrapped up with a visit to Marianne Winery, where a wine and biltong (beef jerky) pairing was on the menu. The pairings were as follows: Pinotage with Springbok, Cabernet Sauvignon (an amazing 2006 wine) with kudu, and Desirade with beef. Mrs. Sip also requested a sample of their Floreal, which had been selected by Gordon Ramsay for Queen Elizabeth’s celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday. I, personally, thought the Cab Sauv was better.
Our last full day in the city was left open, but quickly filled with some great booze experiences. We made our way over to Devil’s Peak Brewing in the afternoon, arriving just in time to order a taster pack, before they closed for a private event. The set included their Lager, Golden Ale, American Pale Ale, Blockhouse IPA, Black IPA, of which, I liked the ales and IPAs… not that there’s anything wrong with lagers!
Not to be deterred by the one brewpub closing, we ventured to the Beer House, where I constructed a set of tasters for Mrs. Sip and myself, comprised of Jack Black’s Lumberjack Amber Ale, Woodstock Hazy Daze Wit, Woodstock Californicator IPA, Cape Brewing Co. Mandarina Bavaria IPA, Red Sky Vampire Porter, and Apollo Stout. While each of the beers was pretty good (save for perhaps the stout), I absolutely loved the Lumberjack Ale, ordering a full serving, while Mrs. Sip tried their featured beer cocktail Give Bees a Chance (Apollo Blonde Ale with vodka, white rum, and honey).
For dinner, we had reservations at Aubergine, where we ordered their three-course meal with wine pairings, and gorged on the feast of fine foods and drinks. As if the day hadn’t been full enough, we wrapped things up with a bottle of wine at The Crypt, which featured jazz music and is located beneath the St. George’s Cathedral. This was a very unique setting to culminate our Cape Town foray… a place I can see us returning to sometime in the future!
Our incredible journey wrapped up with a long layover in London, so with friends in town, we decided to leave the airport and have a little fun in the city. Sadly, many of the spots Mrs. Sip and our friends wanted to take me weren’t open until we had to be back in the air and we spent a fair bit of time on the underground, searching for a good location. Over lunch and another stop for drinks, I was able to sample a few of the U.K.’s craft beer options, including Kernel Mosaic IPA, Greene King Black IPA (a cask beer), Brewdog Dead Pony, and Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA. The brews were good and the only issue was currency conversion, which is always a pain for us Canadians. The beers were more expensive in London than at home and that’s before doubling the price we will eventually have to pay when the Visa bill comes in.
Regardless of cost, I wouldn’t trade this vacation in for anything. A couple quick final thoughts: I’ve been to 42 countries now, around the world, but you could call me an ignorant traveler for not knowing what to expect from southern Africa. I knew there would be typical lagers, as every country has them except the dry nations (Egypt and Morocco, I’m looking at you!), but I never expected the craft beer gems that would greet me in this part of the planet. I also think that over the years, I’ve proven myself to be a well-rounded and experienced drinker. Somehow though, I had to go all the way to southern Africa to have my first Black Wit and Amber Weiss, among others. This, despite the booming craft beer industry in North America… I guess you can never judge a book by its cover!