Mandy Freeman caught up with spent some time with SAB chief brewer Petr Vesely to find out more about the beer brewing process, while also clearing up some misconceptions about brewing.
Very briefly, take us through your career so far.
“I come from a brewing family – my father worked in breweries so it made sense for me to follow in his footsteps. My earliest memory of visiting my dad in the brewery in the historical part of Prague, Czech Republic, was when I was three years old. At the age of 20 I got my first job as a brewer in a microbrewery in Japan. My career has taken me to so many different countries (including Belgium, the USA and Switzerland) and I’m very happy to have been able to return to South Africa. The highlight of my career so far was when I was brewing manager at the Pilsner brewery in Czech Republic. It’s a very special place – from the moment you enter the famous brewery gate you can feel the tradition and pride for brewing here.”
What sets SAB beers apart from the other beers on the market?
“The people who make it set it apart – at SAB there’s a lot of passion, skill and experience that goes into making beers. You need a lot of practical and theoretical knowledge and experience to become a good brewer.”
Most important step of the brewing process?
“Every step is important but what many people don’t know is that beer making actually starts with growing the barley and hops. We spend a lot of time focusing on breeding the right barley and hop varieties that are suitable for our beers. It’s a never-ending process as barley varieties only last a couple of years and it can take up to 10 years do develop a new one.”
Any misconceptions about brewing beer?
“It’s really difficulty to brew consistently high quality beer that meets defined specification from raw materials that vary from year to year, batch to batch. Sometimes I hear people say our beer isn’t exciting enough because it tastes the same. What you should be doing is appreciating the skill of our brewers that work so hard to make this happen. People also believe that craft beer must be good but that’s not necessarily true. Since I’ve arrived in South Africa I’ve tasted many craft beers – I’ve had some good, unfortunately I’ve also had some absolutely terrible ones, usually caused by micro contamination. Beer making is a complicated process that requires knowledge, experience, precision of the brewmaster and high quality raw ingredients. When all these aspects come together, consistently good beer is made.”
Check out more from South African Breweries at SABStories.co.za.