How to win a pub quiz

It's Wednesday night and the Ninjas, Squareheads and Grey Matter are battling it out in their favourite pub, but who has got the winning formula? Quiz night is generally good, clean fun, but it can get super competitive, especially when there is that year's supply of beer up for grabs. Contrary to popular perception, it's not that duo of 20-something computer geeks sitting in the corner or the members of the men's hockey team who necessarily are going to ace this game. 

Here are a few tips on how to assemble a winning team.

Special interests

Obvious we know, but pick a team that covers all the bases in terms of general knowledge. Think history, film, music. And be sure to include your annoying friend who seems to know something about everything. He'll come in handy.

2 Use all the firepower you're allowed

If the maximum number of members on the team is six, then try to fill all the slots. As anyone who has sat through a company workshop on team building will tell you, the more people you have on a task, the greater likelihood of success. More heads are always better than one, and it's amazing the useless information you'll find washing around in your brain.

3 Make it intergenerational

Speaking from experience, a team that mixes up the ages will always do better. The oldies are likely to come up trumps in categories like history and geography, while it's the millennials who are likely to be able to identify the music and know the answer to the questions about who snogged whom in recent movies.

4 Read the papers

Seems obvious, but lots of people simply don't keep up with the news. Just by reading your daily paper or going online to check the news sites, you'll be up to speed on the general knowledge of the day, which is always likely to crop up.

5 Find out who the sponsor is

If someone has stumped up the prize for quiz night, it's quite likely that there may be a question about their product. Find out what the prize is and who sponsored it, and then do a quick Google on their website.

6 Don't drink too much

As quiz night moves along, and more drinks go down the hatch, you'll find it harder and harder to retrieve that obvious answer from the deepest recesses of your brain. If you stay sober your chances of success are vastly improved towards the end of the evening. The difference between winning and losing may well be down to the brain power of your designated driver!

7 Get to know the quiz mistress

Every quiz mistress or master has their quirks, and the more you observe them, the more likely you are to get the measure of them. It's a cat-and-mouse game, really!

8 Listen to each other

Sometimes the right answer is missed in all the excitement, as the loudest voices in the team shout the others down. Evaluate all the suggestions before you make the final decision. Sometimes the most hesitant member of your group may well know the answer but doesn't have the courage to assert themselves. 

9 Don't be a cheat

In this day and age of Google, it's all too easy to take a sneaky peek on your phone under the table. That's not sporting, and you could be disqualified.

10 Just have fun

If it's just the two of you sitting in the corner and you're coming stone last, don't worry about it! Sling back those tequila penalty shots and fall about laughing over your silly answers. It's meant to be fun, after all.

Good luck!

Millers and millennials

Many millennials (those born around the turn of this century) swoon for ideas like “authentic”, “vintage” and “classic”. Miller Lite has stumbled upon a way to appeal to that market – and their parents.

To coincide with the 2013 release of the film Anchorman 2, which it sponsored, Miller Lite released a limited edition can with its original logo dating back to the 1970s – the time in which the film was set.

However, the popularity of the new design far exceeded expectations for a little film-related novelty, sales increased markedly, and Miller decided to keep its new “old” logo.

It might seem odd that a logo so old would do so well in a completely different social climate, but a brief look at the trend in logo design shows that although the logo is old, it’s no longer dated.

As always, many trends run concurrently, but the one type of logo that is growing in popularity, probably thanks to the aforementioned millennials, is the vintage style logo, exemplified by a few key features:

  • Hand lettering
  • Vintage flourish
  • Vintage typeset feel
  • Logo patch/badge

(See mayecreate and creative bloq.)

The old Miller logo has a vintage typeset feel, a prominent oval patch beneath the iconic “Lite”, vintage flourishes around the badge, and most importantly, genuine vintage credentials.

Some have speculated that while the younger generation is attracted to the design because it looks iconic, the older generation is attracted to the design because for them it is iconic.

