One of the first Durban craft beers to turn heads was created from scratch by a 25 year-old newcomer at a time when this segment of the Durban beer industry was still in its infancy and, apart from one or two commercial operations, most brewers were hobbyists and retirees.
It was August 2012 and Shaun Standeaven was going public for the first time at the Good Food and Wine Show with four home grown brews.
His first creation was a Bohemian Pilsner, followed by his Press Club Stout. For his third beer, he’d decided on “a truly African Ale” using primarily local ingredients. His Hefe Weizen followed. Ordinarily, this beer is bold and brash. His version is more laid back in true Durban style, he says.
The Standeaven Brewery stand was alongside that of a commercial beer brand that was handing out free beer samples. Nevertheless, he managed to entice visitors to not only try but buy his products.
His pay-off line is “for those who enjoy the odd beer” and Standeaven continues to make sure that his brews stand out from the rest. His beers are bottle conditioned which allows the beer to naturally carbonate and are unpasteurized and contain no preservatives.
He is also a stickler for quality and insists that, despite being a naturally brewed product, his beers should have no more than a two to three percent variation. “In the micro brewing business quality and consistency is key. When you drink a beer, it should evoke the same memories as the very first one you had. You don’t want to love the beer one day and hate it the next because it tastes different”.
Since his launch, he has added his Best Black Gold, his Watermelon Lager and Lager X – which he describes as a truly local lager – to his offering. Limited edition brews also appear. That’s because Standeaven constantly experiments with new brews and often introduces them at festivals to test the market.
Like many craft brewers, his roots are in the hospitality industry. He studied at the International Hotel School before taking a job on a cruise liner. Whilst “seeing the world” and working the bar, he learnt to mix cocktails. “Mixology is essentially cooking in a glass and it started an interest in the beverage industry,” he says.
He also got to sample and enjoy quality beers from across the world.
At the end of his stint on the cruise liner, he was offered a job by one of the largest US liquor distributors in Chicago. However, he decided it was time to head home to the family farm in Alverston.
His family owns the Shongweni Farmers Market and he soon opened a bakery that produced bread for both the weekly Shongweni Farmers Market and local restaurants.
Whilst working at the market, the idea to produce craft beer sparked. “I started reading and researching and thought, let’s give it a go. We made our own kit and started experimenting and got old kegs from South African Breweries (SAB) and altered them to make a brewing pot,” he explains.
Creating his own beers was far from easy and there was a lot of trial and error, he admits.
Opening his first beer was a memorable occasion. After fermenting it, he bottled it, sealed it and waited with great anticipation for between two and three weeks. “We were all excited but, when I started to crack the top, it flew off and beer sprayed everywhere. All that was left was a little foam in the bottle. It had been over carbonated and became a high pressure rocket!”
In just over three short years, Standeaven has seen his business grow beyond his wildest dreams. He has won numerous awards. His beer was voted best craft beer on tap as the SA on Tap Festival in 2012, one of the top 10 craft beers in the SAB World of Beer National Craft Brewer’s Championship in 2013 and received a gold award at the Good Food & Wine Show as the best craft beer in the craft beer, wine and spirits section.
He also participated in the international Real Ale competition held by JD Wetherspoon in April 2014. He brewed and kegged his African Pale Ale at the Caledonian Brewery in Scotland before returning to England to participate in the festival. 13. Based on a public vote, his African Pale Ale was placed fourth out of 50 craft beers.
His passion for craft beer shows no signs of going flat. “One of the most rewarding things is watching someone taste my beer for the first time. In South Africa, everyone puts beer into a box. It is a male product that is consumed whilst watching rugby or round the braai. Now, people are really enjoying a beer rather than drinking it for the sake of it. We are changing people’s understanding of what beer can be,” he says.
Standeaven Brewery beers are available via 19 stockists in KwaZulu-Natal as well as in Gauteng and the Western Cape.