Our beers are made from three major natural ingredients: malted barley, hops and water. We only use the best of these ingredients to ensure that our beers retain the quality that has made them world renowned.
In nature, hops grow in the summer and barley in the winter; both are harvested once a year. In our specialised greenhouse setting, however, we grow barley and hops together year-round. Here, new young crops of barley and hops are planted and then harvested every few weeks, so that the full growth cycle of each plant is always on display. The hop plants are cuttings from bines in the George area of the southwestern Cape, and the barley plants begin their life as seeds from Caledon in the Western Cape.
Malted barley that has been allowed to sprout, and is then kiln-dried, is beer’s primary raw ingredient. It contributes to beer's body, colour, aroma and ultimate flavour. At SAB, only two-row barley malt is used. Barley grows best in cool, moist conditions, which means that South Africa’s climate is slightly warmer than barley usually prefers. But special hardy types of barley – Clipper, Stirling and Schooner – are now grown with great success near Caledon. SAB, in partnership with South African barley farmers, pioneered the development of these better crops. Today, the majority of the malted barley used at SAB comes from the Caledon region, while limited quantities of other malt is imported for special flavouring.
Hops, the green, cone-shaped fruit of the female hop bine, produce beer’s distinctive bitterness and aroma. Oils and resins in the hop cones create this special, refreshing flavour and even help to naturally preserve beer. In the spring, shoots emerge from the perennial hop plant’s rootstock and grow remarkably fast – up to 100mm a day, climbing to a height of five to six metres in a season.
Since the length of the summer day in South Africa is several hours shorter than in other hop-growing countries, our hop growers use artificial lighting to simulate a longer day, adding three to four hours of growing light per day.