African and Canadian beers

After having spent seven long weeks under the South African sun my bags were heavy upon return to winter. Well home a box of Canadian beer greeted me, and when we received six beers from the other end of Africa, Egypt, we already had more than enough for a nights serious sampling.

Finding good beer in South Africa is often dificult, as South African breweries has a near monopoly, and their beer is often err... let's call it 'less exciting'. If you look carefully you will however find a number of small breweries to keep you alive while there. In KwaZulu-Natal, in the NE of SA, the beers from Nottingham Road Brewery, are available in quite a fewplaces, at least around Pietermaritzburg. I enjoyed four of their beers on tap, and the one I like the most was Nottingham Road Whistling Weasel Pale Ale which to me was more like a smooth Irish ale. For soem reason all the bottle I took home was poured in a terrible condition, and weren't sampled.

To my surprise there is a German speaking town in the Natal Midlands called Wartburg. Of course Germans can't live without German beer, so the Wartburg Brauhaus just started in an old restaurant. Isampled what was supposedly their first batch of cloudy, refreshing Helles and more filling Märzen. Unfortunately the bottles I took home had gone bad. In addition they also make a banana estery hefeweizen which I did not have the opportunity to sample.

In the Western Cape, which is usually mostly seen as a wine region, there are a number of small breweries. Mitchell's (with locations in Cape Town Waterfront and Knysna) is by far the most known of them, and their Old 90/- might be the most full bodied ale in the whole Africa. Sadly it is not available on bottles, so it does not appear on our ratings. Their Raven Stout is availabel on bottles however, and is also a great beer.

Birkenhead Premium Lager is another microbrew, which is lively, fruity and complex while sampled from tap.

Then there is Kronendal, a brewpub in stunning Hout Bay on the Cape Peninsula. They serve a nutty, rich ale called Nut, named after the brewmaster (according to the bartender), and Porter, which not surprisingly is a Porter. Both these are credible.

A truely African beer styls is sorghum beer. Thgis primitive beer is made from sorghum, and is usually sold in open jars on coutryside pubs, mainly to the black population. To a beginner it is notvery tasty, but it is for sure one of the more odd beer experiences you can have. And once you overcome the first shock it is actually drinkable. The version we sampled this time was brewed by National Sorghum Breweries in Centurion, between Pretoria and Johannesburg, and sold in a 2l plastic containe with a breathing hole in the cap. I wish I would have discovered the breathinghole in the cap a little bit earlier, as now a lot of my belongings are drenched in sorgum beer...

Egyptian beer has a terrible reputation, and it was withgreat fear the first bottle was opened. To everybodies surprise all the Egyptian beers were of high or reasonably good quality, even if they were not very stylistically adventorous.

Unibroue's beers does not exactly have a bad reputation. On the contrary some of our all time favourites comes from this Quebec brewery. Now we had the opportunity to sampe no less than nine of their products in one night, and it set a standard for the year 2001 that other breweries will find it hard to match.

All the Canadian beers were gifts from Josh Oakes, and besides all the Unibroues he had also managed to find us highlights such as Okanagan Spring Classic Nut Brown Ale from British Columbia, and Panama Premium Lager from Panama. The latter was perhaps only a highlight in that sense that it made our country count climb to 98.

We also had the opportunity to taste two ales of a more unusual origin. From a brewpub in the French alpes the ale Luc Alphand Ambrée, named after the famous downhill skier, was collected. And in Malaga a bottle of good(!) Spanish beer in form of San Miguel Invierno 2001.

The winner of the African-Canadian rating was however none of these beers, but the bottled version of Heaven, a hop monster of a schwarzbier from Jämtlands Bryggeri in northern Sweden.


