The Craft Beer Guide

What it is and where to drink it in Joburg

Drinking craft micro-brewed beers is no longer just a foodie fetish — they are on their way to becoming the norm, not the exception in the city's bars. Whether you are a seasoned beer buff or reformed wine drinker, here's what you need to know.


Foundry, Parktown North
What does 'craft beer' mean anyway?

Generally speaking craft refers to the brewer's methods and size. High quality, natural ingredients with no dodgy additives and definitely no cutting corners. This is best achieved by running a micro-brewery producing small batches. However, as many of the beer experts will tell you mega-brands such as Belgium's Duvel still produce some damn fine beers too which, while not technically craft, are also not to be ignored.  

According to Darling Brew's Kevin Wood craft beer is really all about 'Taste, taste taste. This is not about cool marketing, and a hollow background. It is about enjoying great beer. There are enough individuals around who are tired of mass-produced unhealthy products and want brands that they can identify with and that have integrity. The big guys have pasteurised the hell out of their beer so that it tastes like nothing.'  

So, let your taste buds do the judging. If it's full of flavours, and generally tastes awesome, then you're probably enjoying the craft beer experience.

But I don't usually drink beer, what makes you think I am going to like this craft stuff?

Many craft beer fans are indeed lager drinkers who have turned their backs on the big brands. However, according to South Africa's many craft brewers some of the biggest converts are actually those who usually drink wine, particularly women. Lucy Corne, the author of African Brew, a comprehensive guide to African craft beer, says it's all about looking for something new and trying different things. 

Lucycorne  2 Lucy Corne the author of African Brew, a comprehensive guide to African craft beer

If you are interested in wine and food, you'll probably find you're interested in beer once you realise there is much more to it than lager, lager, lager. The range of craft beers is so huge that there has to be something that everyone will enjoy. If you’re a lifelong lager-drinker and are looking to dabble in craft, take it in stages. Start out with a light ale, don't leap straight into something like a big strong stout or a hoptastic IPA, your palate might not be ready for it yet.

Ok, but isn't this more a Cape Town thing? Are there any Joburg craft beers I can try?

Joburg is certainly behind the curve, but is catching up quickly. Gauteng brewers who have recently started production include Copperlake, Cockpit Brewhouse, Brauhaus am Damm, Three Skulls and the Maboneng based Smack! Republic.

Hot on the heals of May's hugely successful Jozi Craft Beer Fest, Pretoria will be hosting its own celebration, The Capital Craft Beer Festival on July 6th up by the Voetreker monument. Showcasing the best of Gauteng's craft beer production as well as scores more brews from across the country, tickets are expected to sell fast.


The Griffin, Illovo
Where to drink craft beer in Joburg
The Griffin

Taking the British gastropub trend as its inspiration, the Griffin boasts a mind-boggling selection of craft beers and ciders from across South Africa and beyond, as well as excellent Sunday roasts. The Griffin attracts a boisterous after work crowd and if you don't book a table in advance you're likely to be left jostling by the bar with the local yuppies. The pub's owners first cut their culinary teeth in London working at the award-winning gastropubs White Horse and Settle Inn and have a real talent for combining outstanding food and interesting drinks, with a modern yet relaxed pub environment.

Craft Beers: Over 30 beers, 7 of which are on tap, from Mitchell's, Darling, Jack Black, Brauhaus Am Dam, Boston, as well as imported European beers.

Highlight: For something unusual try their imported English ales such as the intriguing Wells Banana Bread Ale.

1 Corlett Drive (Illovo Junction, corner of Oxford Road), Illovo, tel. 011 447 9842,  

Chalkboard Cafe

Functioning as an occasional live music space and the cafe-bar for Johannesburg's only independent cinema The Bioscope, Chalkboard is a choice hangout frequented by Maboneng's intellectual and artistic crowd. It's simple beer garden style tables and chalkboard covered walls encourage conversation and creative expression in equal measures, while the craft beer menu claims to be one of the most extensive in Joburg. If you are headed to Bioscope to catch the latest arthouse films ask for one of their large resealable bottles to take in with you and enjoy.

Craft Beers: 30 beers from Mitchell's, Boston, Darling, Cape Town Brewing Co., Brewers&Union and Notties.

Highlight: Look out for Gravedigger, a popular new ale from wacky Joburg brewers Three Skulls, which is now available on tap.

