Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Devil's Peak Revisited: IPAs Standing Tall

Filled to the brim with Cape Townians
It's not my way to revisit old haunting grounds, but as my last visit to Devil's Peak's Salt River taproom was curtailed by a private party, it seemed just the place to start a beery Cape Town weekend. As much as Jozi may rightfully claim its place as the country's economic engine, there's no place as good as the Western Cape to sample South Africa's burgeoning beer scene. 

Once again the place was packed as one might expect on a Friday evening. Turns out it was end of term for the nearby Universities and a running club decided there could be no better place for post-run hydration. I couldn't agree more. That this place officially serves the best beer in South Africa only boosts the busy.

Looking at the menu, I was drawn to two tap-only offerings. The first was a blaster - the black IPA. Given my almost idolotrous love for their 'regular' King's Blockhouse, I knew this one was going to be full of flavour (and to be fair, I had tasted it in December, but in a rush). Described in the menu as dark, hoppy and rich but crisp, it certainly didn't disappoint. My benchmark here is Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack, one of my all time stars. But since I hadn't had that one in months, a direct comparison wasn't possible. Still, there's little doubt the Cape Townian could hold its own. Lighter in alcohol than the Wookey and with the double IPA maltiness, the crisp flavour stood tall alongside the dark roasted malt which lent it the almost charred bitterness of a nice porter. Despite the intensity, it retained a light mouthfeel even if the glass remains dark when held up to the bright kitchen lights. The hops are a bit flatter than the King's Blockhouse without the citrus buzz, but the beer was still swimming with the precious flowers. When we asked which ones, 'European hops' is all the barman could or would reveal.
TheIPAs stand tall

Speaking of Europeans and barmen, apart from those working the taps, this was by far the darkest thing in the place. I'm sure there are those comforted by these last enclaves. It seems if you want entry here you need an electronic cigarette, a beard (if you're a dude), part of your head shaved (men and women) or vanilla dreads. That the bleached blond next to me spoke with the one white bartender of the, "little Indian man" who had served them earlier made me glad to live in Jozi.

A hunk of beer battered deliciousness
The second round was meant to go to the rye saison, described on the menu as medium to strong fruity/spicy. Alas, its tap had run dry so I was 'forced' into tasting their Imperial IPA, something that's not (yet?) bottled and had escaped me until now. Almost the same colour as the Blockhouse, there was a slighter fainter citrus nose with more of the resinous tones wafting into the nose. Thicker on the tongue and rich down the throat the maltiness was well balanced. This is something like a hot rod version of the regular IPA: slightly less delicate but nonetheless controlled and bursting with vooma. Delicious and well suited to warm one's cockles during the forthcoming Cape Town winter.

Although I came for the beer, it's worth noting the food wasn't too shabby. Sure, this is not where you go to sample Cape Town's finest cuisine, but for it's simple menu, they do the dishes right. Saison battered fish with chops and a flavour rich broccoli and goat cheese salad.The neighbour's pizza made me hope he'd look the other way so I could grab a slice.

About half way through the evening, one of Cape Town's hapless youth sidled up to bar asking the bartender for a Castle draught and Coke Zero. Asked to repeat himself, he confirmed what he was after. Taken aback and almost speechless, the bar tender stumbled over his words as he looked in exasperation for an empathetic eye. Rolling his, he informed the young man that the Castle was fresh out, but perhaps he could be happy with the beers made on site. Chastened he left with a First Light and Coke Light. Not sure which was for the lady.  

Only down side of the evening was at some point the place ran out of pint glasses and couldn't serve. Either lots of Cape Townians are filling their cupboards with these vessels or someone forgot to do their washing.

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