An artisanal beer-making tsunami has hit South Africa in the last few years and resulted in 135 craft breweries that have popped up throughout the country (see infographic below).

The below quote is the top definition of what constitutes a craft beer in the tongue-in-cheek Urban Dictionary.

[quote_center]CRAFT BEER – “An explosion of art and science coming together to build a drinking masterpiece”[/quote_center]

Less poetic and more substantial definitions are however quite hard to come by. The American Brewer Association considers a craft brewery to be small (produces less than 3% of annual sales), independent (less than 25% of brewery is owned by anyone who is not a craft brewer) and traditional (majority of beers’ flavour derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation).

One of the first craft beers on the scene in South Africa.
Steph Weiss – one of the first craft beers on the South African scene. Photo: TYLER DE KLERK

South Africa, however, is much formal about what constitutes a craft beer, but everyone seems to agree that it basically includes anything that is not brewed by South African Breweries (SAB).

The Story

Those who know seem to agree that it was Lex Mitchell, an ex-SAB brewer who kick-started the craft beer brewing revolution in South Africa back in the 1980s with SA’s first microbrewery – Mitchells, in Knysna.

Fast-forward 25 years in the future (no doubt in an alcohol-induced haze) to 2015 and there are currently more than 135 brewing companies that can be considered craft brewers (please note that the very nature of craft beers mean that it is possible that a few of the smaller brewers have fallen through the cracks and have not made the accompanying infographic, not because they are not worthy, but purely because they were tragically overlooked).

The Stats

Of the 135 craft beer brewers, an impressive 66 (48%) of them are currently practising their ale-chemy down in the Western Cape. Although Gauteng (33) and kwaZulu Natal (15) seem almost ready to join the company of the big boys of brewing down in the Cape.

It is a bit more difficult to gauge who the single biggest microbrewery is at the moment in SA, but the general consensus seems to favour Mitchells as the biggest nationally, with Jack Black, Darling Brew, and Boston breweries all a firm second.

Of course craft beers are best enjoyed locally, so the popularity of a beer might differ significantly from province to province, region to region.

So there you go, we officially have about three times more microbreweries than female black professors – who says we don’t have a drinking problem?  But then again, that’s South Africa for you – interesting, contradictory and a little bit funny at times.

South African craft beers
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Please Note: The above article is a just a ‘taster’ for a larger feature on beers in South Africa (including drinking stats, SABmiller being the second biggest brewer in the world and more) which will be featured on next week. 


A master in Political Science on paper, but ever an apprentice to the ways of the world in practice. Niel strives to promote wondrous South Africa the best he can – through interesting statistical analysis, optimistic verve and a tongue securely cemented in cheek on

Frustrated and tired of the amount of negativity about our beautiful country in the media, Safro is committed to producing observations, articles and infographics that present South Africa the way it really is – interesting, contradictory, and a little bit funny at times.

DON’T MISS Niel’s larger feature on South African beers in next week’s article on 

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Top image from FB/RhinoCreekCraftBeer