Crafting a Garden Beer Route

The Garden Route is justifiably one of the most popular scenic drives in South Africa but it’s not exactly a fountain of great craft beer. That said, if you plan ahead and makes your stops, you shall be rewarded with some fine craft beers to enjoy along the way.

great beaches & rugged coastal scenery abound on the Garden Route

Of course, don’t forget to make some stops for the amazing coast scenery, too. The Garden Route technically starts in Mossel Bay, about a four-hour drive from Cape Town. We had limited time and made our first stop in Wilderness, another forty-five minutes up the coast. After stretching our legs and checking out the enticing beach there, we sped another twenty-minutes to the Sedgefield Craft Brewery and after a few samples in the cute little roadside brewpub, we continued onto nearby Knysna.

my wife & trusty driver at the Sedgefield Craft Brewery

Knysna is a more typical tourist stop and even has Mitchell’s Brewing right in the center but I’d read both the town and brewery had seen better days, the latter having moved its actual brewing to a nearby larger location.  So, we took the advice of the Sedgefield owner/brewer and headed up to The Heads for some outstanding views.

Views from The Heads & surroundings

It was time to make a beeline for our overnight stop of Storms River. We got in just around sundown and our host said to go to our planned dining choice quickly as she’s heard it was closing early.  It was just about dark when we were ready to leave and were happy to hear we could walk over to the pub but to take a flashlight for the walk back as there weren’t any street lights in her neighborhood. It seemed quite a departure from Cape Town where we were never sure if walking really was an option.

Marylin’s Diner & the Tsitsikama Brewery are pretty much one place

Well, the Tsitsikama Brewery looked in no way to be closing early, it was absolutely packed. The above picture of the pub was taken on the way out after the brewpub itself had closed. There were no spots when we sauntered in but Marylin’s Diner was connected by a corridor. There weren’t any seats inside but they had an outdoor seating area which was sealed off somewhat from the cold. The light, however, was awful for pictures so I didn’t get any photos of their beers.  They had four on tap and we tried them all. The Honeybush Ale is made with rooibos tea. It was nicely balanced with a slight bitter finish, probably a nice enough after hike beer. The Woodcutter Ale was amber with a fruity palate and seemed to have fair hopping and a dryish finish but ultimately seemed a bit thin on flavor.  The Redwood Ale suffered the same fate. Nice citrusy element but you got the impression they were skimping on what was going into the kettle. I nearly didn’t get the last one as I imagined a Belgian Dubbel not to hold up very well against such tactics . Oddly enough, it was the best of the lot. I guess since it was the strongest, it had ample malt. That said, it was more of a Germanic Weizenbock flavor-wise, with a chocolate banana nose and palate. It was a nice desert beer. Their burger was just so-so but their salted popcorn milkshake was a winner. As you can see, desert seems to be their strong suit.

lush and lovely Tsitsikama National Park

We pried ourselves from our lovely cabin in Storms River the next day and made our way into Tsitsikama National Park. The brewpub’s not being amazing helped ease the pain of leaving our cozy little place with much needed electric blankets. Our cabin by the sea in the park wasn’t ready yet so we went for lunch at the nearby Cattle Baron before setting off to check out the park’s number one attraction: a long series of swing bridges connection some rugged patches of coast.

the swing bridge area and rugged lush coast of Tsitsikama National Park

It was a fun walk to the bridge and wanted to continue along the trail a bit more and kept climbing ever higher to ever greater views. We wound up going all the way to the viewpoint which was great but time-consuming.  We made our way back to our car and went to get the keys to our cabin, arriving later in the afternoon than planned. This wasn’t really a huge problem but our planned hike of the Waterfall Trail seemed to be all but aborted. After relaxing a bit, I was antsy to at least go have a look at that part of the park and my wife relented to my obvious overtures to do so.

our lovely seaside cabin & the Sedgefield Porter

The hike to the waterfall was amazing and it was all too hard to turn around about a third of the way into it but it was getting late and doing the entire thing would have meant walking on a very tough trail in the dark on the way back and most likely my wife leaving me so sometimes you have to leave things for another day.

the boulder hopping terrain of the Waterfall Trail

We got back to the cabin with enough time to enjoy a much deserved Sedgefield Porter on our little balcony and half-heartedly wished we were firing up our braai as our neighbor was doing, obviously fighting the ocean wind in the process. Our romantic notions of a fire were allayed when the waiter brought us a flaming steak, washed down with a not up to par with the meal Forester’s Lager.

a flaming steak & Forester’s Lager from Mitchell’s Brewing

After dinner, we made our way back to our cabin to enjoy a much better Sedgefield India Pale Ale on our balcony, listening to the waves crashing, as we would when we fell asleep hours later.

The next morning the sun was shinning. We debated briefly about doing the entire Waterfall Trail but we had a six-hour drive to the heartlands of South African’s wine region.  Sometimes you have to leave things for another day, especially when you have another adventure beckoning you to your next destination.

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