Ngweni Railroad Brewery (Hluhluwe, kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)

After a day and a half of recovering from our long non-stop flight from the US, we took a domestic flight to Durban (on local low-cost carrier Kulula, which I actually highly recommend), and embarked on a 3.5 hour drive up to the Zulu Nyala Heritage Safari Lodge outside of Hluhluwe. Our safari visit to Zulu Nyala was configured a bit like a cruise: our visit included two daily game drives (sunrise and evening) and buffet-style meals, plus the ability to do a number of value-added excursions. Most of these were designed to take you for animal experiences beyond those of the smaller Zulu Nyala reserve, like seeing lions in the larger Manyoni reserve, a day trip to Hluhluwe National Park, or a trip into St Lucia to see the hippos. But a few of the excursions were smaller affairs that could be done during the mid-day break between the game drives, which is how we found ourselves at Ngweni Railroad Brewery.

Ngweni Road is located about 15 minutes’ drive down the road from Zulu Nyala, on the north outskirts of the town of Hluhluwe (note for non-Zulu speakers: this is pronounced Shu-shu-way). It’s colocated with another local attraction, Ilala Weavers, which run a small museum on local weaving, and gift shop that’s got high quality artwork from a number of local artisans at prices a lot lower than we saw at most other places around the region. If you find yourself around the Big Five False Bay area, it’s actually worth seeking this place out even if not looking for the brewery.

But the brewery is pretty good as well. It’s a relatively new brewery, having recently installed what looks like a ~5 barrel brewing system, and everything is bright and new. And on our visit, they only had one beer of their own (Ngweni Lager), while filling out the rest of their taps and beer list with a variety of regional beers (on our visit, beers from Striped Horse, Cape Brewing, and Ballito Brewing), but the house lager was particularly enjoyable: a nice, malty but clean-tasting, well-rounded lager. I’d happily get more of this (and this was another place where the exchange rate and being somewhat outside the tourist belt paid off, these were $1.50 beers).

For the meal itself, the menu is basically pub fare; mostly a selection of burgers, sandwiches, seafood dishes, and schnitzel. Indeed, for some reason a schnitzel sounded particularly good, so that’s what I got: a chicken schnitzel with a mushroom sauce and fries. This was actually a very generous and well-prepared schnitzel: nice whole-meat breast, nicely breaded, and cooked up crispy but still juicy. The sauce was a typical mushroom sauce, but good for dipping both the fries and bits of schnitzel. The fries were simple fries, but also well-prepared. So this was a simple meal, but a tasty and affordable one.

Carol got a burger, which was also good, but I didn’t get a good picture of it (you can spy it in the background of the schnitzel, however).

Overall, we liked Ngweni Railroad Brewery. It’s nice to see people opening new breweries even in fairly remote places like Hluhluwe. The beer selection was a nice cross-section of good regional craft brews, their in-house beer quite tasty, and the food well prepared. It’s definitely worth coming here for a light meal, and to check out the weavers.

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