Interview with SAB Master Brewer Kate Jones

Kate Jones SAB Master Brewer

“One of the wonderful things about brewing is that you never stop learning or developing your skills. The job is always fresh and interesting.” We interviewed SAB Master Brewer Kate Jones about a day in the life of a trade brewer. 

As a Trade Brewer at SAB, what does your role/job entail?

Inevitably, I spend a lot of time in the trade. I love beer, but my great passion is draught beer – the traditional and freshest way to drink beer. A lot of my time is spent surveying in pubs to ensure that our customers enjoy the best draughts possible.. Most of my job entails the education and training on all things beer, including brewery tours, beer and food pairings, beer tasting lessons, educational talks on the beer industry, and passing on the art of serving the perfect draught. I am really very fortunate as no week is ever really the same. For me there is no daily commute to the same office as I cover all of Gauteng-region.

As of British origin, where in the UK are you from, and when did you move to SA?

I was born and bred in Burton on Trent which is the UK capital of brewing. In all honesty, it is not too surprising that I took a job in the industry. From Burton I worked at breweries in Kent and on the Isle of Man. I was production manager of 35 micro-breweries across the south of England for four years. When the company shut down all the breweries, I received an offer from the South African Breweries and emigrated to South Africa in May 2000.

Do you consider yourself as South African now? 

I still consider myself English and support English teams. But I do have a great back-up side to support in the Bokke! My colleagues get very grumpy when I turn up to a South Africa vs England game in my England shirt. I usually turn the question around and ask “if you lived in London for 10 years and went to a Springbok game at Twickenham, what colour shirt would you be wearing?”. Then they understand where I am coming from.

Which countries do you think make the best beer? Are there any surprisingly good beer-making countries?

Germany is renowned as a beer country. It actually has very few big breweries, but lots of small breweries supplying local villages and small towns. There is something different everywhere you travel.

What is your beer preference? 

Living in Burton I had an array of some truly fantastic beers. My personal favourite was an ale called Marston’s Pedigree. It is a beer that most South Africans would not understand or like: the flat, brown, warm stuff. When I moved to SA I didn’t particularly like lagers and that was pretty much all that was available. It took me a long time to get to like Castle Lager – around four or five beers – when I realised that this truly was a world-class beer! If you are lucky enough to be near any of the 20 Castle Brewery Fresh Tank Beer installations across the country, go and try it out. This is the way Castle is meant to taste.

What do you love about SA?  

Even having been here for 16 years, there are still so many places to explore in South Africa. I love the great outdoors and nothing makes me happier than a game drive in the Kruger followed by a “lekker” braai.
And then there is the weather. I think Johannesburg has one of the best climates in the world. I never played golf when I lived in the UK – who wants to play in the rain? But in South Africa I can’t wait to get out there on one of the many wonderful courses! What could be better than a lovely walk in the countryside with good friends? It’s a great way to work up a thirst to enjoy a couple of beers after the game.

What do you still find curious or humorous about the food and drinking culture here? 

I still don’t get pap. And who thought having mince for breakfast was a good idea? A potjie is really just a stew and an excuse to stand around a pot for many hours drinking beer. Food is very focused around meat – you have to love a culture that considers chicken a vegetable!

SA Beer of Choice 

Castle Lager

Which person/people in your career do you credit as being your biggest inspiration and mentor?

Wow – in my time in the industry I have had some amazing bosses who have inspired me to give my very best. If I had to narrow it down to one individual I would chose Ben Lamaletie who took me under his wing when I first arrived in SA. Ben has now retired after 45 years with SAB – he is a legend – an award given by SAB to individuals with over 20 years’ experience, who have gone the extra mile in making a difference. He taught me the ropes in what it means to be a trade brewer and in understanding what beer culture means in SA. I owe Ben a great debt of thanks.

As with food, beverage trends tend to come and go – currently there is a big cider trend happening. Are there any big beer trends on the horizon? 

Sure, cider is a growing market in SA as are flavoured beers (a worldwide trend). What is next for SAB in SA? If I told you I would have to kill you! However the beer market continues to diversify and grow to satisfy an increasingly demanding and fickle market. So you can certainly expect to see new products being launched over the next year. It certainly is an interesting time to be in beer.

Lastly, who wears the pants in your house?! 😉 

I have three dogs and four cats. Dogs have owners and cats have staff. In my next life I am coming back as a cat.

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