Craig Hulbert at the Nguni Brewing Co stand that was used at the Clarens Craft Beer Festival. Nqobile Mbonambi African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - In the summer heat, no CraftFest would be complete without an ice-cold glass of craft beer.

Brought to you by the Independent on Saturday and the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market, the festival celebrates some of the best brews in the province.

From the Upper Highway area come the 1000 Hills Brewery and the Standeaven Brewery. Clockwork Brewery and Doctrine visit from the capital, and newly featured in CraftFest this year are the Lions River Craft Brewery, the Happy Days Brewery and Nottingham Road Brewing Company, all from the Midlands.

Durban Home Brewers will also do a special from grain-to-glass seminar at CraftFest. They will host a brew day and talk you through the basics of brewing a great beer while actually brewing it. Cost is R400, which includes entrance to CraftFest, with the class running from 9am to 1pm. Email [email protected] for more information.

The Independent on Saturday chatted to Craig Hulbert, a partner in the new Nguni Brewing Co that launched in August.

A mechanical engineer by trade, Hulbert, a keen boat builder and fisherman, tells how he and his younger brother, Grant, are ultimately the “consumers”, while partner, Shaun Lavery, is the connoisseur. But he’s happy to show us around the smart, modern brewery in a shed at his engineering works in Westmead.

The partners have been brewing for a number of years, “mainly for our mates”, Hulbert says. “It took us 14 months to get our licence and before that, we were just experimenting, making small batches. But now we can take our product to market.”

And the Nguni range has been well received. Hot off the heels of a highly successful debut at the Clarens Craft Beer Festival, Nguni offers a range of four beers - a premium “Munich style” lager, a gold lager, a blonde IPA and an Irish Red. “We also do a seasonal beer. In summer it might be a Mexican style beer like Sol or Millers,” Hulbert says. “In winter it might be a stout or a dark beer.”

About a third of the brew is bottled and the brand is also available at most Spar Tops outlets. It’s sold on tap in the Highway area and as far as Ballito and Richards Bay.

The brewery is a big set-up, with a range of 1000-litre double-jacketed tanks.

“We hope to build up to 40000 litres a month,” Hulbert says. “We also get smaller brewers coming to us with their recipes which we brew for them.”

“Beer is basically malt, hops and yeast,” he says, “but those three ingredients can lead to thousands of different variables. All our beers are unpasteurised, so they have to be refrigerated. This is craft, it’s not SAB.”

Hulbert enjoys the camaraderie of the craft-brewing fraternity.

“There are 22 craft breweries in KZN. And everyone helps everyone else. We all test each other’s brews and someone can phone us if they’re, say, short of a specific type of yeast, and we’ll help out. I’m involved so I can have craft beer on tap,” he says. “Plus when they’re brewing, I can smell the brew in my office.”

Catch your favourite brew at CraftFest on March 21 at the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market from 10am to 4pm. Tickets R120 from Quicket.