If you go down to the Woodstock today,You’re sure of a big surprise. If you go down to the Woodstock today, You’d better go to the Brewers Co-op.
Why? Great beer that’s why. The Brewers Co-Op opened this year in Albert Road Woodstock. So what is a Co-Op? It is ‘An association of persons who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual, social, economic, and cultural benefit’. Fourteen guys have clubbed together to created this association to cooperate for the mutual benefit of making great beer. The brewers backgrounds vary and all have day jobs but have all dabbled to different levels in the fine art of home brewing.
The Beerhouse team visited the co-op and were shown around by Rob Ambler-Smith one of the ‘Co-Opers’ . We got a look at the small but impressive Brewery that is fully automated and controlled through software on a lap top, something usually reserved for the big boys with the mega bucks. Such ingenuity goes along way in the micro-brewing world.
So a society without a democratically elected leader or dictator despot? How does that work? Is it not chaos, who brews when? These were some of the questions from the team. Rob is under no illusion that it has not always been easy but the co-operation has been maintained and nurtured through committees that take responsibility for admin (uuurgh), brewing schedules and looking after there show room. The bar is a small but impressive set up with each of the Co-Opers installing their choice of tap handle. From dinosaurs to bugles it makes for an impressive back bar. However what is most impressive about this place is the beer. These guys are making excellent small batch beer and the variety of styles is outstanding. “For me personally, the best thing as a brewer is the ability to brew new beers and continue to be experimental. As a customer, I also love the fact that you can come in every week, and there will be something new on tap”, Rob enthuses.
The beers are of such quality that they are being recognized nationally. The latest finalist were announced for the SAB Craft Brewers Championship and two beers from the Co-Op have been shortlisted. Hopping Frog Brewworks, Rambunctious Rye and Ukhamba Beerworx & HopHazard Brewing collaboration, The Red Brick Shit House barley Wine.
Beerhouse on Long will introduce a special new tap for the Co-op that we will be rotating their variety of beers. Starting with Rob’s Damnation Brewing Lone Wolf American Pale Ale.
Stay Thirsty Stay Curious
In Celebration of the Brewmistress‘ latest book, Beer Safari, we will be having a Q&A with Lucy Corne and a beer tasting of her big five. Roy “The Tasty One” MacAskill will be pairing Lucy’s big five with gastronomical handcrafted delights.
Her latest book is a beautiful compilation of her journey through South Africa. Not only does it list almost all the current micro Breweries in South Africa but it gives well written insight into the character and the people behind these noble ventures. We have chosen five of Lucy’s favourite beers ( Her Big Five) from her safari. Mtunzini Brewery Chilli Blonde (KZN), That Brewing Co APA (KZN), Devils Peak Blockhouse IPA (CPT), Brauhaus am Damm Weiss (GTN) and Dog & Fig Stout (FS).
Lucy will also be selling her new book, Beer Safari at a discounted rate for all those who attend the event.
Join us at Beerhouse Fourways on Wednesday December 2nd and Beerhouse On Long Monday 7th of December for an evening of beer, education, fun, food and friends.
Stay Thirsty Stay Curious
So Rhodes and the fees haven fallen so what about the latest campaign #CraftBeerPriceMustFall ? Fellow revolutionary Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, Brewster and beer lover has responded from a brewing point of view.
Her blog was driven by observations of ‘crazy’ prices charged for craft* beer. I too have witnessed some ludicrous prices charged for beer at certain establishments and I too would rather drink something else, like wine. Ooooh Wine! The Beer whisperer drinks wine? That I do and I rather like it.
I will now attempt to respond from the hospitality point of view to the increasing calls for prices to be checked. I can’t vouch for everyone and I know that many outlets get it wrong. Remember that three years ago paying over R25 for a 500ml would have been unheard of. Then the revolution came. Old battle- worn microbreweries like Mitchell’s were meandering. Then came new players that took beer from the hands of the boep and braai fraternity and into the hands of the youth through modern marketing tactics and a very different product. Brewers & Union, Jack Black and Darling Brew made beer desirable and sexy. They opened our eyes, minds and taste buds to a new experience which led to further exploration and education. Suddenly we were buying beer for R30 then R40 and, oh my, I purchased a beer for R550 the other day. And yes, it was worth it! Every single sip of the 500ml bottle was savoured like the finest wine.
So people are more inclined to part with R45 for a pint thanks to the revolutionaries. So where does that R45 go? I am not a financial guru but I do sit in management accounts meetings at Beer Revolution HQ and have become very familiar with the ‘Game of Margins’ over the last few years.
It’s a common misconception that hospitality outlets are greedy and that their mark-ups are ridiculous. This can be said for some, but I will come to the defence of the majority that play the margins game honestly and within market-accepted playing field.
Here is my breakdown of what a R45 500ml serving of beer consists of for a hospitality outlet**:
The pie seems large but for a beer to come from brewery to belly its takes a lot. One of the great things about our revolution is that it is human resource heavy and provides a great number of jobs. The two Beerhouse’s alone are employing over a hundred people whose lives have been enriched. Operating cost for retail outlets like Beerhouse are numerous. Staff wages, rent and utilities are the biggest contributors. Then you have about 45 other smaller operating cost centres including monthly costs of R15 000 on cleaning and hygiene materials, R20 000 on banking fees and R25 000 for bar supplies (glassware, napkins, etc), and it does not stop with maintenance, marketing, training, printing, accounting fees, wastage, entertainment, licenses, communication, insurance, etc. It all stacks up but is essential to us operating an enhanced experience and proper curatorship of beer.
Essentially beer is about small profit margins. The only way to go laughing to the bank is to do big volumes. The biggest threat to the laughing is an inability to produce volume and therefore playing the ‘Economies of Scale’ game that makes Macro breweries giggle on the way to the bank.
Brewers and retail must team up to create, curate and maintain this route to market. Charge fair prices that allow growth for both partners and always make sure the product is served at optimum condition so that our revolution may recruit many more beer lovers. Those who only think of short-term profiteering will inevitably fall by the wayside as beer lovers will not tolerate being taken for a ride while retailers laugh. They will talk with their feet and perhaps even drink wine.
Stay Thirsty-Stay Curious
** I refer here to on-consumption restaurants and bars and not to off-consumption bottle stores whose margins are much less because they have fewer overheads. Off-consumption margins are more like 25%