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Top Breweries from the Eastern Cape

Top Breweries from the Eastern Cape

Micro-breweries, boutique breweries or craft breweries – call them what you want, are becoming more and more popular. Understandably so, because every brewer we spoke to was absolutely passionate about their beer.

If you enjoy the taste of a good brew and enjoy experimenting and, particularly appreciate something that has been crafted and perfected, then these brews are for you.

Our Home Food and Travel judging team consisted of eight people, male and female, and we had plenty of fun tasting, visiting and enjoying these brews. We ranked the breweries on the overall popularity of their beers. Our opinion is purely subjective and you, dear reader, may have different opinion. Enjoy the read.

  1. The Little Brewery on the River

Initially the brewery was named the Coelacanth Brewery and was erected in 1998. It is located in an old warehouse on Wharf Street, the oldest street in Port Alfred. It has changed hands numerous times over the years and is currently owned by Ian “Squire” Cook, who clearly knows how to brew great beer.

The Little Brewery currently has three brands; Coin Ale, which was voted, by a significant margin, the best brew in the Eastern Cape; Squires Porter which was a close second and Kowie Gold. 

“The Coin Ale is a South African adaptation of an English Ale and it has been given more bubbles than normal. The Kowie Gold is our top seller and the Squires Porter is a combination of a stout and an ale,” says Ian.

As with many of the other micro-breweries, The Little Brewery only distributes their beer locally.  It is available on tap and in bottles in Port Alfred, Bathurst and Kenton on Sea.

Ian will happily give you a tour of the brewery and in the neighbouring warehouse you will find The Wharf Street Brew Pub. Although this is a separate establishment they serve tasters of all The Little Breweries beers as well as delicious meals.

Overall, The Little Brewery on the River performed tops, which is no big surprise once you’ve tried there brews.

20 Wharf Street, Port Alfred, Tel: 046 624 5705, www.littlebrewery.co.za

  1. Featherstone Brewing Company

Mark Riley, the brewer and owner, of Featherstone Brewery says; “We are a relatively new microbrewery just 5km outside of Grahamstown, close to Featherstone Kloof, directly off the N2. We are a family run business producing small batches of four different brews for local distribution.”

The brands include Golden Mole IPA which is the most popular, Oldenburgia Weiss, Bell Ringer Rooibos Pale Ale and Tumble Bug Stout with Drostdy English Ale and Blaauwkrantz Porter due for imminent release.

The Featherstone brews are only available in Grahamstown, Port Alfred, Kenton-on-Sea and Bushmans River Mouth. 

Our panel particularly enjoyed the Golden Mole IPA (voted the third best tasting of all the brews) with the Oldenbergia (fourth best) also receiving much praise and the Bell Ringer not far behind.  As far as stouts go, the Tumble Bug performed best out of all the breweries.

Tel: 081 066 5530, www.featherstonebrewery.co.za

  1. Richmond Hill Brewing Company

Car Park John, named for the legendary local surfer (right), has to be the most interesting name of any of the beers that we have come across and, ccording to Niall Cook, (left) the brewer at Richmond Hill Brewing Company (RHBC), up to the present, the only brew they have had.

Car Park John is brewed according to an American Amber Ale recipe making it very flavoursome. Niall says that the hops, imported from the US, give the brew a tropical fruit aroma and the crystal malt imported from Germany adds a caramel after taste.

This brewery has just undergone a major expansion from a 50l brewery to a 550l brewery.

As RHBC is owned by the famous Repton family, the beers are available on tap from their restaurants, namely Beer Yard, Beer Shack and Charlies but, with their expanded capacity, they hope to distribute into other restaurants and stores in the PE area.

Car Park John was very popular and a high scoring brew amongst our judges and ranked as fifth best single brew overall.

Visit the Beer Yard, Beer Shack and Charlies for more information or check out them out on Facebook.

  1. benn koppen

Benn Koppen is unique in many ways, one of which is that they are not a brewery themselves but that they have recipes that owner, Jonathan Roche, uses at different breweries.  In the Eastern Cape, The Little Brewery in Port Alfred produces their delicious Cape Frontier Lager.

“We try brewing exceptional craft beer, beer that is not only great in taste but that can also be enjoyed one after another,” says Jonathan.

