Rooibos used to craft beer

Craft brewers are using rooibos tea for beer.

Craft brewers are using rooibos tea for beer.

Published Aug 5, 2023


Durban - It’s used in beauty products or just as a calming cup of tea, but now rooibos has been reinvented as a key ingredient in craft beer.

Yesterday, the world celebrated International Beer Day, an annual event which has taken place on the first Friday in August since 2008, according to, and experts say this proudly South African drink has the perfect flavour profile for the production of craft beer.

Adele du Toit from the SA Rooibos Council said the craft beer movement had taken the world by storm and people were experimenting with different tastes, colours and methods, making it a great idea to include one of South Africa’s most treasured heritages in their brews.

“It might sound like a strange match, but the rooibos taste actually complements beer making, and especially craft beer making, which is very exciting,” said Du Toit.

She said some craft brewers had experimented with rooibos during different stages of the brewing process where it was mashed, boiled or fermented. Known as a tisane (herbal infusion) rather than a tea, she said rooibos could be used as a substitute for water or combined with traditional brewing ingredients to infuse the beer with its distinct taste.

Rooibos brews more than tea – craft brewers are using it to make beer.

Stellenbosch University had developed a rooibos flavour wheel which showed that the beverage had a variety of tastes, said Du Toit. Most prevalent were the fruity tastes (peach and apricot) as well as caramel, honey (because it is naturally sweet) and the slightly woody profile. Du Toit said just like wine, the taste of rooibos was influenced by various factors, including its place of origin, or terroir.

The EU has also officially given it “protected designation of origin status”, the first African food product to crack the nod. Like Champagne or a port, this recognition celebrates or appreciates the heritage of rooibos and where it is grown.

“This means that it can’t be grown anywhere else and be called rooibos,” she said.

Rooibos only grows in the Clanwilliam area in the Cederberg in the Western Cape, where it endures harsh climatic conditions: in winter the temperatures plummet to below zero and in summer it soars above 50 degrees. She said it wasn’t just the terroir that influenced its taste, but also the amount of rain, sun and the age of the plant.

“Rooibos is actually fermented, so they would harvest rooibos and then ferment it for 12 hours in the sun and then it gets that rich red amber colour, but you can also get a green rooibos which is unfermented and that taste profile is very different, more grassy, much more elegant and doesn’t have that intense fermented caramel flavour as the fermented rooibos.”

Apart from its uses in beer production and the addition of rooibos to baked goods like bread and rusks as well as yoghurt, it was also used by winemakers as a preservative in place of tannin, which could provoke headaches or an allergic reaction by some, Du Toit said.

Rooibos Beer

Makes: 7.25 litres

Preparation time: 20 minutes (excluding fermentation time)


  • 5ml sugar
  • 500ml lukewarm water
  • 10g instant yeast (15ml – 1 packet)
  • 600g castor sugar (750ml)
  • 15ml tartaric acid
  • 250ml lemon juice
  • 20ml lemon rind
  • 3 litres strong rooibos tea
  • 3.5 litres cold water


  1. Dissolve sugar in lukewarm water, sprinkle the instant yeast over and set aside until frothy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Mix the remaining dry ingredients, liquid and lemon juice with the activated yeast mixture and stir well.
  3. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrapping and leave it in a warm place for about 12 hours.
  4. Finally, strain the mixture through a muslin cloth and pour the beer into bottles with tops. Leave in a cool place for 3 days then chill before serving.
  5. It’s recommended that plastic bottles are used and that the bottles are opened slowly to avoid an explosion.

Recipe courtesy of

The Independent on Saturday