South Africa’s Beerhouse has 99 bottles of beer

The founder-owner of the South African restaurant, Beerhouse, aims to have 20 outlets across the country by 2020. The third venue, in Pretoria, opened in November.

beerhouse bottles beer bars south african
The Beerhouse on Long Street in Cape Town is on the ’21 Best Beer Bars in the World’ list compiled by online lifestyle magazine Thrillist. (Image: Beerhouse, Facebook)

Melissa Javan
A German who fell in love with South Africa opened his third South African Beerhouse in Centurion, Pretoria in November 2016; it will not be his last. Randolf Jorberg, founder of the restaurant, says he aims to have 20 Beerhouse outlets in the country by 2020.

Each Beerhouse serves 99 types of bottled beer, each on display, which the restaurant calls its “99 bottles of beer on the wall”. Each also has 25 taps, although the taps are not all for beer. There are also spirits on tap – the Centurion Beerhouse has gone bigger, with 30 taps.
“[A total of] 80% of the beer we sell is South African,” says Jorberg. “Where there is no local equivalent, we import beer. We are importing less and less.”

Earlier this month, the Beerhouse received the Rosetta Award 2016 for service excellence from the Restaurant Association of South Africa:

Jorberg says he had more than 30 staff members when the first Beerhouse opened in Cape Town in August 2013. “Now we have 163 staff members in the three shops.” The Fourways, Johannesburg venue opened in July 2014 and the Centurion venue opened on 25 November this year.

A South African love affair

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Randolf Jorberg, owner of the Beerhouse. (Image: OM Business Bash, Facebook)

He fell in love with South Africa regardless of the beer, says Jorberg. “I decided to live here and to have a business. That’s how the idea of a beerhouse came.
“This is the business I want to drive forward. I love the diversity of South Africa. I want that diversity represented at every Beerhouse.”

The Beerhouse has a specific beginning. Jorberg recalls that he and his pregnant girlfriend, Varnia, were sitting in a beer bar in Heidelberg in Germany when the idea sparked. On 2 April 2012, he writes on his website, “Varnia (then pregnant) and I were sitting and discussing the various available beers, their stories and wondering why no similar place existed in Cape Town.

“Quick market research through text messages and Facebook followed and we realised that there might indeed be a gap in the South African market. Thanks to the pregnancy, we went back to the hotel quite early that evening and I reserved the most obvious domain name, created a brand new Facebook page, invited Capetonian friends and started posting, before going to bed.

“Just a few days after the birth of our daughter it happened: Varnia’s uncle told us that some of his rugby mates had asked him whether he had heard about these mavericks who were planning to open a beer bar with more than 40 different beers and they mentioned my name,” says Jorberg.

“Shortly thereafter, the beer blogger Joakim had written about us, although we had no location, no experience in the hospitality industry – we did nothing but promise beer variety…”
He realised it wasn’t only friends and family who liked the idea, Jorberg says. “We had planted an idea in people’s minds and they actually really wanted a beer bar with 40+ different beers.”

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The original Beerhouse opened on Cape Town’s famed Long Street in 2013. (Image: Beerhouse, Facebook)

A few days after signing the contract for the venue at 223 Long Street, they still had no real plan how to open a bar, but were ready to spread the word.

“We printed blue Beerbar T-shirts and visited the Cape Town Festival of Beer, where we met all the brewers. They are now our best partners for the first time and we also found our vision: give our guests at the Beerhouse a 365-day-a-year beer festival experience and be the tasting room for the South African craft beer industry.”

Jorberg says although the Beerhouse did not start the craft beer revolution, it is driving it forward.

The Beerhouse experience

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There are 99 bottles of beer on the wall and over 20 taps in every Beerhouse. (Image: Beerhouse, Facebook)

A Beerhouse experience of which clients can be part is the “Meet the Brewer” events. This is a food and beer pairing of three courses. Handcrafted food is paired with different drinks on a special menu.

“Meet the Brewer” is aimed at giving local micro-breweries a podium, explains the Beerhouse site. “However, we do have an inclusive menu that has a range of international treats from 13 different countries.”
Jorberg adds: “Nearly every day we have a mini beer festival. Customers can also formally meet the brewer who hand delivers the beers daily.”

The Beerhouse tries to find the perfect beer for each of its customers, explains Jorberg. “We are trying to convert many people who say ‘we don’t drink beer’ to ‘we do drink beer.’ People who come to the Beerhouse go away saying ‘I don’t like a larger but I like an ale.'”

Watch AFK Travel show the variety of drinks and food sold at Beerhouse:

Asked what beers stand out, Jorberg answers:
Drifter Brewery – Stranded Coconut Ale
Big Trees Brewing – Mango Beer
Woodstock Brewery – Californicator
The last is a great example of the American West Coast India pale ale that is brewed locally and is exciting international tourists.

Competing with the world

When it comes to beer, South Africa competes with the rest of the world, Jorberg says. “International tourists who visit the Beerhouse in Cape Town are usually blown away at the beer variety and the presentations we have. We take beer very seriously in our way.”

And South Africans love beer, he adds. “The feedback we received (after opening the Centurion outlet) is good.” There are already regulars – people who have made the place their local hangout – at the Centurion Beerhouse. But there are also plenty of new customers.

He believes that the variety of beer and the experience at the Beerhouse is a strong model. “The trust we have earned, the fact that you can find that local and global variety in one place – we are creating a destination people want to visit.”

Beer for charity

The Beerhouse also runs a social responsibility initiative called #PintForAPurpose. “One of our general managers – who was a waiter first – suggested this initiative. We ask the brewers for free stock and raise money for a purpose,” says Jorberg.

“Each #PintForAPurpose cycle we try to get 150 litres donated which gives us around R12 000 per cycle. We have made over R200 000 since we started the initiative.”
The first cycle raised about R4 000, which went to a soup kitchen that fed approximately 60 people for lunch and dinner. Following that, the initiative contributed R10 000 towards buying non-perishables. This was distributed to various homes that were struggling financially.

“Our next big project we did an eye screening for a school in Joe Slovo. We screened two grades, of which 67 children needed glasses. We also bought them the glasses and footed the bill for all the costs of transport, screening, glasses and scripts,” explains Jorberg.

He says the most recent #PintForAPurpose was for a former employee, Joe Kanyona.

Kanyona, a doorman, was murdered while at work in June last year. “Joe’s fund was to pay for his daughter’s school fees. His fund brought in about R30 000.”

Sources: Beerhouse, Beer Revolution and The Randolf Jorberg Blog.

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