You can’t help but notice a sense of pride as Warren welcomes us into the Newlands Spring Brewing Company - and it’s easy to see why. Here is a man who is pursuing his passion for making exceptional craft beer of the highest quality in what must be one of the most beautiful and historic craft breweries in South Africa. And he carries the confidence of someone who quietly knows that they’re really good at their job.
Nestled in the shadows of Table Mountain in Cape Town, the Newlands Spring Brewery is housed in the refurbished Mariendahl Brewery which dates back to 1859. This historic monument is the last remaining relic of South Africa’s brewing history which originated on this site over 350 years ago. Within these ancient brewery walls sits an array of gleaming copper pots and stainless-steel tanks, burbling with purpose under the ever-watchful eye of Warren and his expert team.
So how did Warren land his dream job as a craft brewer? “While studying towards my BSc in Microbiology at University of Pretoria, I had the good fortune of making friends with my chemical engineering lecturer who was an experienced home brewer. Like any healthy student, I had a natural affinity to beer and on weekends my friends and I used to try get our hands on new styles of beer we hadn’t tasted before. At that time, we didn’t even call them craft beers, we were just happy to experiment with different styles of beer outside the usual lagers that we knew so well.
“I remember being very excited when I first realised that here was a career path that I can come to love. After finishing my honours I started off as a brewing technical operator at SAB’s Alrode Brewery in Johannesburg in 2007. In 2009 I was promoted to a Brewing Technical Trainee. From 2011 until 2015 I was a Yeast Specialist and in 2015 moved over to Fransen Street Brewery. I’m grateful that SAB recognised my ambitions and signed me up for a diploma in brewing at the United Kingdom’s Institute of Brewing and Distilling. In 2016, I completed my Master Brewer Diploma through the same Institute, which was an amazing learning experience thanks to SAB.”
Warren moved to Cape Town in 2018 with two important objectives in mind; to learn to surf and to work at the historic Newlands Brewery. “Surprisingly, there’re many similarities between learning to surf and brewing beer. Both have a steep learning curve but once you know the basics its fairly easy to perform at an average level. Its only when you watch a true master who is one with the waves or taste an exceptionally well-balanced craft beer that you realise that the learning process is never complete.”
When the position opened in July 2018 for a new Craft Brewer at Newlands Brewery, Warren grasped the opportunity with both hands. He describes his role as a combination of production brewer and brewing specialist, “Newlands Spring Brewing Co is the craft brand under SAB and AB InBev Africa, so this position comes with a fair share of responsibilities. I look after the entire brewing process from brewing to packaging. I plan the production for the brewery and also interact with the public, educating them about wonders of good beer.”
Warren looks over the range of four Newlands Spring Brewing Co Craft Beers as a proud father would. The Mountain Weiss is an unfiltered wheat beer brewed in the traditional Bavarian style. The Jacobs Pale Ale comprises three barley malt varieties and English heritage Hops EK Goldings and Fuggles. It revisits a 155-year-old recipe that was found in the Newlands brewery archives. The Tribute Larger uses 100% malt and a trio of South African hops in tribute to the Cape brewing legend himself, Anders Ohlsson. And Warren’s personal favourite; the Passionate Blonde which is a Belgian style, blonde ale which uses a special yeast from Belgium and the unique Southern Passion hop from George to give it a unique passionfruit nose.
In addition to securing the best ingredients such as fresh spring water from the mountain and top-quality hops grown in George, 400km west of Cape Town, making a good craft beer requires striking a delicate balance between age-old brewing techniques and innovation and experimentation. Perhaps one of Warren’s most exciting new craft beers is the 10,000 Miles Fresh Hop Ale, which was born out of a collaboration between Newlands Spring Brewery Co and the Elysian Brewing Company in the USA.
“With this limited-edition craft beer we wanted to showcase unique hops from both countries, and after much deliberation with my counterpart in the USA, we finally settled on a recipe containing 13 varieties of hops and three varieties of malt. The brew house process used only local South African hops and when the wort was cooled into the ferment vessel, the American hops were put into play. The result is a smooth and medium bodied, IPA style, fresh hop beer with a 6,5% alcohol and an intriguing nose of ripe mango, passionfruit, some grassy notes, a little guava, some light lemon hints and red berries.
“Unfortunately, the 10,000 Mile Fresh Hop Ale is a limited batch with availability only in Cape Town, so to get your hands on some you’ll need to visit one of the few select outlets in Cape Town before it’s all gone. The feedback so far has been excellent, and I hope that this collaboration paves the way for Newlands Brewery to start exploring new beers and doing more seasonal and small-scale varieties in the future.