Just Brewing @ Capital Craft Beer Fest
Capital Craft 2017 is upon us. We’ve given away tickets. We’ve interviewed bands. We’ve interviewed breweries and we shall continue to do so up to and including the day of the festival!
Just Brewing is one of my personal favourite craft beer stories; a family run brewery since 2014, these good lads and lasses go out of their way to support their local community in Boksburg, donate spent grain to the local park for the animals instead of throwing it away, and dedicate a portion of their income to supporting rhino reserves.
To add to their big hearts, it’s also worth noting that their beers are not piously named after Greek gods or Camelot references. They’re simply named, “Just Chocolate Coffee Stout”, “Just Porter” and “Just Pale Ale”…a move I find humbling and refreshing.
Excited to see what they’ve got going on before they feature at Capital Craft, I asked them a couple of questions:
Richard Chemaly (RC): When I think Boksburg, I don’t initially think beer but it seems you’re changing that just one draft at a time. Speaking of ‘just”, what’s with the euphemistic manner of naming your beers with the prefix, “just”?
Just Brewing (JB): We believe in good, honest beer, we’re focusing on the beer without trying to be to pretentious or in your face. The beer is always going to be the most important part of our business.
RC: Of all the breweries we know, you seem to be the most giving from donating proceeds to rhino conservation to sending your waste grain to the animals of your local park. How has this been received by your community and what is the attraction of supporting your community seeing as very few breweries tend to do such?
JB: It has always been important to us that if we expect support from our community they deserve to get the support back. There are quite a few breweries involved in charitable projects, and we salute them for all their hard work as well.
RC: You’ve been open for 3 years now which means you got into the industry relatively late. Craft beer is a sly game with ever increasing barriers to entry. Have you regretted not starting sooner?
JB: Nope, I think that things happened at just the right time for us. We will be going into our fourth year of business soon and back when we started there was not the huge boom that we are currently seeing. It has given us a good chance to settle into the tough brewing industry and prepared us so that now we are ready to take the plunge with a whole new upgraded brewhouse.
RC: We’ve been around the block, seen the new kids and the old ballies. There are a couple of the old guard we really cherish who established the industry and held the doors for players like you to enter and make waves. Are there any breweries you look up to or seek mentorship from?
JB: There are many great brewers out there but Brendan from Copperlake is the brewer who really inspired us to get into the industry. His never say die attitude really helped us believe that we could make it work.
RC: Talk us through your beers, we know you rock a chocolate coffee stout, pale ale and a porter, none of which exceed 5%. Which seems to be your most popular and why and, more importantly, will you be brewing something special for Capital Craft?
JB: We have a set range of beer that we have earmarked as our traditional favorites, they are the ones we started with and three really popular beers : Cheeky Pale Ale, Rascally Red and Sneaky Stout. Added to this range we are doing seasonal beers that change every so often. We’ll be bringing our Jozi Gold along, which is packed with tropical fruit flavours and aroma, as well as few other surprises!
RC: When commercial breweries make an error, it’s a mere drop in the ocean for them but when you guys stuff it up, it could cost you a month’s revenue. That’s simply the nature of craft beer volume, supply and demand. What’s been your most expensive error and what have you learned from it?
JB: I think that mistakes hurt the big boys just as much as us, remember that their mistakes can cost 1000’s of liters at a time, that will hurt any bottom line. Luckily for us we haven’t had a huge mistake yet that has cost us loads of cash.
RC: We’ve seen you at a number of fests before and the queues outside your stalls tend to be long. We imagine you’ve received a number of compliments for your beer…what has been the most touching compliment you’ve received?
JB: Mmmmm, that’s a tricky one.
JB: No, we don’t filter or pasteurize and we don’t have plans to. We would like to have a more ‘Local is Lekker’ vibe and we won’t be shipping our beer long distances. We rather want to encourage people to visit us at the brewery, get to know us and enjoy our beer, and maybe take a growler home, rather than ship it off to bottle stores. This means that extended shelf life isn’t really an issue for us.
RC: As far as Capital Craft goes, what are the nerves like when competing against some of South Africa’s finest? I know it’s not really a competition but to the brewers, surely there’s an element of pride at stake?
JB: *laughs* No there really isn’t. Our biggest goal is to do better than we did the year before, sell more beer and get it out faster.
RC: As festivals go on, people tend to get more drunk. As people get more drunk, they tend to mix beers together. Are you able to look the other way or does this kind of sacrilege get you hot under the collar?
JB: Mixing beers can be loads of fun, in fact we offer a half and half to people who are looking for something a bit different. As long as people are enjoying your beer it doesn’t matter how they are enjoying it!