Brewers & Union, Dark Lager
We challenged ourselves to find some of Europe's oldest family-run breweries to create beers that we are not only proud to produce for our customers, but love to drink
South African Breweries (SAB) own 98% of the South African beer market. Unless you are craving after some Carling Black Label, Castle Lager, Castle Lite, Castle Milk Stout or Hansa Pilsener (and you're probably not) it's tough to get hold of a decent beer. So in 2007 Rui Esteves and Brad Armitage set off for Europe looking "not only at what beer people drink, but also how they drink in terms of beer and food as a culture".
Brewers & Union came soon after. "We challenged ourselves to find some of Europe's oldest family-run breweries to create artisan-produced beers that we are not only proud to produce for our customers, but love to drink ourselves. We work hand-in-hand with different brewmasters in Europe, to develop the finest, authentic lagers and ales, and bring them to the table in South Africa."
Those tables are in a trendy little Cape Town establishment called "& Union". They had to drop the "brewers" bit because the church in which it is housed (yes the bar is in the cellar of an old church) wouldn't allow it.
In 2010 Byron Redman came on board introducing the range of European brewed beers from a South African business, back to Europe, more specifically the UK. He says: "The UK is very different to South Africa with so many great beers already in existence. We are the bridge between mass-produced rubbish and geekier beers".
The branding is minimalistic and brooding. The "Sean Connery of beers" according to Oh Beautiful Beer. We love it.
The Dark Lager (5% ABV) pours a deep mahogany brown with a red tint and a fine beige head. Because it's unpasteurised and unfiltered there is a haziness that promises plenty of flavour. It doesn't disappoint.
Smoky, roasted malt aromas are followed up with cherry and doughy bread flavours. A smooth, light body and a nice subtle bitter ending make it dangerously drinkable. Certainly not your average lager.
Brewers & Union is growing at a pace, as is the craft beer scene in South Africa. "We don't believe we can single-handedly change the world of beer as it exists, but with a little raw passion, blind optimism and reckless resolve, we can perhaps make a difference".
Serving suggestion - At least half an hour in the fridge. Eat with meat. Ideally a juicy steak or a bit of Biltong. Grrrr.