286 Fox Street, Maboneng, tel. 010 007 0119,

Market on Main

One of the early leaders in the local craft beer scene, Market on Main is still one of the best places in town to enjoy great craft beers, especially now Maboneng has its own brewery right next to the market. The passion project of two young craft beer devotees, Smack! Republic is the inner-city's first micro-brewery, producing three beers; the Brammfontein Brawler, Maboneng Maverick and the irresistible Bree Street Belle. Set apart from the hectic atmosphere of the market, Smack! have their own brewery area (only open on market days) complete with tables, a sunny balcony and an art exhibition space.

Craft Beers: Smack! Republic are joined in the market by a frequently changing selection including Boston, Notties, Jack Black and Cape Town Brewing Co.

Highlight: Getting your lips around Smack!'s Bree Street Belle, one of the crispest craft beers around.

264 Fox Street, Maboneng, tel. 082 868 1335,


Stanley Beer Yard, 44 Stanley
Stanley Beer Yard

Combining German food, a huge log fire and a fully fledged beer garden, the Stanley Beer Yard brings together the best elements of the German brauhaus tradition and serves it all up with impeccable taste. Add in live folk music and a distinctly relaxed vibe and you have a great all-rounder that is warm and inviting. Inspired by Cape Town's Brewers&Union bar, the owners have strived to keep things homely but functional with the bar running on a simple self-service system. Whether you choose to colonise one of the tables in the courtyard for a long afternoon session with mates or decide to sink into one of the handsome armchairs by the fire, you will find the atmosphere addictive.

Craft beers: 10 carefully selected craft beers from South Africa and abroad including Citizen's Alliance, Brewers&Union and the Belgian Touro Tipel.

Highlight: Stanley actually have a non-alcoholic craft beer on the menu, if you are into that kind of thing...

44 Stanley, tel. 011 482 5791

Norman Goodfellows

Want to stock up your fridge with some nice craft beers to enjoy at home, but don't have the patience for getting online and ordering them all from different websites? Norman Goodfellows is the solution. The flagship Illovo store stocks beers made by ten different South African craft brewers including one of Gauteng's newest names Copperlake. Lovers of Belgian beers, English ales and obscure Mozambican lagers will also be delighted to find the shelves filled with dozens of beers from across the globe. Prices start at 12 ZAR a bottle and 360 ZAR a crate.

Craft Beers: Darling, Boston, Jack Black, Mitchell's, Brewers&Union, Brauhaus am Dam, Copperlake, Standeaven, De Gavre, Cape Town Brewing Co., plus dozens of international brands.  

Highlight: Load up on all your favourites to take home and serve chilled with a braai.

192 Oxford Road, Illovo, tel. 011 788 4814  


Foundry's owners travelled the world sampling various dining and drinking scenes and have brought back their favourite trends with them. One part fresh and airy bistro and one part slick and sexy bar, the Foundry is the perfect place for before and after. Whilst some of the crowd are here to partake of expertly crafted fusion dishes and irresistibly thin and crispy pizzas in the restaurant, the rest are getting fired up at the bar on the Foundry's excellent selection of craft beers. This is one of the hottest new bars in the area and weekends get loud and lively. A smidgen more sedate on week nights, the Foundry also makes the perfect joint to skip the wine and pair up fancy beers with a classy meal.

Craft beers: Around 25 beers, from Darling, Boston, Jack Black, Mitchell's, Brewers&Union and regular guest craft beers.  

Highlight: Fine food cooked in beer, such as mussels in a Jack Black, celery and leek sauce.  

21 3rd Avenue, Parktown North, tel. 011 447 5828


Odd Cafe, Greenside. Photo by Jonathan Thome
Odd Cafe

Odd Cafe's menu certainly deserves the label quirky. Wildly imaginative, it is filled with bizarre food combinations which somehow actually just really work - bacon, ice-cream, pineapple and chilli sprinkles on a toasted ciabatta anyone? With such a left-field attitude to food, it's no surprise that Odd love their craft beer too and are constantly expanding their selection to include some of the most unusual brews around. Bohemian in style and attitude Odd's other big attraction is its weekly concerts from local up-and-coming bands, many of them fresh from the recording studio next door (Wednesday and Saturday evenings).

Craft beers: Brewers&Union, Darling, Jack Black and regular guest craft beers.

Highlight: Odd's bakery selection is celebrated and now includes homemade beer bread.

116 Greenway, Greenside, tel. 011 486 3631 

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Author Louise Whitworth
Date 02 July 2013