Food Routes Food & Travel Blog
Welcome to the Food Routes blog. Here at Food Routes, we are passionate – or one might say fanatical – about food and how we believe it to be a major component in defining “a sense of place”. Name a particular food and a country immediately comes to mind….foie gras = France; pasta = Italy; paella = Spain. How many times do you find when talking about your best travel experiences, you realise that amasing edible adventures are inextricably interwoven in your tales? More often than not, we would surmise!
Just as that pinch of special seasoning elevates a food from the dull to the divine, we hope to enhance your Food Routes experience with the Table Talk blog. A regular sprinkling of stories on the history of the foods of South Africa, spotlights on culinary luminaries both past and present, exciting food events, festivals, wineries and unique food producers are certain to spice up your journey and hopefully whet your appetite for more Food Routes adventures.
TAPPED OUT THIS WINTER? TOP UP WITH A SOUTH AFRICAN CRAFT BEER
2014 is still going to be a belt tightening time for many of us. Pot luck parties and rental movies often have to supplant desires to dine out, buy fine wines and offer opulent at-home entertaining. Yet, this need not once again be another winter of our discontent and there’s no need to despair. It’s a perfect season and reason to re-discover family, friends and the pleasure of simpler pursuits and places with a much lower outlay of precious capital - all without a sacrifice of any flavor or fun!
What better way to meet these goals than to bring beer back into your foodie repertoire. A beverage that for years has been accorded the lowly status of suitability only for the masses and the ubiquitous fraternity fracas: Beer – with its favorable price points along with the emergence of quality South African craft brewers producing a wide ranging array of food friendly styles – will find its stature elevated this year in the culinary world. Saggy Stone Brewing Company and its offspring Saggy Stone Pub & Restaurant owned and operated by Adrian & Jackie Robinson provide a perfect example. But first, let’s tap into some beer history.
THE HISTORY OF BEER
The earliest record of beer was found on a 6,000 year old Sumerian tablet depicting a group of individuals using reeds straw to share a communal bowl of beer. Brewing beer and its close association with bread making are credited with spurring on agricultural development. Some even consider the discovery of beer and bread as the pillars of human civilizations and there exists a chicken vs. egg debate as to what came first…beer or bread! The Babylonians, a descendant culture, were instrumental in developing the art of brewing beer. Master brewers were viewed in high social esteem and these brewers were women as well as priestesses. In the first written laws conceived by Hammurabi in 2100 BC, a daily beer ration based on social standing was included. Goddesses were the patrons of beer with Siris and Nimkasi in Mesopotamia and Isis in Egypt. The techniques of brewing beer spread from Egypt to Greece and into the hands of the Romans. The rise of the Roman Empire expanded beer’s accessibility throughout Europe all the way to England. But, with the emergence of wine as the preferred drink of Rome, beer fell into disfavor and became regarded as the drink of savages.
When the monks in the early Middle Ages began to brew and through innovation produce a better product, beer’s started to regain its stature. It was from these monks that medieval women learned to brew beer. During these times beer was regarded as a “food-drink”, a necessary staple in every household. Beer supplanted water as the preferred drink, since many of the water supplies were contaminated, especially in larger villages and cities. The very processes of brewing beer...the malting of the grain, the boiling of the “wort”, the addition of hops followed by fermentation insured a “purified” beverage that was safe to drink as well as nutritious.
Through brewing beer (ale being the style in medieval times), married women were able to contribute financially to the family. Women brewers were known as “ale-wives.” Brides would often sell their ale to defray wedding expenses. This beer was called bride-ale and from that was born the word “bridal”. Extra beer could be sold and those women who brewed a superior product were held in high esteem. One medieval king married his wife not for her countenance or dowry but for her brewing talents! For unmarried women and widows, the ability to make and sell beer was often the only way they were able to keep the proverbial “wolf from their door”.
With the coming of the Black Plague in 1348 and its estimated decimation of between 30 and 60 percent of the European population, women survivors and their skills were desperately needed. These women entered an age of establishing and owning thriving cottage industries such as weaving and brewing. However, these positions were still regarded as low status, unskilled positions and the wages earned reflected those opinions.
By 1600, there were virtually no women brewers left in England. What had happened? According to historian, Judith M. Bennett, in her seminal and award-winning book, Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women's Work in a Changing World, brewing beer was discovered to be a lucrative business. Innovations brought brewing out of the house and onto a larger more industrialized stage. Still why hadn’t women moved up along with the industry? Bennett goes on to say that women were denied by the social order of the times access to capital (loans), guild membership and education…opportunities that modern women living in industrialized nations have had at their avail for less than 100 years. And less we forget, in many parts of the world still do not have at their disposal.
FASHIONABLE FOAMS – FIND A FIT AND HAVE FUN
Beer comes in a wide array of styles from almost every country and culture in the world.
Just like wine, great beers brewed with care and a sense of tradition express a sense of place. And beer is a fantastic match for food. In many parts of the world, beer is viewed as a hot weather drink to cool one’s self off on a searing summer’s day at the beach in front of the braai. A perfectly good pairing with the ubiquitous choice of commercialized light lagers but as limiting an experience as only having same old wine at the table, all the time. With winter upon us, great beer styles…ales, porters and stouts stand up to and are marvelous mates with foods from venison chili to duck confit.
