The new year is always a great time to catch up with old friends and new. Recently, we caught up with Marc Fourie, the founder of Africa Hops – a hops, malt and yeast merchant selling to African brewers and our official distributor to South Africa and the African market.
Marc has a rich background in brewing, having learned the trade in the UK before moving out to South Africa.
This was a fantastic opportunity to chat to Marc about the South African market, his history with Simpsons Malt, and what his favourite beers are at the moment.
Here’s what he had to say…
What countries do you distribute Simpsons Malt in?
“We started distribution in South Africa, before expanding to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, and hopefully this year Rwanda and Kenya.”
When did Africa Hops start working with Simpsons Malt?
“My relationship with Simpsons Malt started when I met the late Peter Simpson in September 2016. I met him towards the end of his life, but in the short time that I knew him, we developed a fantastic friendship. I subsequently met Richard Simpson and got on really well with him too.
“I first met him at London Bridge after an introduction from a hop merchant at Bath Brew House.
“At the time, I was specialising in distributing hops only, and although it was always a dream of mine to diversify into quality malts, at the time, I didn’t think I was ready. But Peter got me in the pub and told me, “you’re going to start selling Simpsons Malt in South Africa” – so I did!
“I have the greatest respect for the Simpsons brothers – it was their passion that got me on board to become their first distributor in Africa and it was their passion that kept me there. They are focused on quality, so I can go out with confidence knowing that I am selling the best malts to our local brewers.”
Who are your customers?
“Our customers are a diverse bunch. We work with large craft breweries, small and medium commercial breweries and some homebrewers.”
What has been the biggest change in the South African brewing market over the last few years?
“2018/19 was a tough year for the South African economy across all sectors, not just the drinks industry – and this resulted in lower beer sales.
“We’ve taken positive steps to overcome these challenges and we are seeing a turnaround this year, which is great news.”
What’s the greatest challenge in your role?
“A beer culture is slowly building in South Africa. There’s a very close-knit community in brewing, which is great to see. But it is still a novice brewing community, compared to the past 30-40 years of craft culture in the States.
“We also believe in providing the best products to produce world-class beer – if you’re going to make beer, don’t make a sub-par one! Make it the best that it can be. Communicating the importance of getting the absolute best products to customers can be a challenge at times but, on the whole, people understand the importance of quality and the difference that great ingredients make.”
What are some great South African beers that everyone should know about?
“I might be slightly biased, but I have to recommend our sister company Riot Beer’s IPA, The Valve, as being the best IPA in South Africa. It’s got huge amounts of flavour.
“A great local beer is Aegir Project Brewery’s Red Rye. It’s a classic rye beer – malt-forward, with flavours of toffee, spices, caramel and a little fruit.
“Mountain Brewing Company have a Belgian strong blonde beer called Madala’s Gold. The name means ‘wise man of the town’ or ‘the man in the know’ – and they really knew what they were doing when they made this! It is strong, golden and tastes delicious, a really interesting beer.”
Do you have a favourite beer style?
“I love a double IPA, in the 8.5-9% range. My favourite IPA is Ruination, by Stone Brewing, a Californian brewery. But I tend to go through phases. This summer I’ve been enjoying a hoppy pale ale, before then I went through a bit of a Pilsner phase for about six months. I also like sour barrel beers and wild beers, but I always drink less of them, because they’re so intense.”
What’s your favourite Simpsons Malt malt, and why?
“Golden Naked Oats. It’s a crystal malt that’s really special and unique to Simpsons Malt. You can’t get it anywhere else, and it’s so flexible – our brewers tend to use it in IPAs and pale ales. It has a robust flavour and adds a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to beers – you don’t really understand how important the flavour is until you don’t have it in your beer!”
Is there anything you’d like to add?
“I just wanted to emphasize that we’re extremely proud and grateful to be part of the Simpsons Malt family. Our dream was always to work with the Simpsons team, and it’s been awesome to work with them – they’re just a really nice group of friendly people, always focused on quality and respect for their customers. It’s amazing to work with a company who shares your values!”
Cheers, Marc for taking the time to chat with us!
Find out more about Africa Hops here.
If you find yourself curious about our malts and interested in becoming a customer of ours, find out more about our awesome malts, or get in touch with our helpful order team.