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(S)Peak of the Devil

(S)Peak of the Devil Mel Fick

There was only one Movember Mo. One. I’d fully expected the place to be overrun by hipsters sporting their mos. This craft beer writing gig keeps proving me wrong. Now that Movember is over, I’m going to have to revert back to counting skinny pants and ironic glasses at the craft beer hangouts.

Devil’s Peak Brewing Company has moved from their original Somerset West premises to a far-more-suitable spot in Salt River. It’s an old textile factory with huge industrial windows which look toward – you guessed it – Devil’s Peak!

The brewery has spawned a fabulous tasting room and restaurant, The Taproom. It’s comfortably decorated with mismatched tables, a couple of lounge-type chairs and an eclectic array of paintings and bric-a-brac. It’s big and airy and was having a little craft market on one side when I visited last Thursday. Drink beer (from the tap) while shopping for Christmas presents? Now there’s an idea sent straight from the angels.

Speaking of which, there was a small, purple angel flitting about, a sweet young girl, one of the stall-holder’s children. This is a place that feels friendly to all, the crowd decidedly age-diverse and comfortable. Kinda like the people I remember from Obz in the late 90's, but fifteen years older. And a good sprinkle of youngsters, to make those approaching middle-age (ahem) still feel out there.

We were welcomed by JD, and shown through the brewery at the back before settling at a table with a view of the setting sun to the right of Devil’s Peak. I’d like to be terribly prosaic and say that the sun was setting behind Devil’s Peak, but I’d be lying. It was setting behind one of the lovely old Woodstock buildings across the road.

JD sat and chatted with us for a while, giving us a bit of background and organising beer tasting platters. On a purely aesthetic note, they’re good-looking, the platters. Sweetly arranged in an organised higgledy-piggeldy fashion, the eight beers range from pale gold to deep, dark, black with an incredibly gorgeous red in the middle. They shone in the setting sunshine. (See? I’ll get my prosaic in.)

The lovely Mark took us through the tasting. He earned himself an extra hundred points purely by being a fellow Rhodes graduate (a hundred some/a few years after me). The beers were good. I didn’t even miss my Castle Lite and may, in fact, have found the light (tasting) beer that could become my drink of choice.

The beers are divided into a founder range, the four which are bottled and freely available; and an explorer range, more experimental, only available on tap, at the brewery. All are named with Devil’s Peak (the mountain) in mind and have gorgeous, intricately designed labels. My father’s going to love the fact that I’m doing this beer writing, what with Christmas coming and presents that need buying. His will undoubtedly be of the clanking type. Dad, if you’re reading this, pretend you didn’t see that, it’ll spoil the surprise.

My favourites? The First Light Golden Ale – light, refreshing, with a good twist of passion fruit (apparently that’s the hops… I’m learning!), it tastes like summer afternoons floating about in the pool with a bobbing watermelon waiting to be sliced.

My second favourite? The Woodhead Amber Ale. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, in a beery kind of way, of course. Deep red and caramelly, with a slightly bitter finish. It’d look really good on a Christmas table next to some holly.

The explorer range are all more flavourful which, to my naïve palate, equates to heavier, but I think I’m starting to understand the whole craft beer thing a bit more and, in understanding it, becoming more interested in these spicier, deeper brews. They’re well worth trying.

JC, former wine maker and now brewer, came and chatted to us after the tasting and embodied the whole place and the people who are Devil’s Peak Brewery - they’re excited, they’re passionate, they’re interested, and they’re interesting. 

Needing some sustenance after our tasting, we ate from the comfortably simple menu. I had a pulled pork sandwich which was delicious. The others had, between them, the fish and chips, a cheeseburger, and a cheese platter, all simply laid out on wooden platters. All declared their food good. Oh, and they have wine too, for those non-beer types.

The only beer we didn’t taste was the Vannie Hout, a brett-infused farmhouse ale that is matured in wine barrels. Interesting concept. It’s only available in 750ml bottles, but I’m thinking that’s what my Dad might find in his stocking this year.

And be politely requested to open, on the day. Sharing is caring, non?

Words by Briony Chisholm, images by Mel Fick.