The mission for this year's Capital Craft Beerfest was to take the economic dictum, “there's no such thing as a free lunch”, and modify it to see if there is such a thing as a free beer. Before our mission started we decided to buy one first, as a sacrifice to the beer gods, should there be any, and as a gesture of thanks to the brewers for making the beer. Sadly the sacrificial beer was the least tasty one of the day. Maybe it was a bad batch, but craft beer does have the tendency to sometimes miss the mark on the scale of pleasurable tastes. And so our mission to find free beer began with the urgency to taste something else from any of the 34 other micro-breweries that were there this year.
But the mission was over pretty soon since we had backstage passes which gave us the perk of getting topped up, gratis, at the Hillbilly Ho-Down stage. The beer was good, I kept going back for more and eventually just got stuck around the tap for the rest of the day catching up with old friends and talking shit about music 'n' stuff. It was the perfect day for a Beerfest in the windless city. Much more cannot be said about my experience of the event, except that as I walked out I bumped into another old mate who immediately topped up my empty beer glass with beer from his cousin's brewery, Zwakala. As it turns out Zwakala had also been supplying the beer backstage, so apologies must be extended to the 33 other breweries for not tasting any of their beers. The next day I awoke hangover free and in retrospect, I attribute this to the Limpopo mountain water with which Zwakala brew their beers.
Short of having much of anything to write about the Beerfest, except that I had a good time (thanks), I went to the Capital Craft headquarters in Menlo Park in the week thereafter to refresh my memory and to taste the Zwakala again. I sat down in the smoking section where the brothers Van der Schyff happened to be busy working, I ordered my beer and later asked if I could get some of their impressions regarding this year's Beerfest. They've become well known as events organisers since they started out with the legendary Hotbox house parties and became the organisers and business partners at Park Acoustics and Capital Craft. This year was the sixth Capital Craft Beer Festival, and it's been the third year in a row that it was hosted at the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens.
Willem tells me he was surprised at how smooth this year's event went. For the past couple of years they've been working with the same team of events staff who've by now become familiar with the event setup, so communicating and dealing with issues on the fly has become much easier. Overall the brewers also reported better sales this year compared to last year which had a similar turnout of festival attendees. Willem attributes it to this year's layout in which they tried to get a better placement by spreading out the more popular brewers between the different stage areas. This improved the flow between the clusters of people so the smaller brewers also got a better chance at wetting the whistles of thirsty clientele.
We talked some more about the Beerfest and how it seems to have become an event on the social calendar around which people from all over, plan to meet up again in the following year. The festival is very close to the Gautrain station at Hatfield and they've been running a free bus service for the past two years from the station to the festival, which makes it easier for people from further out, like Jo'burg, to cross the Jukskei and come and enjoy the Beerfest for the day. This year Capital Craft also teamed up with the taxi service Taxify, whom Henk says he prefers über that other well-known taxi service because with Taxify it's not only new users being rewarded when you sign up but also current users who keep getting rewarded. Unfortunately, I only saw the very generous promo from Taxify on the event flyer after the Beerfest, otherwise, I could've had a free taxi ride too. Either way, the location is quite central and there are enough transport services so that the Beerfest makes for a relaxed day of keeping your mug topped with as many brews as you'd like, but without the need of later becoming a hazard behind the wheel on the way home.
It's a nice outing, even for young families who can send their kids to go play in the Kids Area while mom and dad take a stroll in the pleasant scenery and have momentary tastes of freedom as they sip their beers. With four stages there's a widespread of live music and something for everyone, from the line-up of artists to the rugby match shown on the big screen which ends off the day nicely, especially if the Bokke win, says Henk. Willem quips that, fortunately, it doesn't affect sales whether the Bokke win or lose because by that time most stands have closed up shop.
The brothers are chuffed with how the Beerfest has grown into its own and that it has become an event that offers a unique experience. Our interview was about to end so I asked them if they had any favourite breweries that stood out this year. For Henk, Standeaven is an obvious choice, but he also likes Zwakala for the overall atmosphere surrounding the brand and their beer. Willem says his favourite was Devil's Peak and that he mostly hung around at their stand because that's also where he got free beer…
Not too long ago there was an old music venue in Pretoria that had a sign behind the bar which read: “Free Beer Tomorrow”. When you go back the next day the sign still says “Free Beer Tomorrow”, so tomorrow never arrives and neither does the free beer. It is a parable about free beer which is saying pretty much the same thing as the economists say about lunch. Nothing can be free. But then sometimes you arrive at a Beerfest and in its festive spirit you do get a beer for free. In the end, it doesn't really matter, as long as there's beer to drink because as the saying goes: a beer a day keeps the doctor away.
Photographs supplied by: Ella Roux
Review By: A.R.