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Africa is a place that has long intrigued, tempted, inspired and delighted explorers. Beginning with the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, and reaching its zenith in the nineteenth century with the likes of Livingston and Stanley, every effort has been made to demystify this most mysterious landmass.
Yet the Dark Continent remains reluctant to reveal all her secrets. Only 40 years ago the idea that Africa could be the birthplace of humanity was ridiculed and even dismissed out of hand, so it should come as no shock that even today there are plenty of surprises to be found in these lands.
It may be called the Dark Continent, but let's throw some light on Africa's burgeoning craft beer scene as we resume our exploration of the best boutique beers from around the planet...
One such surprise comes in the form of craft beer. Lager has long been the beer of choice in most African countries and is brewed throughout the continent, with a few regional variations still managing to provide welcome relief to the increasing homogeneity.
But increasingly, a new player is emerging. Craft beer has already gained a significant foothold in South Africa (particularly in the Cape Winelands region that was once the exclusive home to the country's wine industry), and other countries are now following suit. In some cases there is a distinctly European flavour to both the brewing process and the beers themselves, but others are uniquely African - and well-placed to intrigue, tempt, inspire and delight a new breed of explorer...
31. The Big Five Breweries (Nairobi, Kenya)
Named after the five senses to which it appeals, The Big Five Breweries is one of Kenya's only craft breweries. Priding itself on brewing 'for the individual', Big Five (which was founded in 2009) serves five craft beers from its on-site brewery, ranging from a blond ale to a stout via a pilsner. Try the 'Nyatipa' pale ale. At 6.5% ABV, it packs a punch, so is best enjoyed with some of the gourmet food (featuring a fusion of European, Asian and Kenyan flavours) on offer in the venue's Brew Bistro and Lounge.
32. Camelthorn Brewing (Windhoek, Namibia)
People with passion can be found everywhere in the world of craft beer - and J rg Finkeldey is a case in point. Passionate about craft beer, J rg founded Camelthorn Brewing in 2009. Five years on it produces five main beers and the occasional seasonal delight. Camelthorn's 'Helles' pilsner is marked by the balance of bitter and aroma hops and is perfectly suited to the Namibian climate, while the American ale, 'Red', is testament to the brewery's desire to broaden the horizons of the country's craft beer lovers.
33. Garden Br u (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)
Part hotel, part brewery and all craft, the Garden Br u brings a touch of Germany to East Africa. Proudly sticking to the famous Reinheitsgebot (German Purity Law) when it comes to its brewing process, Garden Br u produces two main beers: 'Blondy' and 'Ebony'. You may be tempted to think there's something kitsch about the whole set-up (shades of a tacky, artificial, mass-produced Irish-theme pub), but the dark-roasted barley in the 'Ebony' should convince you otherwise.
34. Ale House (Broederstroom, South Africa)
Brewmaster Dirk van Tonder is a traditionalist. At his 'beer farm' in South Africa's Northwest Province, he uses methods (like drying barley in the sun) developed centuries ago. The results can be savoured at the Ale House, where van Tonder's range of beers joins wood-fired pizza on the menu. There are year-round beers like 'Trailer Trash Blonde' (interesting name, even more interesting American pale ale), but it's the occasional brews like the winter special Capsicum Ale (almost no hops are used, but a bag of whole chilli peppers is added at the later stages of the boil) that really set this place apart.
35. Jack Black's Brewing Company (Cape Town, South Africa)
Inspiration and innovation are the order of the day at the brewery that has done more than most to spread the gospel of craft in South Africa. Founded in 2007, Jack Black's beers continue to raise the bar of craft beer excellence. Winner of awards galore, the passion and commitment to using the finest natural ingredients shines through.
You won't go wrong with the 'Butcher Block' pale ale or the 'Lumberjack' amber ale, but with its full malt flavour and extreme hop character, the 'Skeleton Coast' IPA represents the ultimate reward for the fearless drinker. Plus, it's named after the treacherous stretch of coast James Squire would have sailed along with the First Fleet en route to Australia. Which means it's got to be good!
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