Beers can be as complex as wine. They range in colors from pale straw to almost full black. Flavor profiles from tart, zesty citrus to creamy rich smoky caramel are accompanied by heady aromas of grass, fruit, and yeasty breads to roasted nuts. Beers can be a lean and tight as a Sauvignon blanc to almost as rich and lusty as a great port. And as with wine, a beer tasting heightens the awareness of what this beverage has to offer. You can choose to explore the beers of one country (i.e. South Africa) or a unique style such as lambic beers that are made by spontaneous fermentation and usually sweetened, blended or prepared with fruit and as such are viewed as precursors of all beers. Add a food pairing component and the experience soars to new levels of culinary consciousness. For a great wintertime get together remember beer is the best drink to pair with games! From watching rugby, to poker, to board games to darts – beer is a drink that brings us all together in laughter and fun!
In the end, never judge a bottle by its label alone. Beer has been with us for eons and is here to stay. Throughout the ages it has served us well and continues to do so. Dr. Margo A. Denke, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School conducted clinical research on the health effects of alcohol, and beer in particular. In conjunction with all the benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption i.e. increased HDL and lower LDL levels , blood thinning properties and lower insulin levels, Dr. Denke believes that beer is a more beneficial alcoholic drink than spirits. Beer is a food as well containing many nutrients per serving i.e. proteins, B-vitamins and an important mix of minerals. Denke as well as other researchers have also concluded that beer provides similar levels of polyphenols as red wine along with their health benefits. So cheers to everyone! Lift those glasses of beer and drink to your health. Just as beer kept the “wolf from the door” in darker times gone by it may just do the same for us today!
A FOOD ROUTES FAVORITE - SAGGY STONE MICRO BREWERY– PUB & RESTAURANT
Adrian Robinson was fated to be a brewer. Surrounded by women – his talented wife Jackie and their three daughters, Kayla, Casey & Jenna – the ancient goddesses of beer are surely smiling down from above. Together he and Jackie have been teachers, owned a very successful Cape Town bakery and a restaurant at Rooiberg Winery. On their working fruit farm in the Nuy Valley in conjunction with the microbrewery, they are now running their newest restaurant venture – The Saggy Stone Pub & Restaurant. Women, bread and beer…all the influences of the ancient beginnings coupled with drive and passion have established a perfect learning curve and set a career path towards the creation of great craft beer.
Saggy Stone is just the spot to enjoy a quality quaff accompanied by palate-pleasing pub fare. The pub & restaurant is located on the farm. Built using materials such as natural river stone for the building and invasive blue gum trees for the bar countertop and tabletops, the little enclosed stone lapa is nestled in a stunning setting at the foot of the Langebergs
Open from 11h00 to 16h00 from Friday to Monday and on Public Holidays, Saggy Stone is a great “off the beaten path” place to go. On sunny warm days laze about at tables spread over a verdant spot ringed with fynbos covered hills and mountains topped with a sparkling blue canopy of sky above. On the wintry days ahead sit inside the cozy pub with a band of buddies, a brew in hand watching sports on the big screen TV or snuggle with that special someone by the fire.
Four beers make up the main stable of Saggy Stone’s offerings this winter.
California Steam – a craft-brewed lager derived from an old California recipe – is according to Adrian Robinson a “working man’s” beer with a hoppy flavor and a beautiful bite to the bitter notes.
Desert Lager – If you could have one beer on a hot desert island, this would be the one! Adrian’s descriptions of soft banana flavours combined with the added malted wheat denote a beer certain to bring down the temperature and turn up the fun.
Big Red Ale – The name says it all! Crafted in the style of an Irish Ale, this beer is a favorite of Adrian’s and according to him, a brew not for the faint of heart. A savory beer, with upfront hoppy bitterness alongside a hint of underlying sweetness packs a flavor punch of roasted nutty flavours and a hint of chocolate. This is a beer that will go toe to toe with a big juicy grilled steak!
The newest and fourth frothy steed about to join the stable is aptly named Dark Horse. It’s a dark lager, not a stout draft horse of a beer, trotting out refreshingly light flavors with hints of chocolate and woodiness – ready to foal in about 5-6 weeks. Just in time for the big chill ahead – a winter warmer destined to outrun the wolves of winter.
Saggy Stone is a must-stop if you are travelling along South Africa’s renowned Route 60/62. Located in the Nuy Valley between Worcester and Robertson it’s a delightful divergence – a place to cast off the constraints of city life and drop into the laid-back lull of a country retreat. And now with their beers available in bottles you can take a token of this experience home to share with family and friends. As well, you can enjoy Saggy Stone on tap at various establishments here in the Western Cape. For more info click here. Note: Saggy Stone is in the process of creating a new and improved look to their website. Please find listed below a list of some of the venues at which to purchase and/or enjoy Saggy Stone beer.
Bottled Beer available @ The Saggy Stone Pub and Restaurant & Affie Plaas Farm Stall just outside of Robertson on R60 email: firstname.lastname@example.org telephone: 023 626 4567
Beer on Tap available @ the following establishments.
The Old Post Office in McGregorVoortrekker Street083 258 6261
Racine @ Chamonix Farm Franschhoek http://www.chamonix.co.za/cuisine
Baghdad Cafe in Cape Town 190 Long Street073 669 3591
Coming soon to Reuben’s in Franschhoek
And as we always remind our Food Routes Followers
BE RESPONSIBLE. DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE