The Little Brewery on the River
Situated in the oldest building in Port Alfred and serving beer to only the local community, The Little Brewery on the River is one not to miss.
By MIKE HALLS
One thing I have noticed, since I set out on this quest to visit all the craft breweries South Africa has to offer, is that the tastes for different beer styles differs greatly by region. Whilst Cape Town is all about big beers like hoppy Pale Ales, IPA’s, Double IPA’s and interesting new creations like sours and fruit beers, the Eastern Cape market demands are more about the classics. The beers that most South Africans have grown up with, Lagers, Pilsners and maybe for the more adventurous and Porter. I spoke to some locals about the idea of an IPA whilst enjoying a pint in the bustling Wharf Street Brew Pub adjacent to the brewery. Most hadn’t tried an IPA before, but didn’t like the idea, those that had, said it wasn’t something they could drink more than half a glass of. The aromas and bitterness meant that the beer was not easy drinking enough.
So, when reviewing beers and breweries that are not in Cape Town, I have learnt to first seek advise from the locals as to what they want to drink. In Port Alfred, that seems to be a well made, easy drinking beer. The Little Brewery on the River certainly know their target market, all four of the beers I tried were extremely easy drinking, quite light and very well made.
The Little Brewery on the River is situated in a river-side historical stone building which was built in 1853 to be the Harbour Master’s office and warehouse, it is the oldest building in Port Alfred. It has had a varied and interesting history, over the past 164 years it has been the Harbour Master’s office, the town hall, and a cinema, to name a few.
In 1998 it became a brewery by the name of “Coelacanth Brewery”, selling beer under the brand name “Old Four Legs”. However, the Coelacanth closed in 2002, and the business (and building) was idle until current owner Ian Cook bought it in 2008. Renovations and up-grades took a year, and in 2009 they started trading under the name “The Little Brewery On The River”, selling 4 products – Kowie Gold Pilsner, Alfred’s Own Lager, Coin Ale, and Squires Porter.
They have a brew length of 1,000 litres, and service the local area only. The next-door Wharf Street Brew Pub has all four of their beers on tap and offers some great pub food. I had the ribs, which were excellent. The Wharf Street Brew Pub is one of the best-preserved historical buildings in town with a superb underground wine cellar of some 25-metre length. The pub was established in 2010 by Ian and after running it himself for two years he leased the business to Bram Coetzee who runs it now.
The brewery offers a full tour experience, bookable in advanced, which includes a tasting of all four beers and a full draft of your favourite. The tour represents great value and I would definitely recommend it, I certainly gained lots of interesting information.
The Little Brewery on the River sell their beers to the local market in one litre PET (plastic) bottles. Getting a supply of glass bottles in Port Alfred posed a logistical nightmare, so they decided on the use of plastic instead. I took three of these plastic bottles back to Cape Town with me, and we sampled them with the brewers at Woodstock Brewery. Having the plastic bottles made it super easy to just throw in my suitcase and they didn’t seem to affect the beers negatively at all.
To check out my review on their four beers, click the link on the images below.