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  • Rob Tooley


Since Zwakala Brewery opened its doors in June 2016, this northern-most Craft Brewery has been an incredible success story not only because of their award-winning beer and the dynamic, gregarious team, but also because of the scenic setting of the brewery itself on the Tooley family farm next to the Broederstroom river.  Zwakala, meaning come closer and the Africanism it embodies, encapsulates the motto of the Tooley extended family to welcome everyone with open arms, a warm smile, a genuine interest in who you are and, of course, a cold Zwakala beer.  Owner, Rob Tooley says, ‘For us it’s all about good beer, good food, chilled music and a special welcoming vibe that has been created throughout the years.  Zwakala’s vivaciousness and friendliness has led to people feeling comfortable and relaxed when coming here and the respect for people from all walks of life plays a major role in our ethos.’  

Zwakala is not only popular with local and international visitors but has also been recognised by the Beer Association of South Africa, winning the Best Craft Beer in South Africa in 2021 for their Weekend Special, a highly drinkable IPA with a milky aroma.  To create this white Indian Pale Ale, Rob explains that they use lots of hops in a method called dry hopping.  When they spin the wort after the boil, they add four kilograms of lemon grass, which gives the beer its unique, delicious smell and taste.  But this was not the only Zwakala brew which hit the spot with the judges.  ‘In 2019, we won gold for the Best Light Lager, the Limpopo Lager, which is our biggest seller, thanks to all of the Limpopeans and craft beer lovers across the country who love it!  In the same year we were awarded silver medals for our Moringa Ale as well as the Mountain Weiss and in 2017, a silver medal for our Naked Ale.  Rob feels that what the judges are looking for is good, drinkable amber liquid and is excited to see what he and Prince Malatji will achieve with their new beers, having taken over from Zwakala’s Master Brewer, Luca Tooley.

Zwakala’s thousand-litre brewery has the capacity to store 5000 litres of beer at a time.  Rob and Prince start brewing early in the morning by heating up the liquid, which is called a wort, then adding the grains to the hot water, establishing a clear amber-coloured liquid that has ample sugars, adding different types of hops to the boiling liquid. After it cools down, they transfer the brew into a tank where yeast is added and the fermentation process continues until they have achieved the appropriate Alcohol By Volume (ABV) a number of days later.  The beer remains in the tank for another week, after which they cold-crash the brew down to two degrees Celsius for another two weeks when the beer is finally ready to drink.  For each lager, ale, IPA and Weiss, they use different grains, hops and processes to achieve the different tastes.

According to Rob, their most popular beer is the Limpopo Lager, brewed from the clean, clear waters of the great Letaba river, which rises in the mountains around them while the Mountain Weiss is a cloudy, German-style beer with a strong citrus smell. Their Naked Ale is similar to a traditional English beer, bitter with a caramel nose and the Weekend Special, their strongest beer, at 6.5% was the result of a collaboration with Drifters Brewery.  Zwakala’s seasonal beer in 2023 was brewed to celebrate the Cape Parrot, South Africa’s bird of the year which is to be found locally in the Woodbush Forest and surrounds.  Zwakala is also brewing a unique beer for the 2024 Clarens Craft Beer Festival, taking place over the first weekend in March in a tiny, picturesque hamlet in the Eastern Free State where over 9000 beer-lovers celebrate the unique products created by Craft Breweries like Mad Giant, Agar, Clarens, Devils Peak and the Standeaven breweries.  

Each year, the participants bring something new for the crowds to sample and this time, Zwakala has created a smokey lager as well as a fresh, light, summery mexican lager best enjoyed with a slice of lemon. Rob says that ‘one of the unwritten roles of a craft brewery is about exposing people to different types of beers other than the standard lager.  Even if they are more expensive, once a person has indulged in good craft beers, they are unlikely to go back to the mass-produced, commercial beer, which are generally brewed very quickly and have a bland taste.  

According to Rob, Magoebaskloof, Zwakala’s home, is very different to other places in Limpopo, with weather ranging from hot days to misty weeks, lots of summer rain, frosty mornings in winter.  He says, ‘it is a privilege to live in a place with so little light pollution at night and enjoy peaceful days in this beautiful natural environment alongside the catchment of the Great Letaba river that feeds millions of people, animals and nature.   Magoebaskloof is a place of legends and it is exciting to see many of the young people coming back to establish their lives here.  We are excited about the future and intend to become much more of a family destination with entertainment for everyone.’  Watch this space for dates for Zwakala’s 8th Brewversary as well as the Stomping the Vine Festival.

Connect with them on 073 791 6797 / 073 113 9969 / 083 627 2551

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