Thursday, June 10, 2010

South Africa - Land of the Lagers, and the Corporations.

What do you think of when you think about South African beer?  Anything at all?  Maybe Castle Lager, probably the most popular brand on the Southern tip of Africa?  Perhaps the multitude of European imports such as Heineken and Guinness?  Maybe even beer from one of the few microbreweries starting up to compete against the big boys in this beer corporation heavy nation?  What you probably should be thinking of, on the other hand, is the beer known simply as MGD.  Yeah, that's right, Miller Genuine Draft.  It turns out MGD is owned by South African Breweries, the same company that started out as Castle Breweries producing the Castle brand beers and turned into a GIANT of the beer industry.  In addition to Castle and MGD, SAB also owns/brews the popular (especially in Europe) Pilsner Urquell, Peroni, and Grolsch brands.  And of course one step up the corporate ladder you'll find London-based SABMiller, the second largest brewing company in the world, including all the brands above plus of course the Miller line, Blue Moon, and Leinenkugel among others.  

There is hope, though!  Similar to how microbreweries are surging in popularity in the United States and have been for a few decades now, the same is happening in South Africa.  The official website for microbreweries in South Africa lists 42 different microbreweries located throughout the nation... hope indeed for the beer scene!  
Unfortunately I've never had the opportunity to try any of these beers, as the only indigenous South African beer I've ever tried is a Castle Lager back in the day before I started reviewing beers and even really fully appreciating good beers.  That was during my Summer studying abroad in London and that time spent was what really kick-started my love and appreciation for beer.  Castle itself is nothing special at all, just a typical yellow adjunct lager with generally poor reviews... certainly nothing to seek out although I don't know that it's even available in Baton Rouge.  It's almost certainly available in parts of the USA though, and unfortunately it seems to be that for the most part, the most widespread beers from each country are FAR from the best.  This trend continues with South Africa and Castle Lager.

So if you do get the chance to visit the 2010 FIFA World Cup host country, do yourself a favor and seek out the local microbrews... sure to be better beer!