ZULU BLONDE WINS HEARTS

AS FOOTBALL fans get the beers in for the World Cup, a brewer who knocked up an award-winning ale in his back garden has already shown South Africa can find the formula to beat all comers.

AS FOOTBALL fans get the beers in for the World Cup, a brewer who knocked up an award-winning ale in his back garden has already shown South Africa can find the formula to beat all comers.

Visitors to KwaZulu-Natal can soothe their frustrations during the tournament with a glass or two of Zulu Blonde.

"It's a light beer, malty, a little fruity and with low alcohol," said 62-year-old Graham Chennels, who knocked up his creation in a makeshift brewery at the bottom of the garden at the family's hotel in Eshowe.

Orders began flooding in after Zulu Blonde won the top prize at an international beer festival held in Britain in March.

Among the orders was a deal in Britain under which the Chennels will roll out barrels of Zulu Blonde to some 800 bars. And the deluge of plaudits mean it will also be available in other parts of Europe, Canada and Australia from July.

Though the beer has yet to clinch a deal for mass production in South Africa, it should be available in bottles nationwide by August after World Cup visitors have headed home.

"It's quite amazing! The World Cup has created an interest for South Africa," said Chennels's son Richard, a former banker who quit his job in the City of London and returned home to head up the family business.

The venture began in 1991 when Chennels bought the George Hotel and then started experimenting at home before he built the microbrewery, enabling him to develop and refine what is now a range of eight ales.

He admits he stumbled on the formula for Zulu Blonde by chance.

"It's a spontaneous exploration - I put a bit of flour in my beer," said Chennels, whose CV includes spells as a paratrooper, farmer and mayor of Eshowe.

Based some 150km northeast of Durban, the hotel is hoping its guests during the World Cup will discover the wider charms of Zululand as well as enjoy the football.

Richard Chennels says the beer can act as an aperitif for other aspects of Zulu culture. - Sapa-AFP

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