From digital downloads to experimental brewing

On 13 June, at 5am on a wet and wintery morning myself and two friends were teleported to Valley Brewery in Noordhoek to brew South Africa’s first imperial red india pale ale, under the expert guidance of brewmaster, Greg Crum.

At least that’s what it felt like.

Sam Paddock and myself were utter beer brewing novices, but we shared a passion and a dream to brew our own beer with Rob Heyns, friend, beer geek, founder of League of Beers.

Our initial very sketchy plan, appropriately discussed over a beer, was:

  • We conceptualise a beer.
  • We brew it, bottle it, label it.
  • We sell it on Rob’s site and use his various other sales channels and connections.
  • We don’t focus on making money, we focus on making memories.
  • And of course we have a lot of fun in the process.

Sam owns an awesome online education business called GetSmarter, whilst my job involves designing and selling digital products. Needless to say we leant very heavily on Rob’s network, expertise and experience.

The idea of working on a project completely removed from my line of work excited me, and acted as a useful experiment to see how applicable Sam and my varying online business background, coupled with our industry naivety, could be mashed together with Rob’s beer wisdom to create and market something truly different and disruptive.

Greg Crum very closely supervising!

Fast forward to today

We sold out of our first 450l batch in a little over a week, it was one of the most expensive beers ever brewed in South Africa given it’s variety of hops and malts. We’ve subsequently brewed another 450l batch. We’ve received great praise from beer enthusiasts and also received some good press.

We have no idea what shape this side project will take. We all are fortunate to be running successful businesses and are cautious to overcommit ourselves, whilst also being very weary of the business with friends trap. Our aim is to have fun. All the while we are very aware craft beer is an emerging and exciting industry in South Africa, and we have the collective resources to take this to the next level.

For now we are the Experimental Brewers.

The ZAR beer labels.
The ZAR brand and beer labels I designed.
Screen printing our beer labels.
Screen printing our beer labels.

ZAR is currently out of stock, but our next brew will be available in South Africa soon.

8 responses

  1. Magnus Jepson Avatar
    Magnus Jepson

    Save me some bottles please 🙂

  2. That is an awesome project. Bring some to WordCamp Europe please 🙂

  3. Jason Schuller Avatar
    Jason Schuller

    What an awesome project! Can’t wait to try some out.

    1. Josan sandeep Avatar
      Josan sandeep

      What an awesome project! Can’t wait to try some out.

  4. Nice work Mark. Down in CT later this week or next. Will have to try some 😉

  5. Patrik Jarl Avatar
    Patrik Jarl

    Wow! Gret success with the first batch! Well done! Why the name “Red IPA”? Do you use some special kinda malt or something?

    1. markforrester Avatar

      Thanks Patrick. It’s an India Pale Ale brewed with some specific malts and hops. ZAR as defined by Rob:

      A speciality malt body (created from 5 different malts, 5 different hops and a 2 hour boil)
      A clear, very red beer with a full, frothy head
      Tropical fruit and grapefruit notes with an earthy finish
      A subtle bitter undercurrent that brings all the elements together
      A moderate carbonation to balance the bitterness

      1. Patrik Jarl Avatar
        Patrik Jarl

        Yeah I guessed it was the color of it. 🙂 Cool. Using some New Zeelandish hops maybe? Or some US Amarillo or Cascade? Anyway, it sounds terrific! I’d love to get a hand of a bottle sometime.

        Good luck with the next batch!

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