Benn Koppen also has four other brands but all are brewed outside of the Eastern Cape. All brews are available at Benn Koppens’ growler outlet in Main Road, Walmer, Port Elizabeth.

Another unique factor and something that makes Benn Koppen attractive to craft beer enthusiasts is their use of growlers. A growler is a container or vessel that is used for the transport of beer. It can also be described as an air-tight jug, typically made out of glass, ceramic or stainless steel that allows you to take draft beer from one place to another without a degradation of quality.

Their beers are sold in 1l and 2l bottles and also in a 5l keg, and there is something quite pleasurable about popping into the Benn Koppen growler station, having a chat and refilling your growler.

Our judges thoroughly enjoyed the Cape Frontier Lager, gave it a high score, and were delighted with the growler idea.

Main Road, Walmer, Port Elizabeth, Tel: 082 782 9690 , www.bennkoppen.co.za


  1. Bridge Street Brewery

Located at the Bridge Street complex in Baakens Valley this is not only a great brewery but also a wonderful restaurant. Their first brew was mashed in on the 1st of January 2012 and it has since become famous for brewing great beer in the true, traditional artisan fashion.

Lex Mitchell (left), perhaps the most famous Master Brewer in the Eastern Cape, ably assisted by Simphiwe (right) has developed four beers namely; Valley Light Lager; Celtic Cross Pilsner; Black Dragon Stout and Boars Head Ale.

The Celtic Cross Pilsner is the only award winning brew from the Eastern Cape and is very popular in Port Elizabeth. 

Lex describes the Celtic Cross Pilsner; “Our award-winning, pale medium-strength Pilsner is a refreshing brew with a pronounced hop flavour and clean hoppy nose.”

The Bridge Street Brews are available in Port Elizabeth and St Francis Bay, specifically at Something Good Roadhouse, Gunstons Gastropub, Buzz Factory, Barn and Barrel, Friendly Stranger and the St Francis Brewing Company.

Coming fifth on this list for this famous, award winning and well respected brewery is either a testament to the strong competition or to the poor knowledge of our judges. You decide.

1 Bridge Street , Tel 041 581 0361, www.bridgestreet.co.za 

  1. St Francis Bay Brewing Company

Lance Kabot is the brewer and founder of St Francis Brewing Co and he acquired his skill as a young man working in two breweries on the West Coast of the USA.

He says, “We brew on site and serve the beer directly out of the tanks so the beer is always fresh. We have four different styles of beer; Beach Blonde Light, Lighthouse Ale, Wildside IPA and Storm Rider Stout. Beach Blonde is the most popular in summer as it is very light, thirst quenching and easy to drink, while in winter, the other more hearty beers do well.”

The brewery is in the beautiful holiday village of St Francis Bay and may be found at 167 St Francis Drive. This is another brewery that also serves as an eatery. In the spirit of the brew pub, St Francis Brewing Co has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

“We are passionate about beer and love to see people enjoying good beer and food. Our beers can be found in selected liquor stores and bars namely, Barney’s PE, Jbay Bru Co, Ninas in JBay, Striped Horse in Cape Town and Parliament in Johannesburg,” adds Lance.

Our judges particularly liked the Beach Blond Light.

Tel: 071 886 0150 or visit them on Facebook.

  1. Dockside Brewery

The first thing you discover when chatting to owner and brewer, Karl Schlaphoss , is that he is intensely passionate about his beers and he describes what he does best.

“Our extraordinary beers are inspired by traditional styles and methods but always with our own unique spin, they have intense flavours and aromas, the entire process occurs traditionally and naturally, unpasteurised and unfiltered.

Our beers are not intended to appeal to the masses. We want to challenge beer drinkers to try something new, something different, something extraordinary.”

The Dockside Brewery have the widest variety, thirteen, of any of the brewers on this list and also some of the most interesting and definitely some of the most unusual brews.

“We experiment with whatever ingredients we find in our cupboards and fridges, things like chicory, licorice root, chilli, peaches, apricots, raisins, rooibos and beetroot. And we won’t stop there,” adds Karl.

Dockside Brewery’s pubs is as interesting as their beers and watch their Facebook page for upcoming events. We enjoyed the African IPA and Patience the most. This brewery may not be ranked very high on our list but for true beer enthusiasts this is a must visit and a must taste brewery.

Whites Road, Central, Port Elizabeth, Cell: 083 273 7505 or www.docksidebrewery.co.za