Edit (2-23-07): The Zulu Brew Route article is now here. The other article referenced below has moved here. Chris O’Brien now blogs at The Beer Activist, which includes a category for posts on African beer.
The new issue of Fermenting Revolution is up! Highlights include a portrait of an Angolan-Belgian brewer who makes the world’s first fair-trade certified beer, and Chris’s “On the Ale Trail” column, Exploring South Africa’s Zulu Brew Route.
Even before I read the column, I found myself saying the words “Zulu Brew Route” out loud, over and over. Finally I read the article. Most of the best microbreweries make lagers and pilsners in the German immigrant tradition, Chris explained, though most of the outstanding up-and-coming brewers seem to be Zulus. But he did visit the country’s largest maker of traditional sorghum beer, as well.
Somewhat surprisingly, Andre didn’t mind sharing with us the fact that all the beer they make follows one recipe, yet they market it under a variety of different labels. He said customers often insist there are differences among them.
Chris and his girlfriend even attended a faith-healing ceremony:
Several dozen people gathered in a large clay and thatch hut to seek solutions to their problems from Eunice Khonzaphi Ndwondwe, a faith healer of some renown. The ceremony included a couple hours of singing and some dancing, but the reason people come is to speak with the healer personally and be cured or helped. This is where the beer and vodka come in. Zulu beer and Castle lager were both passed around the crowd, as well as a couple bottles of Smirnoff. A few attendees played noisemakers that were circles of wire strung with beer caps.
I am ashamed to admit that, until now, virtually my entire exposure to South African religion has consisted of a couple volumes of Desmond Tutu – not just a great man, but an engaging writer and a fine theologian. Now, I’m thinking that the Zulus, at least, sound like a people who know how to keep their spiritual priorities straight.