Barrington’s: Plett’s small hotel with a big heart
Combine award-winning beer, fabulous food with ingredients straight from the garden and a generous measure of tender love and care and you get Barrington’s very special Craft Brewery and Small Hotel.
Barrington’s Small Hotel, not far from the beaches at the bottom of Piesang Valley Road, is home to the first craft brewery in Plettenberg Bay and now it is also officially on the map for award-winning beer.
I was privileged to be invited to taste beer with the brewmaster Ross Eaton, find out about the brewing process, and sample the Barrington Brewery range.
Barrington’s Brewery recently scooped a bronze at the 2022 Africa Beer Cup which is the continent’s biggest beer competition. The medal was for IBhiya iBuchu, something completely original and quite different that competed in the special beer category – the brainchild of brewmaster Ross Eaton.
Winning this award is no mean feat since the competition is in its third year with international judges from 16 countries evaluating the 251 entries. Barrington Brewery stood tall and proud on May 14, 2022, when the awards were held at Jack Black’s Brewing Company in Cape Town. The competition is now the most competitive on the continent with some of the best beer judges in the world attending to taste brews from across Africa.
Barrington’s Alchemist Eaton says he is “stoked” with the winning beer described as “kettle-soured ale brewed with fresh South African buchu and oranges, ingredients complimenting each other which culminate in a perfect balance of acidic, herbal, malty, and bitter flavours.” He explains this beer’s character is derived from a complex process of initial fermentation with lactobacillus bacteria in the kettle, lowering the pH, and then finishing if off with traditional beer fungi. The generous portion of wheat and caramalts give the beer its hazy, golden colour – resulting in a one-of-a-kind intriguing brew.
The restaurant and bar space at Barrington’s is aptly themed around the actual brewing station or perhaps better called the ‘space station’! This laboratory behind glass with a conglomerate of huge silver cauldrons with control lights is rather like something out of a science-fiction movie. There are 10 tanks that each hold 1000 litres of beer in Eaton’s ‘kitchen’.
The tasting takes place anywhere in the dining areas, but it’s special to sit at the bar where the range of their beers are on tap and it’s even better with Eaton sharing his obvious passion.
On tap are a Lager, Weiss, English Ale, American Pale Ale, the award-winning Buchu-Kettle Sour, a Draught Pilsener, Irish Stout, Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and a Dark Lager. And one Elderflower Craft Gin just to keep everyone happy.
The Lager is the most popular says Eaton, who makes 10 000 litres of this in holiday season, but all the taps behind the pub have a place in the world of beer, something for every palate. Brewing beer is an art, but also a science, says Eaton.
Very simply put for a layman like me, the sorcery behind making beer is all about yeast, malt, hops and water, the temperature and various process. It’s also about timing as each beer demands different attention when it’s hot or cold. Eaton tells me that no effort is spared in sourcing the best ingredients based on brewing styles: like hops from South Africa, but also the States, the UK or malts from Belgium and Germany.
The end result and measure of a good beer is calibrated by the colour, bitterness, body and balance. And yes, Eaton does tinker with ingredients, but he also has a magic ‘black book’ with the recipes for each beer! He suggests guests “ease into a lager” which has a softer palate and go from there. Eaton also collaborates with passionate young Silwood graduate and head chef, Justin Joubert, and they decide on the perfect food pairing, for example my English Pale Ale Battered fish fits perfectly with the English Ale.
Beer may be the focal point at Barrington’s, but there are so many aspects to this charming spot. The land it stands on once belonged to an old Plettenberg Bay family, the Newdigates, who came to settle in the beautiful Piesang River Valley in 1844 and went on to play a significant part in the heritage and development of the town.
Barrington’s owners, Simon Ash and Hilton Nagel, chose the name Barringtons to honour another Garden Route settler, the honourable Henry Francis Adair Barrington from Knysna who was a friend and mentor to the Newdigates. The merino ram logo is a reminder of both of their agricultural endeavours. William Newdigate put it in a nutshell when he described this spot saying; “Altogether it is the nicest little place I know anywhere.”
There is care and love put into all aspects of Barringtons which came into being in 2019.
The building itself was designed around a massive coral tree – which must be hundreds of years old – and is a focal part of the Barrington’s architecture. The tree took some strain, but has literally been nursed back to health.
One cannot visit Barrington’s Small Hotel and not wander through their magnificent 1000m² white-walled, organic kitchen garden that sprawls in front of the hotel. Most vegetables used in the restaurant are organically grown here. Aside from the organic kitchen garden, Barringtons is also committed to using all ingredient that are ethically produced and sourced locally.
It’s very evident the folk here are passionate about food. The restaurant does breakfast from 8am with dishes which are far from the run of the mill like a lentil bake, Cape Malay chicken livers on toasted ciabatta, avo and smoked salmon on sourdough. Perhaps you’d like to try a pastrami or almond croissant – or a pork cassoulet with Boschrivier pork sausages, cannellini bean and tomato stew, a poached egg, potato and spinach rosti?
On a Friday night this small hotels buzzes. Locals come to wind up the week with a beer or perhaps something from the Bubble Box (a great collection of South African bubblies)– and listen to live music.
Dinner is also a treat with a tantalising menu. The curry, particularly, is something special and, for anyone who considers themselves an expert on a hamburger, the Barrington’s Burger is an example of this kitchen going that extra mile: it’s flame-grilled, with hoisin-glazed mushrooms, caramelised onions, hollandaise sauce, and potato wedges. Fish isn’t just fish here, instead the grilled line fish is served with pumpkin, macadamia and quinoa salad.
By far the best option is to spend the night at Barrington’s Small Hotel. There are four deluxe rooms and six standard rooms on site whether you are looking for a romantic weekend getaway or just a night away. And just to top off a visit, there is a little bakery and shop to stock up with locally produced organic produce, craft beers from brewery, fresh bread, boutique wines, and plants from the little nursery. Shop to your heart’s content!