Brewing success with craft beer

Green Point resident Murray Middleton is the co-founder of a inner-city brewery called Metal Lane.

Although only around for a few months, the Metal Lane brewery is already making a name for itself.

The micro-brewery, based in Gardens, near Kloof Street, is taking part in the Cape Town Festival of Beer in Green Point next month. It has two staff members who manage to pump out 3 500 litres of beer a month.

The co-founder and Green Point resident Murray Middleton, says more people are learning about and getting into brewing craft beer.

“It’s a very interesting field. There are people who know what they want and the more they learn the more they enjoy the product.

“I didn’t know a lot about craft beer and beer in general. I found out that beer isn’t just a recipe that you bang out and it is the way it is. It’s the way it is for a number of reasons. It’s because of the malts, type of yeast you use. That gives you your colours, aromas, clarity.

“Everything about beer and why it is the way it is made me more passionate about it and essentially fall in love with it.”

Mr Middleton said the brewing process involved converting starches into sugars, then adding hops during a boil and getting unfermented beer.

That process, he said, takes five to eight hours.

From there you send it into a fermenter, keeping the temperature regulated, and add yeast, which converts the sugars to alcohol.

He says that this process can take anywhere between a week or three weeks. “The process of making it and selling it to somebody can take a month,” he said.

He said the first time he got involved in beer-making was through a job at a small home brew store. And that’s when the bug bit.

“That led me to meet all of the craft brewers around the country. I got to pick their brains for a good year and learnt the ins and outs as much as I could. He left the job and moved out of the industry for a while before getting back into it a year later.

“The more I was out of the industry the more I missed it.” He added that he’s been pleased by the reaction of the public so far.

But there was also some red tape to negotiate.

“It takes a long time to get your liquor licence,” he said.

“You feel like it’s never going to come.” And while he waited, he kept busy on social media, marketing his product.

“It’s been mind blowing.

“Month after month there has been growth. It’s really rewarding to see people respond. It’s awesome to see.”

As for product, he said, he decided to launch one style of beer – and do it well. He said that South Africa has traditionally been a lager- or pilsner-drinking country. “The two main reasons are climate and culture. It’s hot and we are looking for refreshing, easy drinking beers.”

He added that larger is the biggest selling style of beer in the world.

“I think the reason craft beer has exploded so much, is because people are starting to get educated.”

He says, for example, beer can be far more versatile for food pairing than wine. “It’s a case of people being exposed to something different. Some people really embrace that and love it, and some people hate it. That’s the case with everything.”

He said the competition between craft brewers in Cape Town and around the country was a positive thing. “It’s very healthy that it’s growing at a rapid rate. If beer is continually getting good then the industry is going to grow.”

He added, however, that the market was not yet saturated and still had room to grow when compared to the United Kingdom or United States. “It’s only going from strength to strength.”

Over 200 craft beers and 60 similar brewers will be at the festival, which is now in its eight year.

The festival takes place from Friday December 1 until Sunday December 3.

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