Anybody who knows about craft beers will have heard of Jack Black’s – one of the true pioneers in the craft beer revolution in Cape Town. Whilst being, without a doubt, one of Cape Town’s most popular craft beers, they are also the most progressive and innovative brands going around. This can clearly be seen when visiting their state-of-the-art brewery in the heart of the Diep River business precinct. On the way there one is met with the sight of bland buildings and the true feel of “industria”. The sight of Jack Black’s Brewing Company, on arrival, immediately makes a craft beer lover feel like they have arrived at their happy place.
We booked on a Thursday evening near the end of the Cape Town summer holiday season. We chose this particular night as Jack Black’s was hosting one of their regular Quiz Nights. Now, for those of you not too familiar with the Jack Black’s Taproom (this is the name of their function venue), it plays host to a multitude of themed events which alternate on various evenings every month, from Food Truck Fridays to Quiz Nights to Jazz Nights to 2 for 1 Burger Nights to a whole host of others.
The décor of the venue is a blend of a working brewery (which, of course, it is) with that of a German beer hall. The immaculate state of the brewery equipment in the Taproom looks down to rows of darkly-stained wooden benches. The bench arrangement for the seating allows for a very festive social atmosphere where two groups of guests sitting at the same communal table often end up mingling as one. There is also an outside seating area at the front of the venue which, on a warm evening like this one, would’ve been ideal to sit at – however the action of the Quiz Night happens on the inside.
The brus’ and myself were soon greeted by our super friendly waitress, Alex. The ordering of beers was priority number one for us and, as can be expected from a craft brewer’s own venue, the selection was awesome! We settled in with a round (or two) of their lager which happens to be my own personal favourite craft beer. One of my fellow brus’ was on the brink of passing out due to a mixture of not having eaten since breakfast and him being a soft-cock, so we hastily went into the ordering of some starters. The selection on offer was fairly limited but the sight of Chilli Poppers made the decision an easy one. The other options included a portion of chicken wings (which often underwhelms anywhere outside of North America), a kiddies offering of crumbed chicken strips, a cheese or charcuterie platter (or a mixed one), and a pretzel roll with mustard.
The poppers were devoured in little time and they were everything a popper should be. Alex then reminded us that a 330ml tapped beer of our choice was included in the R50 quiz entry fee. I went for the Keller Pils which is an unfiltered pilsner. The other brus’ went for a special R&D brew which Jack Black’s alternates from time to time. It was a dark beer full of flavour which, to my taste buds, provided a hint of rosemary as the predominant flavour. I much prefer a less complex flavour profile so was happy I chose the Keller Pils over this one (I seem to have a trust issue with a beer I can’t see through, which is why I could never get into stouts).
Just prior to the quiz getting under way, chef Clara took to the mic to inform us that they had been let down by their supplier and were out of feta and mayo. The choice was to agree to let her out of her cage and rush to Pick ‘n Pay to get what she needed, or to allow her to prepare our meals without two key components. The option of her bringing out her Smart Shopper card was the consensus of us all. The way she came across, though, truly spoke volumes of the type of environment it was – fun, laid-back and essentially Capetonian! On your bike, Clara 🙂 !
The quiz got under way with the three of us (one of the brus’ was away camping with his fam) itching to do well. Things started off fairly nicely as we scored well to be decently placed by the halfway stage. Prior to this, we had placed our orders for mains with the increasingly impressive and chatty Alex. Now, to provide a decent burger review, we have undertaken to order with as much variety as possible between us. This means that, occasionally depending on menu size, one of the brus’ may have to go against his own DNA and settle for something other than a beef offering. Well, this time, I was that bru! Like Shakespeare, I found myself asking: a pulled pork burger or chicken burger – that is the question (ok, not quite – but close)? And….chicken it was.
It was more what accompanied the chicken that sold it to me.Crumbed chicken strips were accompanied with lettuce, pickles, brie cheese, jalapenos, caramelised onions and a mustard mayo. This I ordered along with chips – which came incredibly crispy, just the way I like it. The other two brus’ went with the Taproom’s signature Butcher Block burger which was a basted beef patty topped with feta, tangy gherkins, streaky bacon and fresh rocket. The softer of the nights other two brus’ went for a side of salad whilst the third bru went with me on the chips option.
The burgers were just…WOW! Absolutely nothing to fault – however a lot to commend as the flavour profiles really complimented each other. What stood out for all of us was that the sides were, at the least, on par with what the main part of the dish was. The chips were crispy as hell without disintegrating when bitten into, whilst the salad honestly gave me food envy (those that know me must know how good that salad must have been).
Whilst the food was top notch a big shout out must go to whoever designed the space and created a most awesome, unique setting. A special mention must be made of their ceiling fan which looks like it was removed from a World War 2 fighter plane. As ominous as it looked, the fans effectiveness in cooling the venue was akin to being served chips in a bottle!
The music, played over their sound system, really took these 37 year old brus’ to their earlier partying days. All-in-all, I can’t believe it has taken us 2 years to visit the Taproom. What I can guarantee more than anything, though, is that it won’t take us that long to go back!
Beginnings – decent variety and well made. 3.5
Burgers – no way any of us could fault the execution and flavour combinations. Best sides we have had thus far. 5
Beers – as can be expected, excellent! 5
Bringers – Alex was extremely confident, competent and chatty throughout. Her telling us a while into the night about our beer comp for the quiz night meant we couldn’t give full marks. 4.5
Background – the unique vibe is what sets it apart from other venues. The décor, music and table layouts all combined to create a most incredible atmosphere. Only (slight) downside is that the night ended fairly abruptly after the quiz had finished. 4.5