Beers rated in February '01
89HeavenSweden4,165-4 4+43+5,0%Lager, Dark
93Unibroue Eau BeniteCanada4,1535 5-4+3+7,7%Ale, Belgian style
103Okanagan Spring Classic Nut Brown AleCanada4,113+4+ 5-445,6%Ale, British style
134Unibroue Sans NomCanada4,064-5 5-3+39,0%Ale, Belgian style
149Unibroue 1837Canada4,043+4 54-47,0%Ale, Belgian style
227Unibroue St. HubertCanada3,933+5- 4-44-6,5%Ale, Belgian style
254Unibroue Trois PistolesCanada3,8935 4+3+3+9,0%Ale, Belgian style
267Harviestoun Brooker's Bitter & TwistedScotland3,87 44-4  4,2%Ale, British style
276Wellington Original County AleCanada3,8544- 4+3-4+5,0%Ale, British style
322Luc Alphand AmbréeFrance3,803+4+ 4-4+35,0%Ale, British style
402Unibroue RaftmanCanada3,723+4+ 3+3+45,5%Ale, Belgian style
408Unibroue Don de DieuCanada3,7034 44-4-9,0%Ale, Belgian style
434Unibroue Blanche de ChamblyCanada3,683-4 444-5,0%Wheat beer
523St. Ambroise Vintage Ale 1999, aged 2 yearsCanada3,603+5 4-32+9,4%Ale, British style
583San Miguel Invierno 2001Spain3,523+4 3+4-35,0%Ale, British style
590Unibroue KamouraskaCanada3,5234 4-4-36,0%Ale, Belgian style
799McAuslan Griffon Extra Pale AleCanada3,3533+ 4-3+3+5,0%Ale, British style
823Nottingham Road Whistling Weasel Pale AleSouth Africa3,33 3+    4,5%Ale, British style
843Wellington Special Cream AleCanada3,324-3+ 4-2+3+4,5%Ale, British style
873Nelson After DarkCanada3,303+3 4+3-35,0%Ale, British style
939Magnotta True North LagerCanada3,253+3+ 4-33-5,0%Lager, Light
985Kawartha Cream AleCanada3,2134- 3-3-44,7%Ale, British style
1146Stella Lager BeerEgypt3,10 3+33  4,5%Lager, Light
1150Sakara Premium Lager BeerEgypt3,09 3+3-3+  4,6%Lager, Light
1156Petrus WinterbierBelgium3,092-4+ 33+36,5%Ale, Belgian style
1265Wartburg Brauhaus MärzenSouth Africa3,01 3    4,0%Lager, Dark
1265Nottingham Road Pye Eyed Possum PilsenerSouth Africa3,01 3    4,6%Lager, Light
1313Mont-Tremblant North Side AleCanada2,993+3- 2+3+3+6,1%Ale, British style
1484Stella Export Lager BeerEgypt2,87 33-3  5,2%Lager, Light
1707Wartburg Brauhaus HellesSouth Africa2,69 3-    4,0%Lager, Light
1707Nottingham Road Pickled Pig PorterSouth Africa2,69 3-    5,5%Porter/Stout
1850Das PilsenerNamibia2,6024- 4-2-2-3,0%Lager, Light
2089Nottingham Road Tiddly Toad Münchener LagerSouth Africa2,37 2+    4,0%Lager, Light
2170Sakara 7 Stars Strong Lager BeerEgypt2,30 2+2-3  7,0%Lager, Bock
2206Stella Premium Lager BeerEgypt2,273-2- 223+6,4%Lager, Bock
2256IllégalCanada2,222+2 22+3-5,0%Ale, British style
2315Castle LiteSouth Africa2,152+1+ 32+24,0%Lager, Light
2456Panama Premium LagerPanama1,962-2 3-1+2+4,5%Lager, Light
2766Bavaria Premium LightSouth Africa1,352-1- 30+1+2,8%Lager, Light
2814Al-Ahram BirellEgypt1,202-2- 1+10+0,0%Lager, Light
2821Bavaria Point 5South Africa1,1711+ 3-0+1-0,5%Lager, Light
2887Victor BeerSouth Africa0,661-1+ 002- Special
Rated by: Johan Zetterlund, Per Samuelsson, Cecilia Gårdebäck, Lars Samuelsson, Fredrik Huldt and Oscar Hansson

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Updated 2001-03-06 Per Samuelsson