Craft Beer adventures with Leopold7

Leopold7, a Belgian-born speciality craft beer has officially marked its presence and progress in South Africa and it’s all thanks to a chance meeting in Rwanda between a Belgian and an American who both shared a passion for brewing and enjoying great beer.

Alexandre Tilmans (Belgium) and Marquis Brown (USA) were both looking for a new business adventure and a change of course from their careers in finance and management/entrepreneurship, respectively. Alexandre had been living in South Africa for seven years before returning to Belgium in 2013 to help establish the first Leopold7 brewery. Upon returning to South Africa in 2014, he laid the initial foundation for the beer company’s second home in Cape Town. Later in 2014, Marquis left New York City for Cape Town to join Alex in building Leopold7 amidst the rapidly growing craft beer market.

Although Marquis and Alex both have distinctively different personalities and professional backgrounds, both come from countries with deep beer cultures. The long history and respected craftsmanship of Belgian beer and brewing and the experimentation, creativity and popularity of American craft beer culture made for interesting informative threads as the duo began their South African beer journey.

Made using respected Belgian brewing techniques, Leopold7 goes one step further by introducing high standards of environmental responsibility and sustainability to their production. This includes reducing waste water in the brewery, reusing yeast, and having bottle labels printed directly onto the bottle without using glues or inks that contain heavy metals. The beer itself is also produced using 80% organically farmed ingredients and is completely free of additives and chemicals. Once bottled, Leopold7 has an enviable 2 year shelf-life.

The extended fermentation and maturation process of nearly three months results in a robust amber-coloured ale with citrusy, floral notes and excellent balance, giving easy drinkability with a notable malt and hop flavour profile.

Brown and Tilmans both share the vision of replicating sustainable breweries and local production will be underway in the next several months with the brewery following soon thereafter. When asked why the brewery has not yet been opened, Tilmans responded by stating “Marquis and I both have backgrounds in entrepreneurship and business and although we have found a location and begun preparations for our local brewhouse and tasting room we both agree that running a brewhouse and tasting room without a certain level of efficiency is not a prudent step. When we first introduced the beer in South Africa nearly 2 years ago we knew we’d both need to be patient. Having seen the positive response thus far we believe we’re now seeing all the right indications from consumers so finishing and opening the brewery naturally follow very soon.

In the meantime, a coveted distribution deal as a Drive Brand in the craft and ultra premeium portfolio of Super Group Liquor Merchants means that Leopold7 will soon be  available nationwide. Currently, the beer can be found at most Tops at Spar, online, at craft beer hubs like Roeland Liquors and Liquor City Claremont, and boutique shops like Wine Concepts amongst many other “off-con” retailers stocking who generally sell it around R32 per bottle.

Beer afficianados will also find Leopold7 at fine restaurants that include The Foundry in Johannesburg and Pot Luck Club in Cape Town.

Having launched to market in a flurry of activity, Brown and Tilmans invested all their energy in creating a footprint for the beer and didn’t mark the arrival of the beer with a celebration.

Says Brown, “From the beginning, our intention was to associate our beer with creativity and artistic expression—for us, although our forms and mediums are different from that of artists and designers we share the same passion—it’s ultimately what led to the final recipe and end-product which is Leopold7. We have been carving out a niche presence in the arts and design community and we were proud to have been a partner and the only beer on offer at the recent Cape Town Art Fair.

Furthermore, we don’t just want to hang on to the coat tails of this community and instead want to really forge a mutually beneficial relationship. Over the last several months we’ve had some major successes—both independently and through collaborations. Having never formally had a celebration we felt  that it was the perfect moment to formally express who we are and what we stand for—what better way to do it than by collaborating with the community of people whom we’ve already established such strong bonds with.”

The result was a brand expression unlike any other. Conceptualised and directed by Tracy Lynch and Jo Skelton of Lee Lynch Studios, Leopold7 invited a small group of special guests to experience the elements of Leopold7 through a day of unexpected creativity in Elgin.

Collaborating with local designers and artists such as Laurie Wiid van Heerden, Paul Senyol, Andrzej Urbanski, Atang Tshikare, Ceramic Matters, Dark Horse, Chapel, with food design by Caro de Waal and Fresh at Paul Cluver, the Leopold7 team brought guests to Old Mac Daddy in Elgin where they experienced a visual and culinary feast and a memorable journey into the “world” of Leopold7.

Says Tilmans; “We are very proud to be representing Leopold7 in South Africa, a country that has always been passionate about beer and which is now mildly obsessed with craft beer. Being part of the growth in demand and production of craft beer here in South Africa is very inspiring.”

Top image caption: Alexandre Tilmans and Marquis Brown of Leopold7