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A day in Darling with West Coast Way

Blog by Neil BesterWEstCoastWay1

On what was probably the hottest day of October, I was fortunate enough to join the great team at West Coast Way in an exploration of Darling Brew's brand-new breweries, as well as Darling Cellars winery and a few other local Darling businesses.

If you haven’t yet heard of West Coast Way, they’re the go-to tour company of all things West Coast from heritage and environmental treasures to the local businesses. Their themed tours (the Culture Route and the Foodie Route) are focused on promoting the West Coast through creating feasts for the senses.

First some wine

We left from Eden on the Bay in Blouberg at about 9:30am, and already the heat was settling in. Luckily I came well prepared with sun cream and water – and our mini bus was air-conditioned! By the time we reached our first stop, Darling Cellars, the temperature gauge was boasting well over 30 degrees, making the welcome glass of sparkling wine extra refreshing.

White wine-maker Maggie Venter led us through the coolness of the cellars while enlightening us on the wine making process. All Darling Cellars’ grapes come from the region, and 90% of these are bushvine and are not irrigated (perfect in a water scarce region) giving the grapes more intensity of flavour. Darling Cellars has numerous accreditations. While not organic, they are in the process of getting WIETA and Fairtrade accreditations for the fair treatment of farm workers and good business practices.

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The highlight of this visit was the opportunity to taste some of Darling Cellars’ 2015 Cinsault straight from the barrel! We also tried a range of their wines in their tasting rooms, including their Chocoholic Pinotage, Cinful Cinsault (2014), and Sauvignon Blanc along with snacks of cheeses, and some amazing locally produced cured meats by Eighteen94 CureSmiths.

Hot day, cold, cold beer

After a brief cultural stop at the Darling Museum, we headed to Darling Brew breweries, fending off the now 40 degree heat. While the breweries, owned by husband and wife team Kevin and Philippa Wood, are not yet completed externally, the inside is a beer lover’s dream. Kegs upon kegs of golden elixir and some pretty impressive sized tanks for a microbrewey.

Philippa walked us through their new facilities and the history of the brewery, as well as explaining the beer production process. Until the breweries were established, they had been brewing approximately 200 000 litres of beer annually under contract with Boston Breweries (Cape Town's original craft beer/microbrewers). Once fully operational at the end of 2015, the new facilities will allow them to produce substantially more. Note: If you want to try some of their beer from the new breweries look out for bottles with the new DB logo imprinted on the bottle and on the bottle cap.WEstCoastWay5

Next stop was the Darling Brew SlowQuarter – a pub serving all the beers and paired with good food. Platters of local artisan cheeses and the cured pork were served up along with a seriously refreshing pint of ice cold Darling Brew – my choice was the Native Ale, now rebranded as Gypsy Mask. Three new beers have joined the list – Rogue Pony Pale Ale, Thunderbird IPA, and a light beer called Sun Gazer (which at 2.6% ABV is suitable for drinking on a sweltering day without getting horribly sloshed). A new restaurant will be opened in the brewery in December, where you’ll be able to watch the brewing process!

Sweet Darling Sweet

Our last stop was at Darling Sweet, where we not only tasted their homemade toffee, but also got to meet the man behind the Eighteen94 CureSmiths cured meats, Gil Ferreira of The Flying Pig deli. His meat is sourced entirely from real free-range pigs from a farm in Darling raising three types of pig, including wild boar. For now, Gil’s pork is strictly local – to avoid compromising on quality and affordability, Gil only sells in Darling and surrounds. For more information, go to www.PreserveThePig.com.

The toffee story was shared by sweet maker Hentie van der Merwe. His toffee is produced using quality local ingredients, the pride of which is the local butter due to Darling's history as a butter producing town. After trying five different toffees with flavours such as wine, honey, raw cacao and liquorice, I couldn’t resist buying a box for the road. Which is a high compliment since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth!

West Coast reflections

All in all, the tour left me wanting more of what the golden summer hills of the West Coast has to offer. Being just an hour outside of Cape Town, this is a day or weekend trip worth doing more than once.

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