8 beers that are proudly South African

For many years, South Africa’s craft brewers took their cues from international trends when designing beers. They brewed German weissbier, Irish stout, Belgian saison and IPA after IPA, inspired by American breweries. But as our local craft beer scene comes of age, brewers have become increasingly interested in developing homegrown beer styles. For some, this means looking to African brewing heritage for inspiration. Others are seeking to utilise South African barley and hops to create something with a local flavour. And for some, it means using ingredients that no other brewing culture in the world would ever think to include in a beer. Here are eight proudly South African beers to seek out this heritage month. 

Inspired by tradition 

Ukhamba Utywala Sorghum Saison 

The first SA craft beer to use sorghum in quantity, this ‘African Farmhouse Ale’ blends the fruity flavours of a Belgian saison with the brewing heritage of owners Lethu Tshabangu and Noluyanda Roxwana-Matiele, who both grew up in homes where the family matriarch brewed traditional umqombothi. 

Soul Barrel x Tolokazi Wild African Soul 

This uniquely African beer won a gold medal as well as the BASA African Celebration Award at the 2023 African Beer Cup. American brewer Nick Smith made a batch of traditional umqombothi which was then blended in oak barrels with his farmhouse ale. The spontaneous fermentation (no added yeast) leaves a refreshing, slightly acidic beer with a flavour profile you won’t find anywhere else in the world. 

Tolokazi Sorghum Pilsner 

Using South African hops as well as sorghum malt and barley malt from Caledon, Tolokazi’s pilsner is a summer thirst-quencher with a nice sprinkling of local character. 


Afro Caribbean Brewing Co. Brew Now Hop Later 

The award-winning Cape Town brewery is best known for their massively hoppy American-style IPAs, but with this hazy pale ale, head brewer Jake Sandenbergh has worked with Southern Passion and African Queen – two local hops from the George region, designed to give fruity aromas and flavours to beer. 

Charlie’s Garage Thunderdust 

This play on a German pilsner uses 100% South African malt and hops, proving that local ingredients can create great beer. It’s been brewed as part of the SA Pilsner Project, an initiative to promote using South African ingredients. Breweries from around the country are participating, with the beers launching on Heritage Day. Beers will be available at individual taprooms or if you’re in Cape Town, you can taste them all at Banana Jam Café on 24 September. Follow #SAPilsnerProject for more info. 

Only in South Africa… 

Triggerfish Brewing Bonito 

Buchu is a tricky plant to get right in brewing – a touch too much and it’ll leave your beer tasting a bit like Vicks VapoRub. Luckily, the team at Triggerfish have perfected the recipe for their Buchu Blonde over the last decade. The endemic South African plant lends a subtle mintiness and a touch of blackcurrant to this refreshing blonde ale. 

Doctrine Brewing Will-o’-the-Wisp 

The base beer here is a German-style pilsner, but the additions make it entirely African – all local hops for bittering and flavour, and a tincture of African wormwood that leaves a unique herbal note. 

Smack! Republic Hillbrow Honey 

Brewed in Joburg with all local hops, barley grown and malted in the Overberg, and a dash of fynbos honey, you’d think this beer couldn’t get more South African. And then they add a smattering of that other local brew, rooibos, for the ultimate Mzansi flavour. 

There’s virtually nothing that you can’t put in a beer – and not many things that brewers haven’t tried. In the past, South Africa’s craft brewers have produced beers modelled on malva pudding, beers inspired by peppermint crisp tart and in one case, a beer that used smoked malt and coriander seed to mimic the most perfect of all beer snacks: biltong. 

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