In the days when the logo first appeared, Miller Lite was the number one best-selling light beer in the US, and it was the first light beer to be successfully marketed to men. The parents of millennials may be buying the beer for nostalgia’s sake.

Either way, in a time when craft beers are taking over a fair share of the beer market, focussing on the roots of a brand and emphasising its authentically vintage age might be a way to compete with these whippersnappers.

The role of sorghum beer in South African culture

Beer has played a role across a vast number of cultures for aeons, and South African cultures are no exception. Sorghum beer, umqombothi in Xhosa, plays a role in cultural occasions for Xhosa and Zulu people (as well as some other cultures) across the nation.

While customs vary slightly between regions and cultures, there are traditions to be observed both in the brewing of the beer, and the serving and drinking of it. The beer is traditionally brewed by women, and is made from maize, maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water, and has a distinctive sour flavour and smell.

One of the by-products of making the beer, isidudu, can be eaten as porridge, while the grains left over from the process are used to feed chickens. Traditionally, the woman scattering this grain for the chickens gives thanks to the ancestors while doing so.

Sorghum beer is fermented for several days in a huge drum covered with a thick blanket, and on the day of the traditional ceremony the beer has been brewed for, the beer is poured into the calabash (ibhekile in Xhosa or ukhamba in Zulu).

Before anyone drinks the beer, a small amount is spilt on the ground to share with the ancestors.

According to Zulu tradition, the woman who brewed the umqombothi drinks first to show that it is safe; the male host then drinks to test the flavour; and guests are then served in order of social status. Often guests who know the host well will bring a bottle of some other alcohol (brandy or vodka or the like, depending on the occasion) as a sign of appreciation.

Umqombothi is always consumed out of respect for tradition, not with the intention of becoming intoxicated. It plays a role in many special ceremonies in South African cultures, such as the ritual of contacting the ancestors (amadlozi), weddings, funerals and traditional meetings (izimbizo).

Another significant event at which umqombothi is drunk is the ceremony for young men retuning from initiation rituals, which usually involve a long time away from home.

Traditional ceremonies are often whole-day affairs, and guests are served breakfast before the formal proceedings kick off. The whole village can be invited to some ceremonies, so the host family will provide other drinks besides the umqombothi. Sometimes, people in the village are invited round to drink umqombothi for several days after the event.

SAB has recently released Indlamu, a modern version of traditional sorghum beer that has the typical sour taste, aroma and low alcohol content of the original, although it has been changed slightly to have a longer shelf life.

Hops, barley, yeast, water: the role of each ingredient in the beer-making process

Beer is essentially a fermented drink made from four primary ingredients: grain, hops, yeast and water. How these are manipulated determines the final product.

Although malted barley is the grain most commonly used, it may be substituted with other grain varieties, such as wheat, rice, oats, rye, sorghum and maize. Some brewers produce gluten-free beer, using sorghum with no barley malt, for those who are gluten-intolerant.


The chosen grain in beer making determines the beer’s colour, flavour, sugar content, protein content and dextrin levels. Learn more here about how each grain influences the taste of a particular beer.

The colour of the grain used to make a specific beer determines its final colour, while its flavour is imbued primarily by malted barley, and to a lesser degree by hops and yeast.

Maltose, the fermentable sugar derived from malted grain is converted by the yeast component into alcohol, while the proteins in the grain help to create and form the head or foam cap on a poured beer.

The dextrins in the grain are responsible for creating “mouthfeel” in a beer. This is the feeling of fullness or the viscosity of the final product.


A wide variety of hops – the flower of the hop plant, a member of the hemp family – may be used in the creation of beer. Each adds a different flavour, smell and finish to the beer.

While some beers are made using a single type of hop, most use a variety of hops to obtain a specific taste and smell. Learn more about the most notable hop varieties here

The hops used determine four characteristics of the beer: they add bitterness to counteract the malty sweetness; they give the beer its flavour and add complexity; essential oils in the hops give beer its distinctive smell, and the acids in hops help to stabilise the beer and give it a shelf life.


Yeast – a single-celled organism, a fungus – is the most important ingredient in beer brewing. It is a living organism that metabolises, reproduces and lives off ingredients in beer.  

Yeast is responsible for converting sugar to alcohol during the fermentation stage of brewing, and is also a determinant of flavour.

Although there are thousands of yeast strains, only cultivated strains should be used when brewing of beer. Using other yeast strains amay cause over-carbonation and unusual flavours.

Brewers choose yeast strains based on which style of beer is being made. The two main yeast strains used are Saccharomyces cerevisiae, for top-fermenting ales, and Saccharomyces uvarumfor bottom-fermenting lagers.


Since it comprises 95% of the finished product, the quality of the water used in the brew is paramount; it must be pure, clean and free from pollutants. 

All about the ARA

You may have noticed the ARA logo on SAB marketing materials and on the websites of every SAB brand from Castle Lite to Flying Fish to the World of Beer. That’s because SAB is a founding member and major sponsor of the ARA, and abiding by its policies is an integral part of the way that we do business.

But what is the ARA all about?

The ARA stands for the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use and was founded in 1989 to coordinate and direct activities designed to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse and abuse. Its many efforts serve to unite the alcohol industry behind a business practice that promotes responsible drinking. The ARA is registered as a non-profit organisation with the Department of Social Development.

The activities the body undertakes include developing and monitoring the alcohol industry’s advertising, and promoting its code of practice. This has in turn been incorporated into the Advertising Standards Authority’s code of practice. The ARA also coordinates ongoing awareness projects that seek to address, among other issues, underage drinking, drinking and driving, foetal alcohol syndrome, and the drinking peer pressure experienced by schoolchildren.

The ARA targets its efforts at two broad groups: the youth and adults who have been identified as vulnerable and at risk of suffering the negative consequences of alcohol. The ARA “recognises that harsh social and economic living conditions contribute to alcohol abuse and agrees with the World Health Organisation that in order to reduce alcohol-related harm, it is crucial to address social deprivation. This is a major focus of the liquor industry in South Africa.”

The ARA maintains that reducing alcohol problems and dependency is the responsibility of several combined actions, rather than a single action. These include self-regulation, the enforcement of laws and regulations governing sales and consumption, and targeted interventions and campaigns.

Today, the ARA has over 300 members countrywide, including SAB, the South African Liquor Brand Owners’ Association, Brandhouse and VinPro.

The SAB World of Beer is proud to be affiliated with this entity, and to promote responsible drinking every step of the way.

Extreme beers throughout history

From the umqombothi of South Africa to the Sahti of Finland, beer has been part of human culture for thousands of years, and time has given rise to plenty of extreme and unusual brews.

Strongest beer

Beer is usually not known for its high alcohol content, but if you are expecting to have a few beers with lunch, tread carefully if that beer happens to be Snake Venom by Scottish brewery Brewmeister. Laboratory tests have confirmed that Snake Venom’s alcohol content is 68% (don’t worry, there is a warning label on the bottle). The brewers say that it should be consumed in small measures, like a fine liqueur (not downed while watching rugby).

Most bitter beer

Beer is bitter. It is part of the appeal of the taste, and of course beers come in differing levels of bitterness to suit individual palates. If you have yet to find a beer that quite satisfies your “bitter-tooth” then The Hop by the Pitstop Brewery in Wantage, UK, is the beer for you. Peter Fowler accepted a friend’s challenge, and went above and beyond, using powerful hop strains and isolone (a hop extract) to brew the bitterest beer in the world. The Hop’s bitterness is rated at a tongue-tingling 323 International Bittering Units.

Biggest beer festival

Anyone who loves beer has to make the pilgrimage to Nottingham, United Kingdom, for the Robin Hood Beer and Cider Festival, home to the most varieties of draught keg conditioned beers in the world. Organisers are aiming for the 2015 festival to feature more than 1 100 different ales and more than 300 ciders and perries (alcoholic beverage made from fermented pears). As if the variety of beer on offer isn’t enough to have you booking tickets and packing bags, you should also note that the festival is held in the grounds of Nottingham Castle. Yes, a real castle.

Best beer

While this is too subjective to be adamant about, the reaction that people have to Westvleteren 12 is indicative of something truly great. Monks in the middle of nowhere in Belgium have been brewing this dark, chocolatey beer since 1940, and it can usually only be bought directly from the monks themselves. In testament to the beer’s excellence, people queue in their cars, sometimes for miles, to reach the monastery and get their hands on this heavenly Trappist tipple.

Oddest beer

Again, “odd” is a pretty subjective term, but there are many who consider spitting in your victuals on purpose distinctly odd. The Peruvian people are apparently not of this opinion, as human saliva is one of the important ingredients in chicha, a traditional corn beer that is thought to date back to the Incan era. The mouthy method used to create this beer involves chewing and moistening corn in one’s mouth before adding it to the rest of the beer mixture. If you can get over the mental block of the whole spit thing, it’s actually not a bad idea, as our mouths do contain the right sorts of bacteria and enzymes to kick off the fermentation process.

The oldest (safely ingestible) beer

Deep in the freezing seas off the coast of Finland lies a shipwreck dating back to the 1800s. Among the artefacts found in this shipwreck preserved in the icy, brackish waters, were a few bottles of beer. Finnish scientists analysed the two different variations of beer, and managed to derive the original recipes. The beers turned out to be much more pleasant when fresh – the actual beer from the shipwreck that has survived the decades is politely described as having burnt notes and tasting old (duh) and slightly acidic.


Counting down to the 2015 TOPS at SPAR Bierfest

Venue Montecasino outdoor event area
Date 9-11 October and 17-18 October 2015
More information TOPS at SPAR Bierfest website

Can you hear it? The oompah music echoing in the distance; the fräuleins calling out with jugs of cold, crafty goodness …

The fifth TOPS at SPAR Bierfest is edging closer, and it’s a good thing too, ‘cos we love German beer styles. The 2015 festivities will again take place at Montecasino over two weekends in Joburg – 9-11 and 16-17 October.

And while it may not be as big as its German Oktoberfest counterpart, the beer styles and celebrations emulate the popular Bavarian beer culture. It’s the next best thing, and it’s right on your doorstep!

Expect a healthy dose of lederhosen, eisbein, dirndls, oompah music and, of course, delicious, cold beer.

There will be four highly quaffable ales on tap, expertly brewed under SAB’s No 3 Fransen Street brand – their Irish Red Ale, Krystal Weiss, Royal Bavaria and Cream Ale.

Adding to the fun, you can unleash your inner Bavarian by hiring an official Bierfest outfit. Perhaps most exciting of all, you can win a trip to Munich, among other great prizes being given away over the festival.

Click here for details.

Innovation, sustainability and efficiency in beer making

Four basic ingredients go into creating beer: barley, hops, yeast and water.

South African Breweries (SAB) has adopted a sustainable approach to acquiring and using these raw materials and continues to look at ways of improving upon current measures. A study done by SAB, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit found that more than 80% of water required in the beer-making process is used in the production of raw materials, namely barley and hops.

Mindful of water being a precious commodity, SAB has adopted a water-saving strategy that is aimed at making more beer using less water.

SAB always strives to ensure that water resources are secured jointly for local communities and for the brewing business. Water is conserved where possible, used optimally and recycled when the opportunity arises.

Water-saving measures aimed to see water usage cut by 25% per hectolitre of beer between 2008 and 2015.  To manage water usage more effectively, three projects have been put in place: the Strategic Water Partners’ Network, Innovating Through Irrigation, and Project Eden – Promoting Water Research.  

SAB has also developed, in partnership with the University of the Free State, an innovative, scientific alternative to barley irrigation that aims to reduce the total water footprint of the crop. The Precision Irrigation Programme is being run in the Northern Cape region of Douglas.

