Sob :(

November 22, 2012 in Beer

Sob, boohoo, wrings out handkerchief in sorrow – I didn’t win the Bloggers Brew Competition! But boy, did I have fun along the way. Apparently the judges were looking for something which matched what it said on the tin – German Lager – and since I had added lots of extra grains and hops and turned my Secret Armadillo into more of an ale, I guess I was always going to be on a hiding to nothing!

But I’ve totally loved it and would do it again (and, indeed, will be doing it again) in a heartbeat. Congrats to Tank Lanning whose Front Row Grunt Brew was declared the winner – and in fact, congrats to us all, because I tasted them all last night and I think there were some pretty smart brews on show. I would go so far as to say that the 9 beers I tasted last night as a group were actually MUCH better than plenty of the 50 or so which I tasted at the Cape Town Festival of Beer last year when I was a judge. And those ones were for sale as well! There’s hope for us all.

So many thanks to Nash and Martin for organising the contest, SAB for hosting us and Tracy Fraser who designed my lovely label. I don’t think the Secret Armadillo is dead, he’s just sleeping and waiting to be resurrected in another brew. And that is certainly going to happen, courtesy of my final and biggest thank you to Lynnae Endersby of Beerlab who is a total star and absolutely deserves the title I have bestowed on her of Queen of Homebrewing. She’s published dates for her next beer schools next year – – and I cannot recommend her and her courses highly enough.

If you haven’t got your tickets to Cape Town Festival of Beer yet, please do so cos it’s going to be a riot. You can get your tickets from and I’ll see some of you there on Saturday – the Secret Armadillo may be with me if you catch me and him early enough!!

Introducing Secret Armadillo Beer

November 13, 2012 in Beer

Oh God – I’ve just realised I only have one week to go until JUDGEMENT DAY for my beer. Actually, I’m not too worried about the beer itself – only concern at the moment is how to stop my husband ‘trying’ yet another bottle – but I don’t have a label.

I do have a name however. Thank you so much to all of you for your suggestions and abject, grovelling apologies that I am such an idiot, I didn’t realise I had to moderate all your comments. If it makes you feel any better, I was very sad because I thought none of you loved me. But now that I know you all do – thanks for the ideas, but I’ve come up with something else!

The thing is that you all came up with some very cool suggestions but there were a couple of problems. First one is my name – Marston’s is actually quite a well-known brewery in the UK (I married my husband thinking he was part of the family. Another hope bites the dust) so I can’t really use that. And then all the wine-connection ones were hilarious and very clever, but unfortunately, when I googled them, a lot have already been taken. And without wishing to aggrandise one small batch of home-brew in Cape Town, I don’t want to get into an international intellectual property intrigue, thank you very much.

So I have decided that my beer is going to be named Secret Armadillo Beer. For a few reasons. Firstly, I’m hoping the initials will appeal to the judges and give me bonus points. Secondly because I am a HUGE fan of Phineas and Ferb – if you don’t have kids, do yourself a favour and watch it anyway cos it is awesome – and I feel that the Secret Armadillo and Perry the Platypus could be best friends forever.

Thirdly because there is this COOL advert from my childhood which I really wanted to give a run-out for you all to enjoy. Harry Enfield at his finest.

And lastly because it is such a random name. And random – in my book – is good.

So I need a label please. If you take a look at the competition, you will see I need a bloody good label actually – check out Nash, Natalie and Savage here Life is Savage and Bangers and Nash.

I feel a cartoon of an armadillo with a Zorro mask might be just the thing, but whatever it is – I have 4 tickets to give away, plus God knows what other goodies I may unearth, for the right label design. So please – post me a link below or email me on and help me get over this final hurdle!

War of the Beer Roses

November 5, 2012 in Beer

It’s done! My die is cast, my shot is taken, my goose is cooked and my hand is shown. And that’s quite enough clichés for a Sunday morning. Yes, I finally put my beer in the bottles and now all I can do is sit and wait. And since there is little I or anyone can do about it now, I thought I’d reveal the source of all my secrets – the amazing Lynnae Endersby from Beer Lab.

