Wine to Beer | Devil's Peak Brewing Company

Wine to Beer

Wine to Beer

Mitch:

It was a massive leap of faith, to leave an industry you had worked in for 9 years to pursue another venture. Something very untested in South Africa at the time. I’m sure you knew your background, both in education and years as a winemaker, would serve you well, but there had to be some trepidation. Were you nervous about moving out of wine and into beer? Did you have any concerns about the differences in process?

JC:

As with any move from something you have known and become accustomed to, there is a lot of natural apprehension – especially when, as you state, it’s pretty unchartered in SA. However, at the time, I was really looking for a new challenge, and that’s exactly what beer brought to the table. I believe fortune favours the brave.

Mitch:

In 2011, there were only a handful of commercially available craft beers, and fewer still were brewing the bold, American style beers that Devil’s Peak had set out to make. What were some of the challenges you faced when brewing your first batches of beer? Hops and malts vs grapes and blending. Did you start on a smaller scale or jump straight in?

JC:

We started with a 500L system but make no mistake, that 500l batch was as important, if not more, than any 80,000L batch at a commercial brewery. It was all about putting our best foot forward to make the best possible impression. Everything had to be perfect. I think one of the biggest challenges then, and to a certain degree they still exist, is the fact that the industry is so small. Equipment, exclusive raw material and process sharing is really hard. One aspect that I did welcome wholeheartedly is the fact that what you put in, you get out. With winemaking it’s different. You are at the mercy of the vintage. Bad harvest conditions and you will struggle to make a wine of the same calibre as in a year when everything just falls in place. Beer is, in that sense, a lot more predictable and controllable.

Mitch:

In the Western Cape especially, you see a lot of wine makers and wine farms opening a small brewery operation on the side. Because the processes of beer and wine making are similar, it’s often thought that a master of one has an easy transition to becoming a master of the other. Do you have any advice for the next wine maker turned beer brewer?

JC:

Yeah look – you will definitely have a great platform to understand and grasp many of the concepts that share common ground – especially fermentation. With that being said, the raw materials and processes differ, so there is still a lot be learned. Many winemakers making great wines and employ old world practices of natural fermentation etc. This is, however, very different from brewing where sanitation and control is key.

Mitch:

Devil’s Peak has put a lot of focus on beer/wine hybrids and barrel aging. Is that your doing, or is DPBC simply following American trends?

JC:

I would say it’s a collective effort, and a lot to do with where we find ourselves. We are in the Cape, mere minutes away from the Winelands, so it would be foolish not to explore that avenue. Obviously we have looked to the US for some of the inspiration, but it just makes sense to experiment with these styles and tap into the large wine drinking community out there.

 

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