After arriving in South Africa we quickly got bored of all the mainly bottom fermented beers available in the shops. We were looking for a beer that could really quench your thirst, especially on a long and hot summer day. For us the best beer for this purpose is half a liter of Weizen – the first beer we brewed in 2009.
Luckily our first Weizen turned out to be very drinkable, but the small batch of only 15 litres did not last long. So we had to brew again. After several batches of Weizen the ‘experimental’ phase began and soon our reason for brewing became ‘adding variety’.
There are so many different varieties of beer that there is a beer for everyone and for any occasion in our opinion.
We decided from the very beginning to honour our German roots by brewing all our beers according to the German Reinheitsgebot from 1516. The Reinheitsgebot is an ancient German law permitting only the use of malt, hops, water (and yeast) to brew beer.
You might see the Reinheitsgebot as a useless limitation if it comes to brewing and there are plenty of beers around using further/or different ingredients, but we believe that we can brew a great variety of fantastic beers by adhering to 1516 law.
To us tradition plays an important role when it comes to beer culture. We do not want to follow trends – we want to rediscover old recipes and craft unique beers.
Where it all began…
Our crafter brewed his very first batch in 1999 at Gerd Reiner’s boutique brewery in the Rosine, Germany. Thank you very much Gerd, for planting that tiny seed that would become our dream.
After arriving in Stellenbosch in 2008, we tasted our way through the standard range of beers available in the liquor stores.
We soon became bored with always drinking the same 10 to 20 different brands. Then we discovered the Paulaner Brauhaus in Cape Town, which always had a great Weizen on tap. But driving to the V&A Waterfront to enjoy a great beer was not an everyday option and therefore we decided in 2009 to brew our own Weizen in Stellenbosch.
Unfortunately the Brauhaus in Cape Town doesn’t exist anymore, but luckily their German brew master, Wolfgang Ködel, is still around. I see Wolfgang as our godfather and mentor when it comes to beer brewing.
Nowadays Wolfgang is responsible for the great range of beers at the Cape Brewing Company in Paarl and we still see each other on a regular basis to enjoy great beers together.
What is in a name?
Until 2011 we were brewing no name beer. But that changed during a visit from our Bavarian friend Rainer Schnödt. After enjoying several of our Weizen beers (we enjoyed many, because Rainer loves them) he told us the story about an animal who had a zebra as a mother and a donkey as a father.
This animal really exists and is called ‘Zebresel’ in German. We liked the story of this animal so much that we decided to call our beers Zebonkey (ZEBra dONKEY). Mignonne, the soul of our brewery, was born in Pretoria (the zebra) and our brewer, Jan, was born in Bavaria (the donkey).
You can see Zebonkey as a perfect joint venture between South Africa and Bavaria. The beers are brewed in South Africa according to the German Reinheitsgebot using plenty of German ingredients.
We strongly believe in the half litre swing-top bottle. One of the first things which caught our attention after arriving in South Africa was that beer is often sold in awkward 440 ml bottles. For us the common size of a beer was either 330 ml (which is way too little, if it is a great beer) or in 500 ml measures (half a litre, one litre or with friends: three litres).
For home brewers the swing-top bottle is the perfect solution for a successfull second fermentation. The only brand using these bottles in South Africa was Grolsch. But since Grolsch is bottled in green bottles we soon started to import our own half litre swing-top bottles with brown glass. Brown glass protects the beer much better from sunlight than green glass does.
By using the half litre swing-top bottle we also try to educate our friends about the Zebonkey philosophy to enjoy the beer out of a glass instead of drinking it directly from the bottle.
Since these imported swing-top bottles are really expensive we charge a R 10 deposit for each bottle.
Bring the empty half litre swing-top bottles back to Zebonkey brewery and you get the deposit back. Reuse instead of recycle.
If you want to be part of the family (apply for a job), please get in touch with us (even though we don’t have any vacant positions at this stage).
You, as someone who have tasted a Zebonkey, are in charge of the quality! If you didn’t like our beer for whatever reason, please tell us. The only way we can improve is if we know what you like and don`t like. In case you like Zebonkey, you are obviously our most important team member, especially if you share Zebonkey with your friends!
Jan is Zebonkey’s crafter (he has no educational degree in brewing, just practical experience. That’s why he doesn’t like to be called a brewer). He is in charge of all technical and production matters at Zebonkey.
Mignonne is the soul of Zebonkey. She is responsible for all organisational and marketing matters.