Lynnae set up her business quite recently following a lay-off from Media24 (I love it when people use redundancy as a springboard to act on their dreams. Got me to SA and that was the best thing I ever did) and since she turned her front room into a shop, her life has gone crazy. This chick is a serious beer-fundi. She’s brewed it for years, goes to bed with books on yeast and now concentrates on teaching other people and selling them the kit they need to make their own. She’s moving premises at the moment to Pinelands but you can still contact her on her website If you start your brew now, it should be perfect for Christmas and if you really want to please the special person in your life (and note, I didn’t say ‘man’ cos chicks love beer too), then sign ‘em up for a course and get them a starter kit. I am – and I think it will be the best pressie he’s ever had.

Mind you – after all this, I’d better bloody win this competition. Lynnae says she has full confidence in me and has even said she wants to taste my beer when it’s done – I think it’s to check if I cocked up her instructions or not. She’s also been helping my rival in beer – Stephanie B – who incidentally and curiously also has a Yorkshire connection in her brewing story, because her chap hails from Sheffield. I think we should bill this as the new War of the Roses – 2 beers, both made with Yorkshire love, both advised by the same Homebrewing Queen, but only one winner (all this said in dramatic movie announcer voice). Who has the date with destiny? Which one will have what it takes to win the ultimate prize? Coming soon to a beer festival near you – The War of the Beer Roses. South Yorkshire vs West – I’m betting and hoping the West will win the day.

Washing the bottles in the bath


…and finally the beer emerges.

One plop! Two plop! in go the carbonation drops

Last but not least the capping

Name my beer & WIN!

October 29, 2012 in Beer

You know at school when the entire rest of your class, all your friends and all your friends little brothers and sisters were allowed to stay up late and watch ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ on a Tuesday night and you got sent to bed at your usual time (‘We can rebuild him. We can make him the Worlds. First. Bionic. Man, Ner-ner-ner-NERRRRR’)? Remember what you wailed at an implacable parent – “But Mu-ummmmm! Everyone else is doing it!” and she would always reply “If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you?” which is not only unanswerable, but actually very stupid when you come to analyse it? Well, I’ve been having a lot of that this week because – shudders with confession-angst – I haven’t yet bottled my beer.

I’m actually having some sleepless nights now about the Loo Brew, because everyone but EVERYONE else seems to have spent the week busily sterilising and bottling and is now touting for cool labels and names for their beer. I’m happy to do the latter, as I suspect that the market for a beer named after a toilet could be limited and frankly, a little unsavoury. But my beer is still sitting happily in the fermenter, doing – well, doing pretty much nothing actually. According to my Beer Guru, this is all okay and the beer is now absorbing and integrating and I must just shut up and chill out.

So this is what I am trying to do. With, of course, copious amounts of wine. The timetable for my bottling is next weekend, leaving 3 weeks of bottle maturation before Judgement Day. And I have to win, simply for the pride of the Wine Industry in South Africa. For many a year, the saying has done the rounds “It takes a lot of beer to make a good wine” and my aim in this competition is to prove the opposite is true as well. With that in mind, I am going through a bottle of wine a night – a sacrifice of my liver which I am sure will be fully-appreciated when I walk off with top brewing honours.

Anyway – back to the main event. I need a name for my beer. Clearly Loo Brew is not going to cut it in this fiercely-competitive world of Blogger Brewing, so something needs to change. It would be nice if there was a wine-element in the name perhaps, but I don’t really mind, it just needs to be a winning name. There are FREE TICKETS – that got your attention – for the best suggestion for name and then I need a label design as well, but that can come later. So please let me have your suggestions below and the best idea can proudly adorn the Best Bloggers Beer in SA – c’mon – how can you resist an accolade like that?!

In the meantime and in the absence of any other photos cos nothing is happening, here is a picture of my cat. Utterly random pic, but I think you’ll agree, very cute.

