SAB brewer Sandra Innes
SAB brewer Sandra Innes

BY PAUL EKSTEEN

IN THE annuls of beer’s long and colourful history, the advent of speciality beers represents a new, exciting chapter. That’s not to denigrate the cherished legacy of mainstream brews. But the young upstarts represent a challenge to the accepted culture surrounding all that golden goodness.

No longer is beer solely associated with clubhouse inebriation, with braais where there’s more dop than chop, with impromptu house parties where quantity finds more value than quality. No doubt, those remain good times, especially when you don’t have to drive, but they could also have been construed as alienating, especially for women.

For many, beer seemed tethered to the hip of macho culture. Image is everything. And so, as if in response to the burgeoning metrosexual wave, beer has gone bespoke. These days, you’re just as likely to find imported, craft, and speciality beers nestled in the cold storage alongside your father’s favourites. These are beers you could savour in a glass, some even on ice. They speak of a new sophistication. Their taste profile incorporates a wide range of interesting flavours – from coffee to chocolate to cherries – tearing up the rule book on accepted beer flavour while still paying homage to the centuries-old techniques of brewing.

With local craft brewers enjoying an upswing in popularity, South African Breweries (SAB) have tossed their hat into the ring with a speciality brew of their own: Carver’s Weiss. For the beer-ginners, a Weiss beer is a wheat beer, with traces of banana, vanilla and clove.

“Not too bitter, not too sweet,” was the Charles Glass promise in those old Castle lager ads, and for their Carver’s Weiss brew, SAB have largely stuck to that script. Theirs is an easy drinking Weiss variety, toning down the robust clove spiciness and balancing the sweet to create the perfect, ice-cold accompaniment to any meal. At a recent launch, Carver’s was paired with a range of culinary delights taking in Mediterranean and South African flavours, from hummus, to lamb and prawns.

According to brewer Sandra Innes, Carver’s Weiss was designed with couples in mind – the kind of social chameleon that is equally at home at a Sunday roast as it is in beer’s more traditional haunts.Take her word for it. I have a little confession to make. Innes doesn’t know this, but it’s because of her that I fell in love with beer.

I was never a great fan of the drink. Since I was knee-high, that frothy top and fizzing golden body teased my curiosity, but initial, furtive, sips of my father’s beer left relations frosty. Then a few years back Innes showed up at the Saturday Star offices to promote a new Castle can and spoke about beer. I can barely remember what she said, except I saw beer in a new light afterwards. Somehow, it tasted differently, and I’ve been smiling from beer-to-beer since.

• Carver’s Weiss costs about R89.99 for a 6-pack of 440ml bottles or cans.