Stellenbosch craft brewery, Stellenbrau, is on the hop! Based in the historic university town of Stellenbosch, the brewery, which launched in 2011, is fast developing an international reputation for producing beers of globally competitive quality.
After recently scooping top honours at an international contest in Berlin, Stellenbrau is set to once again make headlines – this time for producing the world’s first beer made with indigenous Rooibos and Honeybush - Governor’s Red.
Brewery owner, Deon Engelbrecht, observes: “There has been a real boom in the local craft beer industry of late. Every month, a new craft- or microbrewery seems to appear on the scene".
How the rooibos beer is made
According to head brewer, Stephen De Jager, Governor’s Red Lager is infused with Rooibos and Honeybush leaves (not tea) from the beginning of the brewing process so that a complex flavour develops throughout maturation. “This isn’t just beer with Rooibos tea added to it,” explains De Jager. “Flavour development happens over time as the beer is exposed to the indigenous plant material. It’s a very sophisticated process.
Signature characteristics of a typical lager
The idea with this beer is to surprise and intrigue the drinker more with every sip taken.” He describes Governor’s Red as a “deep golden lager with a traditional malty character.” De Jager believes that what makes the beer such a success is that it manages to retain all the signature characteristics of a typical lager, such as crispness and a clean finish on the palate, but that it “simultaneously presents subtle honey-like scents and earthy, floral notes.” De Jager says the lager exhibits a “distinctive, but not overbearing fynbos flavour.”
Rooibos given geographical indicator trademark status
The launch of the new Governor’s Red Lager is also particularly newsworthy given that both Rooibos and Honeybush (iconic drinks synonymous with all things “Saffer”) have recently been granted internationally recognised ‘geographical indicator’ trademark status. This means that in the European Union only Rooibos and Honeybush products grown and manufactured in South Africa are officially allowed to bear these names – much in the same way as only Champagne from that region of France or Greek Feta (cheese) may legally carry their locality-related designations.
Proudly South African
Given the long battle to protect these most South African of products, making the world’s first Rooibos beer is something the Stellenbrau team is particularly proud of. “It’s a truly South African lager. You won’t find anything else like this anywhere else in the world,” remarks Engelbrecht. “This is something truly distinctive. It’s a beer that tells a uniquely South African story.”
There is also evidence that the addition of indigenous plant material during the brewing process help to preserve the lager. Both Rooibos and Honeybush are known to be rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. These contribute not only to the new beer’s unique flavour profile, but also to potential health benefits and stability of product. States Engelbrecht in conclusion: “Governor’s Red, like our Craven Craft and Alumni Ale, is incredibly accessible. Consumer feedback has been very positive. We recently conducted a nutritional analysis that revealed that all our beers are also remarkably low in carbohydrates and sugars. There are only 30-odd kilojoules in every 100 ml of beer. That’s less than in an average sized apple.”
Stellenbrau craft beers are currently available on tap and in bottles at good bars and restaurants in the Western Cape.
Read more on: