One of Durban’s most unlikely craft beer success stories is ‘That Brewing Company’ which now boasts a new brewery with an on-site bar and restaurant, aptly titled S43, situated in the Station Drive precinct off Umgeni Road.
Rubbing shoulders with some of Durban’s most exciting emerging design businesses and photographic studios, the adjacent Open Plan Design Studio and Savior Brands and Coffee Shop just next door, the building in which this new craft beer initiative is situated has now been named The Foundry.
Although the name talks to the melting and honing of metals, the actual bringing together of disparate elements is actually a reflection of the curious history of ‘That Brewing Company. The partners Paul Ten Hoorn Boer and Sean Roberts have different backgrounds – but the combination works.
Paul Ten Hoorn Boer is a jazz drummer and worked in the music industry as a lecturer for COPA (Campus of Performing Arts) Music College as well as a freelance sound engineer for many years before becoming a professional beer maker. He also ran his own recording studio with his brother prior to this venture.
Some of his earliest brews were made just next door to the studio in a vacant garage. “I remember it was a very hot summer not so long ago and we wanted something to refresh ourselves. I was interested in brewing beer from watching my uncle do it when we were visiting family many years before in New Zealand. I bought a Cooper’s Brew Kit and tried it out. I wasn’t impressed with the outcome! I knew there had to be a better way to make home brewed beer,” Paul remembers.
Since those early days of experimentation, Paul is now brewing beer that supplies over 10 well known bottle stores and restaurants in Durban as well as making the flagship house beer for the popular restaurant Unity Bar on Silverton Road, Musgrave Durban.
That Brewing Company’s beers include That blonde – a light English style ale – That Good AdWeiss – a traditional cloudy wheat beer – That Irish Red – an Irish style red ale – and That Apa – an American style pub ale.
However, none of Paul’s dreams would have become a reality if he hadn’t met Sean Roberts, a local restaurateur who has worked his way up from the bottom to become one of Durban’s most sought after hospitality gurus with a string of successful restaurant ventures to his name. These include the popular pizza place Pizzetta on Davenport Road as well as Café 1999 on the Berea which he took over and of which he now shares ownership with his wife Marcelle. This is a neighbour to another of the couple’s brainchilds – Unity Café which is one of Durban’s most popular gastro pubs.
Paul believes that Sean is one of the main reasons why craft beer has taken off in Durban and why “That Brewery Company” is growing exponentially every year.
“I first met Sean when he came up to me at the Beer and Boerie Fest at the Valley of a Thousand Hills Chef School. This must have been around 2011. All he said after tasting my beer was ‘I love your beer and one day you are going to brew for me’. After that, he gave me his business card and I only heard from him six months later. Back then, craft beer was not what it is today in South Africa. So I really didn’t think anything would come of it. Sean was looking for his own house beer to serve at his new venture Unity Bar and he was already developing another beer called Cowbell with Robison’s Brewery,” says Paul.
According to Paul, shortly after that, Robison’s changed owners. The relationship fizzled out between Sean and Robison’s Brewery forcing Sean to look for craft beer from other parts of the country to stock in his new restaurant.
“When Sean and I set up the brewery, it was still very much a sideline thing. Sean was also running Café 1999 and I was still working as a sound engineer, music lecturer and punk rock drummer for the ska/punk band Sheep Down as well as recording bands in my studio. Our first proper brewery was in Umbilo. We decided to start small and build it up ourselves. The main idea was to make beer to stock Sean’s Unity Bar and Restaurant which was actually supposed to be a pool and curry bar. It’s really great how all of this has evolved organically and our new brewery in Station Drive is set up in such a way that we can expand,” he explains.
Although awards are not really what Paul and Sean are after, it hasn’t stopped them from taking this year’s best on tap for their American stout at the Clarens Craft Beer Festival. They also won Top Design for SA on Tap 2015. At the end of 2013, they won Best on Tap and third Best on Tap at the 2013, Beer and Boerie Festival.
“Yes, we have won a few awards over the years but, to be honest, we don’t enter that many craft beer festivals or competitions as every day is a craft beer festival here,” laughs Paul.
“I know there are some skeptics to craft beer and many still enjoy the commercially made beers, but there is a nuance and certain flavors that you won’t find in commercial beer. That is why I think craft beer is taking off in this country. People are looking for a little more from their beer, a little more flavor and taste,” he adds.
Paul is also a contract brewer for the recently launched Poison City Brewing.
S43 is open from Wednesday to Saturday and all ‘That Brewing Company’s’ classic beers are available on tap at the venue as well as a simple, yet sophisticated, take on gastronomical pub fare. You can also get That Brewing Company beers at selected bottle stores and restaurants around Durban.