Beard & Barrel
If Mitch’s accent sounds a bit funny well then that’s because it is. Mitch is from Texas originally and came over to South Africa in 2010 to be with girlfriend, who soon after became his fiancé and is now his wife.
“We lived in Grahamstown and the first beer I had here was at my girlfriends 21st, a Black Label, and I thought, no, there’s got to be something better than this.”
Mitch’s search took him to a Makro in PE that had Robsons (this was back when Robsons’s was still good), and because this was the closest place where he could buy craft he’d buy the entire stock and store it under his bed.
From Grahamstown the couple moved to Welkom and then Cape Town where Mitch had his first taste of Devil’s Peak.
“This is what I’d been looking for.”
At the Hope and Vine festival in Constantia Mitch met the crew from Devils Peak, gave them his resume, told them he loved their beer, and asked what he could do to work for them.
“They invited me to an interview, then called back later that day and said, fuck it, come to the brewery on Monday.”
Mitch no longer works at the brewery, and is now doing his own thing, which you can find out about in the video above.
One thing’s for sure, the guy knows his beer, and going home at least once a year to visit his folks is important to his wealth of knowledge as Austin has a massive craft beer scene.
“There’s my local in Houston, UFOs, which has something like 140 bottles. Just hundreds of different beers. If you try all their draughts in a year, they put your name on a massive flying saucer. By that time you’ve probably spent about 3000 US on beer… So yeah, it’s quite a hefty price to pay.”
Mitch says that where in the states guys will happily pay R60 for a beer, he’s noticed that when guys here are charged R35 for a beer they start loosening their neckties.
“It’s tough, young guys don’t have the bucks, older guys are stuck in the ways, so the market is between 25 and 45.”
But what even is craft and why should we pay more for it?
“It’s got nothing to do with volume. It’s about dedication, passion, quality of ingredients and attention to detail. Truth to material. Devil’s Peak doesn’t skimp. They get German malts even though the euro is killing them, but they refuse to compromise and would rather take a knock on profit margins than sell their beer short.”
Any problems with the local scene?
“There needs to be more accountability in the craft beer community. There are guys who are pushing beer, knowing that it’s garbage, that it’s off, the guy can smell butterscotch, but instead of chucking it he says, ‘No it’s craft, it’s supposed to smell like butterscotch…’ We need a governing body that holds beers accountable. Audits. Things like that.”
Great stuff, Mitch.