On the Road to Clarens Brewery

Arriving in Clarens on a warm summer day felt a bit surreal. With parked cars lining every street, pedestrians crossing in all directions, and restaurant patios overflowing with patrons, it was a stark contrast to our recent few days in the quiet and remote Golden Gate Highlands National Park less than twenty-minutes away – and a world away from the snow-covered Canadian winter we had recently left.

Clarens, self touted as the ‘jewel of the Eastern Free State’, reminded me of the quaint cottage town where I spent my childhood summers. Art galleries and quirky shops at every turn, farm to table eateries lining the main drag, and vacationers strolling leisurely with ice cream in hand.

We parked the car and headed straight for Clarens Brewery, one of the pioneering craft breweries in South Africa. The open and airy space is inviting, which was good for us as the outside patio was jam-packed. Despite the crowds, the staff were friendly and the service spot on. After consuming mostly Castle lager and Black Label on our South African road trip up to this point, we were extremely eager to try something else.

We were offered a sampler, which consisted of a tasting of their year-round beers as well as a few seasonals. The brewery has the basic styles down like their sessionable Clarens 1912 American Pale Ale and crisp flagship Blond, as well as icious pure ciders made with the fruit of local farmers. The unrelenting heat made us gravitate toward the Weiss and cherry cider, both of which were refreshing and tasty.

The food menu is similar to what you would find at a German beer hall – meat and cheese boards, heavy on the sausage. We ordered a board and were happy we did. Simple and substantial, it did the trick.

As we stood up to leave, I noticed the ad on the door with ‘Clarens Beer Fest’ scrawled in large letters. As a frontrunner of the craft beer scene in the Free State as well as the country at large, Clarens Brewery is warming up local residents to craft beer and bringing together a community of brewers.

Before we left for our next destination, Lesotho, we grabbed a couple of bottles as we figured it would be awhile before we came across any craft beer. We were right.

LocationClarens, Free State, South AfricaContributorLauren Barth

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