Posts Tagged ‘Cape Town’

Squared away in the heart of Cape Town’s southern suburbs is a little anomaly of a place called Banana Jam. I call it anomalous because it is the sort of place you’d expect to find in the more vibey parts of any town – the high streets and downtowns of this world if you like.

It has a markedly exotic theme inspired by the Caribbean that would usually resonate in a more urban setting where choice is king, rather than in suburbs like these where pizza joints, laundromats and stock standard pubs are the norm. Yet there it defiantly stands, in the centre of a middle class residential area with no malls or major businesses around to help it attract the custom that is required to keep most businesses of this sort going and not visibly attempting to appeal to the iterant traffic that spills out of the nearby Kenilworth railway station to fill its tables. Hmmm… I wonder why?

I frequented the establishment directly next door to Banana Jam for a while, seeking the mindless after work camaraderie that our wives struggle to understand, and finding it repeatedly through the endless disconnected conversations that men will have with each other in such places. Hob Nobs, as it is quite appropriately named, exactly fits the bill of the typical neighbourhood pub which is peppered with TV screens everywhere showing the football, rugby or cricket, depending on the season and is filled with locals who all know each other and are in turn also well-known to the establishment to the point that drinks are seemingly ordered telepathically. This was my local until very recently.

In stark contrast to Hob Nobs, Banana Jam does not show any sports at all and does not even have any screens to show them on. It does not even have much of a bar area and instead focusses on being more of a restaurant with many more tables than a typical barfly like myself is used to.

On the way to my local last summer and while strolling past Banana Jam, as was my routine, I noticed a colourful sign at the entrance proclaiming that October Fest had finally made its way to this very unremarkable part of Cape Town and it had found a temporary home in this place that I had so often walked by.

Bemused and much to the horror of the waiter at Hob Nobs who had already ordered for my drink, I decided to break with tradition and walked into the place to sample their interpretation of that most hallowed of German beer festivals. Having been to several such festivals, I must admit that I was sceptical about what I would find in this little place and fully expected to be perched at my favourite corner of the bar at Hob Nobs before long.

I will spare you a long-winded description of what is at best a faded memory of my first impressions of the establishment dulled by the many samplings that I did that day. Suffice it to say that I have never been to the place next door again and I now get my fix of mundane conversations with total strangers from Banana Jam.

I think, however, that the excellent beer that I had that day and my subsequent education on the craft surrounding its brewing and appreciation deserves further mention.

The beer was, and continues to be, outstanding and is largely sourced from the local craft beer movement. If you are unfamiliar with the term craft beer, it generally refers to beers produced by small-scale brewers and it is normally of types outside the ones dominant in the local market.  India Pale Ale (a personal favourite of mine) is, for example, a style of beer that you will only find in the craft beer circles in South Africa and it does not last very long wherever you find it due to the woefully inadequate supply of the stuff.

Apart from the usual fare that can be found on most taps across the land, they also have many other non-standard beers on tap that are always available and that can be depended on to not run out. These by themselves are enough to distinguish the place from most other places within a twenty kilometre radius, but nooo it does not stop there… With names like First Light, Hammerhead IPA and the Ocean Potion, Banana Jam sports a very impressive repertoire of exotic beers with a variety wide enough to suit every palate and which I continuously sample with rare disappointment.

What is truly different about Banana Jam, as I’m sure all the other enthusiasts from across the mother city will attest to, is that they also sport an impressive array of guest beers on tap that constantly change as the craft beer lot experiment with different styles of beer making, fermentation and ingredients that even include fruit. Yes fruit. There was very nice mango ale that did a rather short stint on one of the taps at the beginning of the year. I don’t think it lasted more than a couple of hours to be honest. It had been anticipated by quite a few people while it was still brewing and so by the time it hit the taps, it found a large group of eager samplers waiting to applaud it.

This neatly brings me to the brewing fraternity in Cape Town. Craft beer actually has quite a large following in Cape Town with no fewer than four very well attended festivals happening in the year and several clubs that meet regularly to discuss their various brews and projects around brewing.

There are also a few shops that specialise in the supply of materials for the home brewer ranging from the malt itself, all the way through to sophisticated kit used to test for alcohol levels and even acidity in the water used.  The craft beer movement is, however, a whole other story in itself and the few words that I’ve written do not even begin to describe the enthusiasm with which people are clubbing together, sharing information and producing ales of remarkable variety and quality.

“Big man, what can I get you today?” is how I am now greeted when I go to Banana Jam these days, and it is to this jovial atmosphere that the first beer normally goes down. Many of my friends wonder why I have become so hard to find recently, but I am wont to go anywhere that does not have at least one tap that dispenses something out of the ordinary and because of this I have abandoned most of my previous haunts.

Yes, despite being tucked away in the heart of Cape Town’s southern suburbs, Banana Jam continues to defy most expectations and is already the veritable Mecca for a very niche but growing craft beer appreciation society and it does not, as far as I know, have any competition in this fair city yet.


Read Full Post »