The idea of getting a hand crafted product, produced close to the place where it will be consumed, is not only satisfying but good for the environment. Consumers get more choice and everyone benefits from less diesel fumes pumped out by ships, trains and trucks to get the products around.
This trend started in the beer market, with local home brewers scaling production in their garages and then moving to larger premises, often giving up their day jobs in the process. Wines and spirits have followed this trend and some craft merchants have gone the full circle and become mainstream as they have scaled production and distribution in the process becoming more crafty than craft.
For years the beer scene was dominated by a monopoly player and there was one choice: lager. Even beer “snobs”, when blindfolded, could not tell the difference from one brand to the next. Now we can choose from weiss, lager, ale, pilsner and porters. There are a plethora of producers, many with very distinct flavours and styles. This awakening has also led to restaurants having to rethink their drinks lists and innovative players offering pairings of beers with foods. We are seeing great breweries popping up in the Jozi CDB. Leading this bunch are Aces Brewery in Maboneng, famous for their lager, but have just introduced an IPA. The Mad Giant Brewery at The Sheds, 1 Fox St also make great beers, including a weiss, an amber ale, a pilsner and an IPA . Brixton Brewers entered the market recently with their Bitter, which is gaining traction in the market.
Once the domain of hipsters, the move to craft gin is becoming a space for a wider group of aficionados. Yuppy Chef now even stocks a make-your-own gin kit! Initially a Cape trend, there are now craft gins being produced in Durban and Joburg too. Ginifer and Westcliff gins are produced in Johannesburg by Jacqueline Grobler, who broke the Cape mold of using fynbos and rooibos, she flavours her gins with local herbs sourced from the Faraday muti market in Jozi.
Some liquor merchants have made it their focus of stocking these craft products. One example is Dry Dock Liquor, a new kid on the block in trendy Parkhurst. Drydock says that having staff that really understand the products and weekly tastings hosted every Saturday by experts result in experiential visits to the store, differentiating them from other retailers.
While Dry Dock stocks mainstream products, its focus is on products from emerging winemakers, craft beer brewers and gin distillers. The staff make it their business to find new and exciting products with an interesting story. A great example is the collaboration with Christian Naude from Anthology Wines who lives a few blocks away from the store, and gave Dry Dock exclusive distribution rights on his wines. Christiaan is a business analyst at Investec, who decided to make wine in his spare time. He started researching the wine making processes and found an industry stalwart with many successful years in the winemaking industry, to mentor him. He has successfully produced a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon and a cabernet franc to date.
Another garagist wine maker to hit the Joburg scene is The Garajeest, by Callan Williams. She makes a cabernet franc and a semillon, and while only established a few years ago, has already won multiple awards.
The Cape is still very much the heart of South Africa’s wine and liquor industry, but it is good to know that some quality products are being created on our doorstep in Joburg and other areas of the country.