JC Steyn: Beer and Wine
Beer and Wine
There was a time when beer in South Africa was relegated to a status far below its grape-derived counterpart. It wasn’t that South African’s didn’t love beer – they always have an always will – but it was not something that was celebrated, discussed and enjoyed in the same manner as wine. All of that changed with the craft beer revolution, and Devil’s Peak head brewer JC Steyn has played an integral role in showing the depth and complexity that this historic brew can bring to the table. With a B.Sc in Oenology and Viticulture from Stellenbosch University, he had the knowledge and experience to take beer-making in South Africa to a new level.
“I was involved in winemaking for 9 years as Head Winemaker at a Stellenbosch Estate. Due to my passion in all things zymurgy (science of fermentation), I fiddled in some homebrewing as well as some very experimental batches of Balsamic Style vinegar on the side. When the opportunity arose to progress to Devil’s Peak, I leaped at the prospect to get involved in this fledgling industry. The chance of creating pioneering products in an innovative industry could not be passed up,” says JC.
Two of those pioneering products in particular, the Vannie Hout and Vin de Saison, lent themselves to JC’s wine-making background in a way that conventional beer never could – with the introduction of the barrel-aging process. The door between beer and wine was now wide open.
Vannie Hout, the first of the two to be released, was a brett-infused farmhouse ale. After spending six months in chardonnay and pinot noir barrels, it was bottle conditioned in 750ml and released in limited quantities.
After the successful launch of our first barrel-aged offering, the Vin de Saison, South Africa’s first beer and wine hybrid, was taken from concept to reality. This style involves grape must (juice) or even whole grapes being incorporated into the brewing process. Some brewers add it to the mash or boil and while others combine it directly to the cooled wort prior to fermentation.
The original Vin de Saison was made with 20% Swartland Chenin blanc acquired from Mullineux Family wines. The newest blend of Vin de Saison includes Clairette Blanche and Chenin blanc grape juice expertly blended with Saison.
“We opted for this grape variety as it’s the most widely grown wine grape variety in South Africa and increasingly becoming a force to be reckoned with internationally,” says JC.
After spending over eight months in white wine barrels, the result was a beer with a super fresh aroma and a lovely crisp grape derived acidity. Just as successful as the Vannie Hout, the Vin de Saison also enjoyed acclaim for beer and wine drinkers alike. So much so that in 2017, Devil’s Peak made the decision to bottle a run of each in 340ml bottles. This allowed our barrel-aged offerings to reach an even larger audience with the increased accessibility of a smaller package.
But JC hasn’t stopped there. Even now, Devil’s Peak is growing our barrel-aging program with the acquisition of eight 2,500L oval foudres. With these new oak fermentation vessels, the future of #DPBC innovation is brighter than ever.
Look out for Vin de Saison and Vannie Hout, as well as a new and exciting brand in JC’s lineup, Alpha Craft, at leading liquor retailers across South Africa.