Midweek Morsel: Swifty’s Bru Launch
We gathered under the ancient Milkwood trees on an autumny Saturday afternoon in May. The happy chatter of friends and the clinking of glasses filled the courtyard, whilst Gary played some classics on his guitar. Later, when the sun sat low in the sky and the tables were packed with merry locals, he switched over to the mellow sounds of his saxophone, which, rightly so, earned him the nickname, “Gary the Lips.” The kiddies made friends and played together; the jungle gym transformed into an imaginary kingdom filled with knights and princesses. Smiling waiters in Swifty’s shirts carried icy trays of beers and drinks to the thirsty patrons, who happily toasted and celebrated this special occasion. All was well with the world.
The venue was the local family pub, Fisherman’s Restaurant in Kommetjie. Seven months earlier, Craig Downes also found himself amid a similarly festive gathering here, when he launched his labour of love: Swifty’s Bru and his first locally crafted African Pale Ale, Impi.
On this day, however, Craig launched the second of his proudly South African craft beers – a dark, broody and deep Porter-style brew, called Muti.
If you’ve lived in the South Peninsula for any amount of time, you’ll know of Craig’s wife, Nicole. She is the Deep South social media guru and the brain behind the ever-expanding South Peninsula Moms franchise. She’s bubbly, she’s chatty, she’s completely rooted and invested in our Valley and proudly stands behind any local venture. But how many of us know her slightly more behind-the-scenes significant other?
On the day, I was lucky to catch up with Mr. Swifty himself for a few minutes – he’s been doing the rounds most of the afternoon, checking in with friends and family who came to celebrate his success. Luckily his business manager and successor, his nine-year-old daughter, Dani, seems to have the whole event under control, carefully monitoring the attendance and the kegs to make sure they don’t run out of beer. She does this all with a jolly big smile and a clipboard, leaving the social interactions to her Dad.
Throughout my chat with Craig, his enthusiasm for beer-brewing is apparent. He always knew he would become a brewer. The craft of his passion started many years ago in his humble kitchen and when it outgrew the kitchen sink, it expanded to the garage, much to his family’s dismay. But they stuck it out. He nurtured and honed this skill over the years, and after countless tastings, tweaks, experiments and explosions, he now works with a licenced brewer (Valley Breweries) and has several commercial outlets selling his brews.
So, what makes Swifty’s Bru different from any of the other microbrewery beers available out there? It’s got heart. It’s got passion. It tastes like success and drinks like liquid gold. Oh, and the branding is seriously out of this world! Craig’s beers are a celebration of South Africa and its quality produce. So much so that most of the barley used in the production of Impi is locally grown and malted, supplemented only by a small percentage of world class imported Belgian malts.
Now, I don’t have the vocabulary to describe the tastes and smells of beers, but I can tell you this: I did of course try both Impi and Muti (it’s for research purposes!) and, even though they’re opposite ends of the spectrum, I instantly fell in love with both. That is not even an exaggeration! So, here’s a few of my layman’s tasting notes:
Impi reminds me of warm, summer afternoons by the pool; it’s refreshing and light, but deeply fragrant and golden in colour. I think it will be coupled best with a lovely piece of juicy steak straight off the braai. I would probably also serve it with something a bit spicier, like a gorgeous plate of Mexican nachos; the slight bitterness would contrast beautifully with the creamier elements like cheese and quacamole.
Muti, on the other hand – oh man, Muti speaks my language. It’s a happy marriage between robustness and drinkability. This brew ticks the two most important boxes for me: it’s mild without being bitter, and it tastes like sweeties – think hints of caramel, toffee and chocolate. This is more of a winter drink – if you want to warm up slowly from the inside out, grab a pint of Muti! I would serve this dark beer with a nice stew, or for the ultimate indulgence – serve it for dessert with a chocolate lava pudding!
I felt excited after my chat with Craig; you get so easily swept up in his plans and dreams. I’m excited for what Swifty’s Bru’s future holds; excited for the new heights Craig is going to take it to. He hints at the release of another beer before summer…I’ll follow his social media with bated breath until that happens! And all of this is happening right here under our noses, in our little Valley. Honestly, I don’t think this Valley is big enough to contain the African warriors for much longer – hopefully they can soon take the whole of Cape Town by storm, because the rest of the city is missing out. Big time.
So, next time you see the man with the Swifty’s cap and the easy smile, give him a good old handshake and invite him out for a swift pint.