Precision Irrigation is a water-scheduling computer programme that calculates the amount of water required to produce optimum crop yields in different soil types.

Within its first year of operation, the programme had realised a 48%, or 19.2-million hectolitre, water saving. Since then the project has been extended from its pilot status to be applied across 12 822ha of land in the province. This move, in turn, has financially benefited 100 small-scale and 180 commercial barley farmers in the Northern Cape region due to reduced irrigation costs and lower production costs, which speaks to SAB’s collaborative approach to working with its suppliers.

SAB’s hop farms have been developing and growing hops in South Africa for more than 80 years, under disease-free conditions. As a result several local varietals have emerged with qualities better suited to local climates.

International brewers have shown particular interest in local hop availability as a potential supplement during the northern hemisphere off-season. In terms of SAB’s innovative approach to local hop production, the female hop plant is used in the brewing process while the male is used to cross disease-resistant varieties with locally adapted breeding stock.

Some of the hop varietals used by SAB include: Southern Brewer – developed in the 1970s; Southern Promise – a dual-purpose hop with a woody, earthy fragrance; Southern Dawn – a more aromatic version of Southern Promise; Southern Aroma – with a floral and herbal nose; Southern Passion – a flavoursome blend of passion fruit, red berries and sweet fruits; and African Queen, launched in May 2015 following 12 years in development.

Barley, which is malted, is an important raw material used in the making of beer. In June 2015 SAB announced a R700-million investment in a new maltings plant in Alrode, Gauteng, to support the local economy and drive job creation.

Construction of the new plant, which will produce 130 000 tonnes of malted barley per annum on completion, has commenced. The expansion will allow SAB to reduce the amount of malted barley it imports, and to grow the local agricultural sector by supporting private, previously disadvantaged farmers.

“The new maltings plant will have significant cost-saving and growth benefits for SAB. It makes good financial sense to undertake this investment. It will allow us to reduce our exposure to volatile international markets and to replace a significant share of our imported malt and barley with local barley,” says SAB MD Mauricio Leyva.

At the moment, SAB sources around 65% of its barley from within South Africa. Once the new maltings plant is operational, this will increase to more than 90%.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, SAB aims to continue working together with local communities, suppliers, governments, consumers and beyond, to develop shared opportunities that will benefit everyone. 

Ze best bierfest outside of Bavaria hits Joburg

Now in its fifth year, the TOPS at SPAR Bierfest officially hit Joburg this past weekend, and will be running again on 16 and 17 October.

In the midst of an unseasonable heatwave, an afternoon of crisp, cold beers and general revelry was precisely what the brewmaster ordered, and Joburgers came out in their numbers to enjoy ze best bierfest outside of Bavaria.

The Bierfest serves up some of the best-loved SAB brands, including Castle Lager, Castle Lite, Castle Milk Stout, Carling Black Label and Grolsch. But, says event producer Andrew Douglas, "the hop-infused heroes of the event are undoubtedly the speciality beers brewed by No 3 Fransen Street (for the Durban and Johannesburg events), and the Newlands Spring Brewery (for the Cape Town event)". No 3 Fransen Street's Cream Ale, with its medium-gold colour, lactose and toffee flavours, and mild hop bitterness has proved especially popular.

No 3 Fransen Street brewers are also on site to offer tastings of each different brew, as well as insights into the brewing process. Be sure to step up and ask them your burning brewing-related questions.

If you find yourself at the Bierfest, but want something to drink other than the festival's namesake, there are a number of other options.

"What would an authentic bierfest be without schnapps?" says Douglas. "This year saw the introduction of CBC’s 'beer schnapps', which has been a hit, and we also introduced Strawberry Lips (a delightful flavoured tequila). We also have Beck’s Blue alcohol-free lager available for the designated drivers and those that don’t drink but still want to feel part of the Bierfest festivities with a bier in their stein." Wine, Jägermeister and soft drinks are also available.

Visitors can also enjoy a variety of Bavarian food, from pretzels and kartoffel (chips) to snack on, to more full-sized portions and platters of sausage, pork knuckle and schnitzel (both chicken and vegetarian). And, if you'd really like to get into spirit of things, come dressed as a German. Don't have your own gear? Never fear, the Bierfest merchandise stand will get you kitted out in no time.

The Bierfest grew out of SAB's intention to create a unique event that would help promote local beer culture in an organic, engaging and fun way. "And who loves beer more than ze Bavarians?" asks Douglas. "So the idea was born to host a truly authentic Bavarian bierfest, modelled on the world-famous Munich Oktoberfest, but with a South African slant.

"The event has grown in size and scope over the past five years; our entire look and feel received a makeover at the start of the year and we hope to continue the evolution, attracting new and varied partners, welcoming back Bierfestarians of old, and appealing to those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience the best of Oktoberfest in their city without having to board a plane or apply for a Schengen visa!"

Says Douglas, "In 2016, Bierfest will be taking ze oompah, frauleins and its fine Bavarian craft beers to new cities and venues around the country."

Keep an eye on the Bierfest website, as well as its Facebook and Twitter pages.

The Bierfest will be running for another two days in Johannesburg, on 16 and 17 October, before it hits Cape Town in early November. Don't miss out – book your tickets on iTickets now.

Beer tasting 101: the different Castles

It's the taste that's stood the test of time, but if you were put to the test, would you be able to taste the difference between Castle Lager and the other Castles out there?

Even seasoned beer aficionados might struggle when asked, in a blind tasting, to tell the difference between Castle Lager and Castle Lite. Castle Milk Stout is perhaps a different matter, with its powerful malty flavour, but deserves mention simply because it forms part of the Castle family. If you're looking for tips, and ideas for beer pairings, take a look at our beer tasting 101 notes below.

Castle Lager

Known for achieving the perfect balance between dry and bitter, Castle Lager is a thirst-quenching, flavoursome and balanced beer. It could never be described as sweet, but rather as mildly hoppy with a gentle lingering bitterness.

Castle Lager pairs well with braaied meats – its smoothness complements the salt while the hops pairs well with peppered rubs and sauces. It also goes well with mild curries, where it serves as a fire blanket.

Castle Lite

Ice-cold, lite and premium, Castle Lite has a full, smooth and refreshing taste and a hoppy aroma, with a grassy note. It's distinctly clean and crisp, with only a gentle, lingering bitterness.

Castle Lite undergoes low fermentation to create lower levels of bitterness. This means that it pairs well with light flavoured foods, such as seafood – provided the flavours aren't overly fishy – or with crisp and crunchy green salads and pasta salads. 

Castle Milk Stout

In the production of Castle Milk Stout, choice barley grain is slow roasted to produce a rich, dark brew. A special blend of hops adds a touch of bitterness while special yeast produces the beer's flavour and creamy head. It's smooth, rich, 

Castle Milk Stout is best paired with rich meats and puddings, including stews, oxtail, roasts with strongly flavoured sauces and chocolate or toffee desserts.

Four tips for brewing a great IPA at home

A great IPA (India pale ale) should never mince words. It gets right to the point with a fistful of hops delivered straight to your mouth.

But brewing an IPA can be tricky – it’s one of those beer styles that’s fairly easy to get right, but difficult to do really, really well. There are a number of variables you need to keep in mind, and a ton of options to consider when it comes to your hop combinations.

If you’re a seasoned home brewer, then chances are you’ve got your recipe and process figured out. But for all those ‘beerginners’ out there wanting to try out a new IPA recipe, these tips should come in handy.

1. Keep the malt profile simple(ish)

Ideally, an IPA should let the hop profile of the beer shine through. But that’s not to say you can’t have a nice malty finish. About 75% to 80% of your grain bill should consist of simple pale malt, and the rest a combination of malts like Vienna, Munich, Biscuit and the like to add more complexity.

Go easy on the crystal/caramel malts, though – at about 5% of your grain bill, they will add a nice character and help with head retention.

