&Union: Inner city braais & authentic beers

It’s a beer salon, it’s a late night coffee shop, it’s a lunch stop, it’s even a live music venue. It’s hard to define &Union, the venture further complicated by it’s location – an old church in Bree Street. Number 110 to be exact. Many already know of &Union since it’s such a diverse and comfy spot; all the more reason to add them to the collection.

If you’ve ever spotted the We [Heart] Beer signs and stickers gallivanting around the city, then you’re but one step closer to understanding this hangout. First though, let’s talk venue. The moment you step inside the courtyard and you see the rustic wooden benches and ping-pong table balanced where the cobblestones are even, all church connotations should be forgotten. Don’t be surprised to see after-workers having a beer and hitting a few balls out in the sun on Fridays afternoons. Many brave ones also attempt this venture after the sun has gone down when it tends to be less competitive and much more entertaining.

Inside, rustic benches are now rustic beams overhead and lights are dimmed for a warmer feel. Do stop to notice the floor, it’s so nifty with it’s black and white spots. The counter-type-tables all round are perfect for reading the paper (they get the dailies) or positioning the laptop and the low plastic stools might even give you a bit of a primary school flashback. But before you sit down, go to the counter. Here decisions are bound to get rather difficult.

Photo by Inge Prins

They call it Craft Beer, because it’s not like any run of the mill getting-smashed-beer. For one, these take 8 weeks to brew. Plus they’re more authentic looking and definitely more authentic tasting than some other beers out there. There’s the Versus Goliath Amber Lager, the Steph Weiss, the Berne Unfiltered Amber and the Brewers & Union Unfiltered and Dark Lagers. This certainly is not the place to get technical about beer, but all the specifics are on the Gabriel Collective website. If you’re a beer enthusiast, you should find it interesting, and if you’re not, go check out the handy suggestions about the food that goes best with each beer.

If you’re not quite in the mood for a beer though, they have wines too. And if it’s not the right time for alcohol, you can even try their 100% certified organic coffee. Yes, if they serve you something, they serve you something proper. They also reckon that this might be one of the only places you’ll find organic coffee from 7am to 11pm. To accompany your coffee, why not try Lady Cupcake’s cupcakes, since these, too, aren’t available just anywhere. And you’ll never get bored of them, they’re just as much a bite of art as they are a piece of scrumptious cake.

Next up, the food. There’s breakfast in the form of poached eggs and Richard Bosman’s real bacon (happy free ranging pigs) and lunch/dinner to the likes of &Union’s Germanic styled Wursts and trademark prego rolls. These sport deliciously barbecued meat that they grill right outside in the courtyard. Together with a beer and a ping-pong game, this might just be the closest you’ll get to a city-styled braai.

Photo by Inge Prins

Then on Wednesday nights there’s music. And free music at that since &Union has vowed not to charge people who’re just after a beer or two. Joshua Grierson used to be the perfect artist for an intimate winter gig. With only a guitar in hand, his Indie Blues sure brought out the best of the inner &Union. He moved to Joburg, but still pays us a visit every month or so, so keep your eyes peeled. Luckily, Cape Town is home to many other great musicians so watch the Facebook page for upcoming shows. They’re usually held outside between the trees and rarely take the form of a stand around gig. People sit, party, eat or walk around while the music is on. Committed fans might find this nonchalance annoying, so if you really like the artist, make sure you get there early to book yourself a table under their noses.

&Union beers are now available all over the country and worthy of getting your hands on. But the best place to have them is the birthplace itself. The vibe is good any time of day, the staff are friendly any time of day and it’s all round a pretty enjoyable undertaking – any time of day.

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