Peas & Gravy

October 22, 2012 in Beer

So – first week down in the Bloggers Brewing Challenge and I’m kicking myself for not following my Yorkshire upbringing and using better water in my beer as some of the other bloggers appear to have done. If you are ever in Leeds and have half a day, a fun thing to do is to go round the Tetley’s brewery. Hardly craft or boutique, it is nevertheless quite good fun and what you do learn at the end of it (mainly because they drum it into your head at every conceivable turn) is that when it comes to good beer “It’s awll in the warrrrta.” That was my attempt at phonetically-spelling “It’s all in the water.” In a Yorkshire accent. Not quite sure it worked out – maybe Stephanie Be’s boyfriend can advise me further???

Anyway – suffice it to say, I didn’t go trolling around Newlands with a bucket, so good old Cape Town Municipality water will have to do for me. I opened the brew this weekend to add yet more secret ingredients. Here you go – my peas and gravy brew.

And then, inspired by things going quite well, I thought I’d taste it. Hey all you other blogging Brewers out there – be afraid. Cos my beer is already tasting very damn fine indeed.

It’s getting a bit chilly out there which apparently is all to the good but I’ve wrapped it up tenderly in a blanket and will see how it goes. And in the meantime, I thought you might like to see this – The wonderful world of wine-beer They say it takes a lot of beer to make a good wine. Let’s hope the reverse is also true cos there’s a helluva lot of wine being drunk in my house at the moment.

A loo with a brew!

October 17, 2012 in Beer

I am not an organised person. So for instance, whenever I cook, I am constantly moving things such as school bags, stray socks, sunglasses, car keys etc which litter my work surfaces and cause an obstruction. My disorganisation is further complicated by the fact  that my cooking sessions always seem to trigger a creative urge in my 6 year old so that he comes and lies on the floor behind me and builds train tracks, constructs Lego museums or draws pictures, all of them in hopes that I will fall over him and he will get some attention.

At some point or another – the cry will always go up “Bloody Jamie Oliver doesn’t have to deal with this shit!” as I search for space to put the pan down, try and find the spoon I just used 10 seconds ago but which has now vanished, and drop pancake batter over my iPad whilst trying to read the recipe over my shoulder.

So that is how I cook. And it came as no surprise to me to realise that I make beer in the same way. My brewing this Sunday was interspersed with making chocolate crispy cakes, playing a game of Beetle and washing up the night before’s dishes because I needed the spoons. But I hope I’ve got it done okay. The instructions seem quite simple and even though I have added some secret ingredients which I am not prepared to reveal as yet, it all seems fine and the fermenter is now sitting in my outside loo bubbling away to itself.

One secret which I will share with you, however – nothing is too good for my beer which is why I ONLY use Primitiv Vodka, the vodka of kings, in my airlock. Quite honestly dahlings – nothing else will do.

My son is loving the airlock by the way. He can’t remember the real name so calls it the ‘bloopbloop’ which is the noise it makes. He’s also loving the box the beer came in – proof once again that all a child needs to be happy is a cardboard box and some imagination. Although Phineas and Ferb on the iPad and a chocolate crispy cake will also do the trick.

Beer, beer – we want more BEER!

October 12, 2012 in Beer

Ah – see? It only takes one sniff of the barmaid’s apron and I relapse into the language and behaviour of my student days. Cape Town Festival of Beer is scheduled to take place at the end of November and as part of the run-up and to encourage more people to drink craft beer, a competition has been organised between ten of the Cape’s top lifestyle bloggers to see who can make the best home brew.


Well, clearly they were only able to find 9, because they asked me to take the last slot – I suspect they think I’m like the fat kid in Hunger Games – the one they’re sure they’re going to slay with relative ease.