2. Adding the essential ingredient

Ah yes, hops ... surely one of the greatest plants found on this planet. Open a bag of fresh, aromatic hop pellets and you’ll probably agree. The trick is to impart that delicious aroma and taste into your IPA as boldly as possible, figuring out which hops to use as bittering, aroma and flavouring additions.

Popular hops for IPA include: Cascade, Amarillo, Warrior, Magnum, Apollo, Simcoe, Citra, Columbus and Summit, among others. But ultimately, it comes down to what you think works. Add high alpha acid hops early in the boil for bittering, and chuck in plenty of hops late in the boil (during the last 10 minutes or so) for aroma.

Then, be generous with your dry hopping! After you’ve racked to secondary fermentation, work out a daily dry hopping schedule (running for about five to seven days) using more aromatic hops like Cascade, Amarillo and the like. Don’t be afraid to chuck in 15g or more each day.

3. Choosing the yeast

One of the most popular choices for an IPA is California Ale yeast (WLP001), as it helps accentuate the hops while imparting a clean, dry character to the beer. Another good option is English Ale yeast, although you’ll need to take a few things into consideration – mash at a lower temperature to account for the lower attenuation of this yeast strain, and ferment cooler (usually at around 17°C to 18°C) to get a cleaner ester profile.

4. Experiment

At the end of the day, practice makes perfect, and experimentation will eventually lead you down a hoppy path of success.

Never settle for a mediocre recipe that just tastes OK. Keep notes during each brew, allowing you to keep track of everything you did when that perfect batch finally happens. Consider investing in the hugely popular BeerSmith software to help with brewing accuracy and consistency.

Then make sure you stick to the tenets of good brewing practice (sanitation!) and you’ll be on your way in no time.

Good luck hopheads, and in the words of brewing legend John Palmer – brew strong!

Beer 101: the difference between lagers and ales

You enjoy beer as much as the person next to you. What’s not to like? It’s tasty and refreshing, is the perfect accompaniment to a casual afternoon braai or a more elaborate meal, and is an essential ingredient at virtually any sporting event. It’s not the world’s third most widely consumed beverage for nothing (after water and tea, both of which are non-alcoholic and are therefore, statistically, irrelevant for the purposes of this analysis).

But do you really know the basics of your favourite beverage? Do you know what makes a lager a lager and an ale an ale?

Welcome to Beer 101.

First of all, it’s worth mentioning that ale predates lager by years – thousands of years. The very first beers brewed in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia were ales. Lagers, on the other hand, have only been around for the past 200 years or so – newbies, the lot of them.

Of course, the difference between the two isn’t just a matter of age. Ales and lagers are fundamentally differentiated from one another by the types of yeast used in their production and the ways in which they ferment.

Ales use saccharomyces cervisiae yeast, which ferments the beer from the top, while lagers use a type of yeast called saccharomyces uvarum and ferment from the bottom. Ales are also fermented at a considerably warmer temperature (between 12 and 21 degrees Celsius), and only for a few weeks (though some ferment for as little as seven days), compared with lagers, which are typically fermented at 3 to 10 degrees Celsius and can age for several months before they are ready.

Ales tend to have bold, robust and complex flavours, and are typically quite fruity and aromatic. They can also be more bitter than lagers and are usually enjoyed warmer. Lagers, typically served cold, boast much cleaner and clearer flavours – a result of the longer fermentation process. They tend to be highly carbonated, smooth and mellow, and can easily be paired with many different foods. Most of the world’s commercial beers are lagers.

If you’re keen on sampling a local ale, be sure to give SAB’s No 3 Fransen Street a try. It’s available on tap at the SAB World of Beer and includes a Weiss, an India Pale Ale, an Irish Pale Ale and a Cream Ale. Some of SAB’s most successful and widely known lagers include Castle Lager and Carling Black Label.

Now that you’ve got some of the theory down, take a break in our Tap Room today and experience the practical side of things. 

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