Looking back on 2021, it was an incredible year for us for several reasons. Since we opened, Soul Barrel’s mission has been to brew amazing beer and contribute to making South Africa a world-class beer destination. We strived towards that goal last year by elevating our experiences at the brewery and by introducing new and interesting beers, while continuously improving the quality of all our beers. In 2021 we took on some unique projects and challenging beers, while working hard to change how people think about beer. Not bad considering our business was declared illegal for almost a third of the year.
Despite obstacles, our efforts paid off and our tiny business was very fortunate last year. We essentially doubled our business, which enabled us to expand our team and create jobs, expand the beer garden and contribute to other small businesses up and down the supply chain. We revamped the Simondium Guild into a complete family friendly destination with food, wine and coffee in addition to beer with our new neighbours: Papi’s, Painted Wolf, Shabean and Fanglassic.
We also launched our online shop, enabling us to reach our customers who can’t visit us on a regular basis. We made quality improvements in the brewhouse, cellar and in packaging. Most importantly, we significantly invested in developing our people and are proud to say we paid full salaries throughout the bans and even awarded significant bonuses at year’s end.
In 2021 we were able to produce 15 inspired beers in addition to our 4 flagship beers. These beers centered around a few themes:
American Hoppy Beers
Our beer naturally reflects our personality and experiences. As an American-influenced brewery, our beers have a strong American perspective and style. Most obvious to this are our IPAs and pale ales: our flagship beers. American hoppy beers at their best display bright, intense hop flavours while maintaining a sense of balance and drinkability. We brewed a range of these beers in 2021, showcasing dozens of hop varieties and at different levels of hop intensity and drinkability. IPAs have seen tremendous growth for us and are our best sellers. It’s not unusual for us to have 4-5 IPAs on tap.
- Viking Juice Kviek IPA collab w/ Kennel – showcasing Kveik yeast
- Fresh Hop Cape Cone – celebrating fresh flavours of the hop harvest
- Fresh Nectar Hazy Pale Ale – intense, creamy display of Citra & Mosaic hops
- Juicy Fresh Blood Orange IPA – exploring the synergy between citrus-forward hops and blood oranges.
- King Nectar East Coast IPA – Exploring modern hopping techniques for big fruit flavours.
A core part of Soul Barrel’s mission is to showcase South African ingredients and flavours. We let local ingredients inspire us, and display them in a range of styles brewed in a uniquely South African way. South Africa is one of the most fascinating places in the world to brew beer. We grow anything and everything we need right here: a wide variety of high-quality grains like malting barley, wheat, sorghum, millet and oats; hops that are specially bred to thrive in our climate; and a wide range of fruits, spices, herbs as well and of course grapes.
- Live Culture Pinotage – explored co-fermentation and aging with grapes
- Harvest Ale Franschhoek Amber – showcased the interplay between grain and grape flavours
- Spontaneous Ale of Origin – The pièce de resistance of our barrel aging program, celebrating traditional Lambic techniques in the Cape Winelands
- Wild African Soul 2.0 Saison collab with Tolokazi– a passion project highlighting the relationship between old-world European farmhouse ales and traditional African beer
- Draken Stout Raw Ale – exploring the raw ale category of beers in a drinkable, Irish stout
- Live Culture Grand Cru – one of our favourite beers of 2021. Making our own malt and seeing it come alive with our house mixed culture was amazing. It has a Champagne-like character.
Traditional Beers of the World
In additional to our focus on American style hoppy beers and local ingredients, we’re constantly inspired by beers of the world and the wide range of traditions, ingredients and processes. The world of beer is incredibly diverse and fascinating. We were able to explore some awesome ideas last year:
- Old Cellar Barleywine – This English style barleywine offered the highest expression of traditional malt flavours and introduced a beer that’s fit for the dessert table.
- East India Pale Brett IPA – One of the two historical beers we brewed, this celebrated the global origins of IPA, with dramatically different flavours than we typically associate IPA with today.
- Bourbon Wood Old Ale – this little-known style of beer has some of everything we love in intense, strong beers: tart, wild flavours; oak and bourbon notes, and a blended balance and complexity. A beer that can fit traditional whiskey drinking occasions.
- Festbier Weisn Lager collab w/ CBC – this was an amazing beer with a lot of history, and it celebrated traditional German brewing culture. It furthered our exploration of incredible, traditional lagers.
Exciting times at Soul Barrel
Looking ahead, we’re super stoked for what’s happening in 2022. We will work hard to continue to up our game and create amazing beer experiences. I want you to come and learn about beer, to enjoy the stories, history and culture of this amazing beverage. I want you to fall in love with beer. I want you to make friends;, beer is about bringing people together.
Over the past year our core beers of have been refined to reach new levels of elegance and expression. In 2022 we’re striving to reach even higher levels of quality and purpose in our beer. We’ll be continuing to improve our taproom space, with new features and renovations throughout the year. We also want to enhance our online shopping experience and make our beer available to everyone throughout the country.
We want to go deeper into the world of intensely hoppy beers and keep pushing boundaries on how we use local ingredients. We’ve begun talking to local farmers on how to incorporate seasonal fruit into some of our beers. In addition to IPAs, in 2022 we also want to bring focus on the world of traditional lagers. Our first release of the year is an old-world, dry hopped Vienna lager.
Thank you to everyone who has made this journey possible so far, we’re only just getting started. Everything we do is to provide the joy that great beer can bring. Without our loyal drinkers nothing would be possible, so thank you for all your support in 2021 and let’s take it to the next level this year!