It was a warm and welcoming Saturday afternoon the first time I visit Darling Brew. I’ve enjoyed a morning in the village and have saved the ‘best for last’, so to speak, having read about the expansive changes that Darling Brew had undertaken to create their new improved Darling Brew Tasteroom & Brewery, also to taste their carbon neutral Blood Serpent.
Located off a winding road that leads from the heart of Darling to it’s quaint outskirts, where urban edge meets sweeping views across the wheat fields, is where I find Darling Brew’s most impressive state of the art facility.
The premises are massive and custom built to allow an all in one Darling Brew experience. Here they offer a fascinating look at the world of craft brewing, beer tasting and a restaurant that serves delicious beer paired meals made from fresh, organic, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. There’s a lovely garden and kiddies play area too.
Every Travel Tuesday you can join their 30 minute interactive tour between between 12 and 1pm, the cost is R60 and includes biltong and 330ml beer. The rest of week guided private tours are available by appointment.
My guide Manus walks me through the facilities, telling me the story of how owners Kevin and Philippa Wood left home in 2007 to undertake a trip into Africa, with the sole purpose of seeing as much wildlife as possible. Shortly into their trip they came on the idea to develop a craft brewery in Darling on their return, turning their attention – between game spotting – to research and compare varied and interesting beer, bottle sizes and branding as they went.
They returned home with inspired thoughts and ideas, determined to turn their dream into a reality, which is exactly what they have since done. Walking the challenge of red tape, liquor licence applications and learning the art of brewing. With this dedicated labour of love – Darling Brew was born in March 2010.
True to their characters, they needed to add meaning to their project and found it in the endangered geometric tortoise, which is found only in the Western Cape and the Kalahari. This tortoise captures the uniqueness and the unhurried character that is Darling Brew, and from there the birth of Slow Beer. Not only as a name, but to highlight their philosophy and the slow fermentation process and why people should choose it over mass produced beer.
The Range of Beer
Anybody who knows the brew will be instantly impressed by two things, the size of the bottle at 500ml, and the labels that tell a story through the imaginative names that honour endangered animals. Each beer in the range has unique characteristics and supports it’s namesake through various conservation programs they donate to.
Among them – Black Mist, for the Verreaux’s Eagle. Gypsy Mask for the Roan Antelope. The Sun Gazer for the Sungazer lizard. Slow Beer for the Geometric Tortoise. Rogue Pony for the Plains Zebra. Thunder Bird for the Southern Ground Hornbill. Warlord for the Black Rhino. White Bird for the White Albatross. Silver Back for the Honey Badger. Bone Crusher for the Spotted Hyaena. Long Claw for the Panthera Leo. Blood Serpent for the Secretary Bird. Read more about their various beers here.
You’ll have to work your way through the range to find your personal favourite. I chose the Bone Crusher purely on label and was thrilled by its edgy and refreshing taste an lingering bitterness, loving how it represents one of my most respected creatures.
A tour at Darling Brew takes you beyond the story into the brewing process though, allowing you to breath in the heady aroma of hops, pre and post production. They have the capacity to pump out more than 80 000 litres of beer a month here. An astounding fact that has them in over 200 outlets in the Western Cape alone. While I walk with Manus between the towering steel tanks, he points out the very cool looking brewers at work, as they test levels and take pride in their craft.
Felix Magdziarz is the award-winning brewmaster at Darling Brew, a legend and the man behind the beer. This is where our sighs of appreciation should be directed. Under his guidance is a team of talented and upcoming young brewers who are being moulded for the future, as he focuses on sourcing local young talent for development.
The Blood Serpent. Africa’s First Carbon Neutral Beer
But there is even more to this Slow Brew story, as at Darling Brew, they are doing things differently, something which is evident in their gentle approach to the world and sustainable practices, producing African’s first carbon neutral beer – The Blood Serpent.
An Export Larger with spicy flavours and undertones of grass bottled at 5% alc, the Blood Serpent is named for the Secretary Bird that is classified as a vulnerable species according to the IUCN Red List and has a distinct profile, quite unlike that of any other bird. “This made it the perfect choice of animal,” says Philippa, “as Blood Serpent is unlike any other beer in the market.”
For Blood Serpent, Darling Brew teamed up with sustainability consultants Ecolution Consulting in order to ensure that the beer offsetting process was done correctly and that the offsets were validated by recognised verification bodies for carbon offsetting.
