Friday 31 Aug 2012 - Saturday 01 Sep 2012
The Intervarsity Brewing Competition isn’t just about drinking beer of course, although plenty of that admittedly goes on.
It’s about brewing, tasting, unearthing the country’s next generation of brewers – and naturally it’s about being crowned the best varsity brewing team in South Africa.
The competition has been running since 2008 but its origins go back a bit further. It was Ben Lamaletie, one of SAB’s trade brewers, that first had the idea to get universities involved in brewing.
The first varsity brewery, a simple homebrewing system, was set up in Pietermartizburg in 2003, the goal being to introduce a beer culture to university students as well as to seek out potential SAB employees.
The programme grew and today there are 11 universities around the country with students who regularly brew beer on their own time.
Ten of those universities sent a team to the fifth annual brewing competition, held at SAB’s training institute in Kyalami. The teams had been practicing and perfecting for months before the actual competition, deciding which beers to enter in the three categories – ale, lager and speciality.
On the day a ten-strong team of judges from the Gauteng-based homebrewing club, The Wort Hogs, tasted and rated the beers according to the strict judging criteria of the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program).
After an informal getting-to-know-you evening in the pub, the teams joined SAB’s Craft Brewer Apiwe Nxusani for a session in the brewery, where parallel brews were taking place.
On the hi-tech 500-litre brewery, a batch of Oktoberfest beer – one of the trio of beers brewed for the SA Bierfest being held in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban – was being brewed from scratch.
But students (as well as the highly experienced trade brewers) were equally as enthralled with a simpler system made from 50-litre kegs, where the same recipe was being following. The university teams use brewhouses of all different sizes and the teams are put together in a range of ways – some volunteer, others are chosen; a few are undergrads, most are master’s candidates and almost all are studying chemical engineering.
In the end though it was the hop-filled American IPA from UCT’s team that won the overall vote. A dose of Citra hops on the nose led you into a moreish beer that gave tropical fruit flavours and a clean, palate-cleansing bitterness.
As the five members of UCT’s team clutched their R2000 cheques, the evening continued as any beer event should – with smiles, dancing, games and of course, tasters of the 29 beers entered in the contest.