Well ha ha ha to them cos actually, I’m a bit of a ringer when it comes to beer. Everything I know about wine was taught to me whilst I was working at one of the UK’s top independent breweries and on top of all that, I actually own 5 consecutive years-worth of CAMRA beer glasses. And a real, genuine Oktoberfest beer stein as well. Yeah, yeah – bet you’re all quivering in your boots now eh????

So over the next few weeks I shall be brewing my own beer in hopes of proving that wine folk have good beer chops as well and – of course – winning the grand prize of fame, fortune, glory and a tour around SAB. On the way, I shall be sharing some beer-soaked thoughts on life, the universe and everything and trying to keep up with the other contestants in the cool stakes. So for starters, my husband has put Instagram on my phone – apparently that ‘instagramantly’ makes me cool and hipster which is nice. Here’s my first pic with it of the kit which arrived yesterday.

And here is another pic I took and which I forgot to instagram of the Random Red Piece of Plastic. I checked all the contents carefully against the list on the side of the box, but can find no explanation for this bit anywhere.

I suspect it may be missing from a game of Mousetrap – remember this?

My husband thinks it is some sort of winder (what??? I have no idea) and my son thinks it looks like a one-dimensional outline of a church. If you have any better suggestions (and I can’t believe that anything wouldn’t be better than that trio of ideas), then please let me know. In the meantime – let the brewing begin!!

Tasting Treats at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show

June 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

Nadia from KWV pours the precious 1929 port

Plenty of wines and winemakers at the Cape Town public tasting of the Old Mutual Trophy Show Top wines last week at the CTICC. Arriving early meant space and time to chat which is always nice and I chewed the fat (and the wine) with three of my favourite ladies – Corlea Fourie from Bosman, Ntsiki Biyela from Stellekaya and Natalie Opstaele from Almenkerk – who were there showing off two great reds (Pinotage and Cabernet from Corlea and Orion from Ntsiki) and a delicious Chardonnay from Almenkerk.

Moving round the room, I then thought I should give the Gold Medal and Trophy winning Shirazes a bash – the Painted Wolf and the De Grendel. First thing that struck me about both wines was how ‘unshowy’ they both were. What do I mean by that? Well, there has been a trend in the last decade or so for producers to make big, alcoholic, over-extracted wines that stand out from the crowd (which is great if you’re tasting 100+ wines a day) but which are horrible to drink and which really tire you out. Neither of the Shirazes was that kind of wine, the Painted Wolf being particularly light, refreshing and fruity. It was also awesome to see that they were both reasonably-priced – again, something of a novelty in show winners these days.

Things were coming in twos all the way round – a pair of delicious Semillons from KWV’s Mentor’s range and the Cederberg Ghost Corner from Elim – and then onto two Chenins from De Morgenzon and Dornier, both stands ‘womanned’ by ex-wine course students who were knowledgeably chatting away, I was pleased to see! A pair of Pinotage producers were next – Rijks needs no introduction as supreme Pinotage-makers, but I haven’t tried their wines for a long time and it was lovely to see what this variety can do in the hands of a master. Sitting pertly alongside the best Pinotages in the country was a producer I would never have associated with the variety – Romond. I first came across these guys selling the most utterly delicious Cabernet Franc, Cabernet sauvignon blend and I expected to see that today. But their Pinotage was equally good and very interesting – a different style to the Rijks, but interesting nonetheless.

Final stop – promptly on the dot of 6pm – was back at KWV. After all – how many chances in life do you get to try an 83 year old wine? The 1929 Reserve Port won the trophy for the Museum Class Fortified Wine and I think it was as much for staying-power as anything else! If asked to guess, I would have said it was perhaps 40 or 50 years old – dark fruit, concentrated tawny in colour, sweet-savoury edges to it. A privilege and a treat to try such a wine.

A Little Something for the Weekend

February 16, 2012 in Wine Farms

I know you’ve all probably got things organised for this weekend – I certainly have! I’m having a solo Saturday night party, because husband and son are sleeping over at school – isn’t that just the biggest misnomer you’ve ever heard? Sleepover, my foot. Anyway. So whilst I indulge in some girly chick-flick, a bottle of chilled wine and doubtless some chocolate, they will be staying up all night, boasting about the size of their braai tools, singing the theme song to Sonic the Hedgehog in three-part harmony and staying off the booze cos it’s school policy – ha ha ha!!

