The last brewery that we managed to chat to is the Joburg based company, Agar’s Brewery. They will be at Capital Craft Beer Festival 2017 this Saturday, be sure to pull in and give their range of craft beers a taste. Lets get to know they a bit better with this short introduction and interview:
Agar’s Brewery opened its doors on 1st August 2014. The Agar family has a long tradition of brewing, dating back to 1852 when Charles Agar brewed pineapple beer in Durban.
Mike Agar, the Brewmaster, has been brewing for over 22 years, and developed this passion whilst watching his grandfather brew.
Agar’s Brewery only uses the finest ingredients sourced from around the world to craft a family of distinctive beers, including its Jozi Blonde, Red Ale, White Dog Saison, Jack Tar ESB, American Pale Ale, Black Mamba Stout, Tomahawk IPA and Wild Berry Ale
Interview: Agar’s Brewery
MA: Hello there, how you doing today? Its a pleasure to be chatting to you!
To get started, do you mind giving us a quick introduction to how Agar’s Brewery got started and where in SA you are from?
Agar’s Brewery is a proudly local family brewery based in Kya Sand, Joburg. Although Master Brewer, Michael Agar, had been brewing beer at home for nearly 25 years, Agar’s Brewery was officially launched in August 2014. Mike, as did brother Roland Agar, also a keen and accomplished home brewer, used to attend various beer festivals well before 2014, including the first ever Clarens Festival 10 year ago, numerous SA on Tap and Jozi Craft Beer Festivals, Pretoria home brewer Summer Beer Festivals, and some of the original Solstice Festivals at the Irish Ale House in Broederstroom. The Agar love for brewing and enjoying quality craft beer came when both Mike and Rols enjoyed lengthy stays overseas in the nineties in both the UK and USA, where their eyes and taste buds were opened to what could be produced with quality international ingredients, rather than the same old same old bland South African mainstream offering. Charles Agar, our great great grandfather, who arrived on South African shores, on board the Jack Tar (name of our English Special Bitter) in 1850 from the UK, ran a curry house in early Durban and perfected the art of pineapple beer. Our grandfather from our mother’s side also had a go at brewing his own beer in Mtunzini during the seventies and eighties. There was always great excitement opening one of his carefully stored bottles, although there were also a fair number that popped prematurely! Donovan Agar, the youngest brother, and also keen beer lover, joined Mike in the business in September 2015 to focus on sales and marketing. Currently Agar’s Brewery are represented in approximately 150 venues and outlets, mostly in Gauteng, but also in KZN, the Free State, Mpumulanga, North West, Eastern Cape, and even Namibia.
MA: What are the beers that you offer at your brewery?
We have 8 original beers offered by the brewery. We have subsequently added a New England Warrior IIPA and Golden Ale to this list. Our Jozi Blonde Ale, and easy drinking and lightish Ale with soft honey and fruity notes is our most popular beer. Our two juicy, hoppy, bitter IPA’s, being the Tomahawk and Warrior, are our highest rated beers, and we look forward to sharing these with the Capital Craft craft beer lovers during the festival. We have a moorish Black Mamba stout, and two amber Ale, being the Jack Tar ESB and a Red Ale. Although we do not have a Weiss, we produce a fruity and spicey White Dog Saison, a Belgian / French Farmhouse Ale, named after Mike’s standard white poodle. For the ladies, we brew our Wild Berry Ale, where we ferment a blonde ale on Raspberries and strawberries, giving it a lovely redish colour and fruity aroma and taste. Mike’s APA is the little brother of the two IPA’s, but still has hoppy aromas and tastes, and is quite easy drinking.
MA: What have been some of the major challenges for your brewery over the years?
Taking that big leap and going official was a major challenge. Brewing at home was easy and could be stopped for a while if necessary. The industry started growing rapidly and home-brewers were no longer as welcome as they used to be. Once trading, we have faced the usual start up challenges of capacity, market penetration, expansion, and the growing competition. Quality and consistency is of utmost importance to us. The best international ingredients are used for every brew. We will not release a brew we are not happy with. Having said that, Mike and assistant brewer, Jake Sandenberg, seldom brew the exact same beer twice. They are always tweaking and making small changes to further improve whatever we have. Educating the public and venue owners how to protect natural beer has been one of our biggest challenges. We hate the thought of cooking our beer, and prefer keep it natural, to bring out as much flavour and aroma from the malt and hops that we use. As a result, cold storage is a non-negotiable, and requires continual monitoring and follow up, and can also be a deal breaker.
MA: Micro Breweries and locally made beer is fast becoming high in demand and highly attractive. How have you seen the change in mindset of local South Africans over the years to local craft beer?
Sadly South Africans were forced to endure bland lagers from mainstream brewing companies for far too long, and a large number of them have been brainwashed. Beers can offer so much more in tastes, colours, aromas, bitterness, etc. This is changing slowly, thanks to the likes of Capital Craft, who have invested so much into opening the eyes of our beer drinking community. Although the number of brewers has increased significantly over the past few years to over 250, we believe there remain massive opportunities to penetrate new markets, with proven quality craft beer.
MA: You will have a stand at the Capital Craft Beer Festival in Pretoria this year. Are you guys excited for this years festival?
Can’t wait! We were there is 2015 and had such a blast. Our beers were well received. We are fortunate to have a very loyal bunch of family and friends who come and support and help during most beer festivals, which creates a unique vibe around our stand. At all times, there is a good chance that you will bump into at least one if not more of the Agars, who are always happy to share their passion and knowledge with any beer drinker, be it an expert or novice, and most importantly we strive to have fun! There is quite a bit of friendly competition to get behind the taps and interact with the masses. Our friends really enjoy it!
MA: Lets make a prediction… which of your beers would be the best seller on the day?
Jozi Blonde for the guys, followed by our Wild Berry for the ladies. The crafties will enjoy the Tomahawk and new Warrior!
MA: Are there any special mentions you wish to make, praising the people who have helped put craft beer on the map in SA?
Natalie and Stephan Meyer have been our mentors from our early brewing days, and were the ones to get us to pull the trigger back in 2014. The likes of Johan Auricombe from Capital Craft and Murray Slater from Beerhouse have done wonders for getting craft beer out into the public domain at well run and top notch establishments, where people can enjoy an extensive range of craft beer, as well as good food and entertainment. Gavin Kearns with his SA on Tap festivals has taken quality craft beer to major cities around South Africa, including Durban, Joburg, and Pretoria.
MA: Where can we get hold of you on social media?
Our web-site address is www.agarsbrewery.co.za
You can follow us on https://www.facebook.com/agarsbrewery/
Our untapped rating, which we are very proud of, can be tracked on https://untappd.com/AgarsBrewery
MA: Thanks you for your time…