One hundred and thirty years ago, Charles Glass set off from England for Johannesburg. Little did he know that his actions in the Rainbow Nation would help create the world’s second largest brewer. Glass was one of thousands who made the transcontinental trip. After the discovery of gold around modern day Johannesburg, thousands of people flocked to the African savannah hoping to make it big in the mines. Most didn’t. Glass,  owever, beat the odds by betting on liquid, not solid, gold.

Shortly after arriving, Glass founded his first brewery – the now famous Castle Brewery – and began producing an easy-drinking and refreshing lager he called Castle Beer. The hard-working, hard-drinking prospectors couldn’t drink the brew fast enough in the blistering South African sun. After a few short years Castle Beer was the beer in Johannesburg.

In 1894, after ten years of hard graft, Castle Beer had spread across much of the province. During the decade, Glass’ original brewery had merged with several other local businesses to form South African Breweries – the first easily recognisable part of the modern day brewing colossus SABMiller.

However, despite the success of his South African brewing venture, the pangs of homesickness remained. Eventually the call of home grew too loud and in 1895 Glass returned to England. Before he left, Glass passed on the recipe and rights of Castle Beer to the brewmaster at South African Breweries – where it has remained ever since.

That was the last part Glass played in the story of Castle Lager.

Five years on and Castle Beer, now under sole control of South African Breweries, was rebranded to Castle Lager. Sensing the growing demand, SAB expanded production, opening a second brewery in Cape Town. However it wasn’t all easy sailing for the brewer and the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War caused nationwide social and economic chaos. For the entire three-year war production ground to a halt.

Article continues in Beers of the World Magazine Issue 30

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