So if by any chance you DON’T have anything so enjoyable and entertaining to do this weekend, can I recommend you drop Delheim a line? I like this farm – so much of what they do is modest, thoughtful, interesting and fun. As well as the wines being darned good and darned good value. So if you are free on Sunday, here is my idea of a much better way to spend a morning than with a hangover at home (as I will be doing) or a headache and early wake-up call at 4am (which will be the lot of my husband and son). Enjoy.

Delheim grape and wine tasting a unique insight into wine

A little over a decade ago, Delheim staged its inaugural grape and wine tasting; a unique chance for people to taste grapes fresh from the vine, alongside the finished wines right in the thick of harvest time. In what has become a tradition at the Stellenbosch estate, the tenth annual Delheim grape and wine tasting is set to take place on Sunday 19 February 2012.

Seating is strictly limited to 45 guests who will be hosted by the winemaker, if harvest allows, or a member of the Sperling family, who own the farm. The tasting will offer an unpretentious look at the magic of winemaking, the flavours to be found in the grapes and how these evolve in a bottle of wine.

The tasting will commence at 11h00, finishing at 13h30, at a cost of R50 per head. Early booking is advised at or telephone 021 888 4600.

Join a Wine Course this year!

January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Pic courtesy

A favourite New Year’s Resolution for many is to take up a new hobby or to study something that interests them – ‘this is the year when I finally get to grips with competitive worm breeding!’ is often the rallying call of January. But a new year is a genuinely good reason to try something different or to improve yourself in some way and what way could be more fun than studying and learning about wine?

Wine education is a hot topic and frankly one which the wine industry has brought upon itself over many years. If wine people weren’t so snobby, so quick to belittle anyone who dares to pronounce it ‘Rize-ling’ and not ‘Reez-ling’ , so sneering towards those who don’t know that Chablis is a Chardonnay, then there wouldn’t be so much debate, uncertainty, embarrassment and the fear which is the normal reaction when you ask people anything about wine. Nobody has a problem drinking beer do they? Nobody feels inferior or inadequate asking for a brandy and coke or a whisky and soda – and as a result, beer sales are considerably bigger than wine sales, whilst spirits sales are growing both here and most other countries around the world.

It’s a pity, because if you start talking to winemakers and grape growers, on the whole, they are the most friendly, down-to-earth bunch you could meet.  I have never seen a winemaker be anything other than patient and pleasant when questioned by someone who genuinely wants to know the answer – so clearly if we actually want to spread the lurve and get more people drinking wine, what we need to do is to give people the confidence to ask more questions.

With this in mind, I’d like to tell you about two different kinds of wine courses which offer opportunities to learn about wine at several different levels. For the past 8 years I have been running my informal wine courses in Cape Town, giving wine lovers the chance to try some of the finest South African wines, listen to some of the most interesting South African winemakers and ask all the questions they’ve always wanted answering about wine in general. This ‘UnWined’ course is starting on 28th February at Wine at the Mill at the Old Biscuit Mill in town. All details are linked here and if you are the kind of person who says ‘I don’t know anything about wine, but I know what I like’ then this is the course for you.

For those who have a little wine knowledge or who are interested in developing a career in the wine industry or who simply want to take their knowledge to the next level, I am very excited to be introducing the UK-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) wine courses into South Africa. WSET are the market leaders in wine education and their qualifications are recognised and taught in 55 different countries around the world. The course materials are awesome and give you a comprehensive view of winemaking styles around the globe with the bulk of the wines tasted coming from overseas. Dates, times, venues and costs are still being finalised but if you want to know more, please complete the form here and I’ll send you details very shortly!

Looking forward to lots of intelligent and knowledgeable drinking in 2012!!!