A word from the Sustainability Consultant onboard André Harms
Speaking to Andre Harms, Founder and Sustainable Engineer at Ecolution sustainability consultant to Darling Brew, I learn that in order to achieve a carbon neutral beer, ‘Darling Brew had to offset the scope 1 and 2 emissions of the Blood Serpent process, as well as the scope 3 emissions associated with packaging. The carbon emissions created by the fuel, water and energy consumption during brewing, as well as the glass, labels and packaging during production, are offset with each new batch of Blood Serpent.’
“Ecolution assisted Darling Brew in conducting a green house gas audit to quantify the carbon equivalent footprint of the production of Blood Serpent, we are proud to be a part of achieving this feat.”
The offsetting process is done through the Kariba REDD+ project in Zimbabwe with impactChoice as an offsetting partner. It was chosen based on the fact that the project has emissions reductions that are real, measurable and permanent. REDD+ is an acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the project has emissions reductions that are real, measurable and permanent. The carbon offsets are validated by the Verified Carbon Standard, the Gold Standard and the Plan Vivo and Andre is helping to oversee this.
These are some of the ways in which the Kariba Redd+ Project is making real change happen: Providing year-round food security. | Protecting local biodiversity and conserving natural resources. | Creating employment opportunities. | Facilitating new sources of sustainable income generation. | Promoting gender parity and the empowerment of women. | Strengthening social infrastructure through education and healthcare. | Upholding indigenous cultural identity whilst providing a platform for training and knowledge transfer.
Catching up with Sarah Farrell
Sarah Farrell is the creative and communications manager of Darling Brew and is green at heart. She tells me that for as long as she can remember, she’s had a deep connection and love for nature and from her days at UCT working on the Green Campus Initiative, has made an authentic and sustainable existence her priority.
Working for Hotel Verde, her interest morphed from a burning desire to a serious commitment in every aspect of her life and she is now walking this journey with Darling Brew in terms of communicating all the good that they do. Sustainability is an integral part of the brand.
Recruited to assist with the launch Blood Serpent and has become infected by their intrinsic passion for, and commitment to, conservation and dedicating themselves to the ongoing journey that is sustainability. This commitment shines through in many ways:
– each beer is dedicated to an endangered creature that it honours and supports.
– In their creatively decorated taste room filled with colourful graffiti walls and the tables, chairs and light fittings that are made from repurposed materials
– In their dedication to supporting Darling businesses through their supply chain and hiring local employees
– In their ongoing commitment to reduce waste and energy and water consumption
– and of course the decision to produce Africa’s first carbon neutral beer
‘Most of all, it is evident that there are plans in place to further Darling Brew along the sustainability journey. It is, in essence, an ongoing commitment that will take constant effort’ says Sarah.
Handcrafted beer has given me a much greater appreciation for the drink.
What astounded me was the modestly of those involved, the ones doing the work and overseeing the policies and sustainability at Darling Brew. It’s time more people knew about their commitment of the environment and conservation.
Lessons I took from my beer tasting
- Carbonated beers work well at cleansing the palate and a small glass between courses will revitalise your taste buds. 2. Choose a craft beer for the occasion, a meal or even the weather. For long summer days a Slow Beer or Bone Crusher. On a cold day or evening a Gypsy Mask or Black Mist slowly savoured. 3. For too long our taste buds have been restricted but we now have a variety of styles to choose from. Its important to try a few and find what we love. 4. Most important lesson, drink craft.
Darling Brew is a green leader within their field and their sustainability practices and values offer a fine example, hopefully one that other producers will follow.
The important facts
Darling Brew’s new premises are situated at 48 Caledon Street in Darling, an easy hours drive from Cape Town. Contact them on 021 2861099 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. You can also connect on social media as follows: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.
Given how popular they are, please book to avoid disappointment as the restaurant works on by booking only basis. Also, you may want to consider staying in Darling, for this I recommend The Granary Petite Hotel.
Visitors to Darling Brew can enjoy a proudly South African barbecue ‘braai’ menu indoors or outside in the garden and beer lovers can enjoy the Darling Brew craft beers with a selection of light meals served individually or on share platters. For beer novices, there is also a beginner’s beer tasting which goes perfectly with a platter for two. This is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or head out for lunch.
Do the right thing, drink slow beer with a clean conscience. #SpotTheSerpent
The cycle of consciousness – farming, community, reforestation, packaging, energy.