:: friends and beer in clarens ::

Drinking beer with good friends on a Saturday afternoon is an excellent way to spend time. Doing it at a beer festival in the lovely little town of Clarens in South Africa is even better! 

We really love living in Maseru, but from time to time you do crave a nice meal out at a new restaurant or the chance to listen to live music. The Clarens Craft Beer Festival offered us that opportunity, as well as the chance to try beers from about twenty-five different breweries. It even provided a unique opportunity to enjoy some authentic Mexican food! 

About two hours away, Clarens is a small town nestled into the foothills of the Maluti mountains and only about twenty kilometers from Golden Gate National Park in South Africa. It is a very pretty setting and over time has acquired a large number of artists, coffee shops and B&Bs, making it feel a bit like the type of town you would find in Vermont or the Cotswolds.

Everyone has been telling us to go and explore this little gem in the Free State, but our focus has been on Lesotho. A beer festival with friends was exactly the impetus we needed to do something outside of the Mountain Kingdom. Only four years old, the Clarens Beer Festival already has a large following of breweries, food vendors and musicians. It takes over the grassy town square and with the late summer weather, it is a wonderful place to spend a weekend. 

A group of nine of us with five dogs rented a dog friendly house just five minutes’ walk from the town square. We all drove up on Friday and were able to enjoy the last hour’s worth of beer tasting and some live music from South African artist Matthew Mole before the festival finished for the evening.

The real treat, however, was the extravagantly good Mexican meal we had cooked for us at home that evening. Our Mexican friend David arranged for one of the food vendors Baha Taco to come and make a three course feast for us including homemade tamales and salsa, tortilla chips and wonderful fish. And all of this was prepared by a Brit and German couple! Seriously excellent food, if you are ever in Jo’burg track them down!

Drinking, dancing and general frivolity continued, though everyone managed to wake up the next morning for a hike up the mountain behind town.  Some of us were even brave enough to take a cold swim in the dam!  After an excellent start to our day, we were soon all happily ensconced in the square once more for more beer tasting, live music and great company. 

The day slowly ebbed by, completed by emphatic, drunken dancing/singing and a nearly two hour wait for pizzas. Still, we had enough energy left for another short home dance party before the day’s exertions caught up with us! 

It was a great weekend and we are looking forward to having the chance to go back to Clarens on a less busy weekend to see what the town truly has to offer. We also are looking forward to beer fest 2015, though it won’t be the same without some of you – you know who you are!

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