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Old South African Brewery

By 1888, Anders Ohlsson has established himself as an icon in the brewery business. Mariendahl Brewery and Josephine’s Mill were leased to Ohlsson (with rights to purchase) and Ohlsson received the rights to access the water from Newlands Spring. Ohlsson also purchased Newlands Brewery from Daniel Cloete who had passed away, and also purchased Foresters Arms, by then a well established Inn, from David Mausen. In 1889, Mr Ohlsson received the leases of all canteens and public houses from Dr Michael Hiddingh, who had decided to shut down Cannon Breweries.

In 1889, Anders Ohlsson formed Ohlssons Cape Breweries Limited, which would be pivotal as a forerunner of our current brewers’ competition for market share.

All of the above is integral to the history and development of Foresters Arms, as it stands today.

Between 1889 and 1891, Ohlssons Cape Breweries demolished the original Foresters Arms cottage and built a larger zinc and brick building. It was converted into an off-sales and canteen and was used to sell their beer. This was a valuable commodity for Ohlssons Cape Breweries as it was their closest off-sales and was necessary because beer made in those days would turn sour after approximately 8 days. (If this happened, the owners of the canteens would add sugar to the mix and sell it to the ‘working folk’, who were generally ‘not white’, called it sugar beer, and sold it for a “tickey”. By adopting these questionable values, (by today’s standards), OCB traded successfully in making Forries the home of the ‘freshest beer in the Cape’. Ohlssons also built storehouses and stables for the transportation of beer thoughout the Cape Colony.

In 1895, Castle Breweries (to eventually become South African Breweries (SAB)) was founded and hit the market with their flagship beer, Castle Lager. This was a formidable challenge to Ohlsson’s, because Castle Lager’s aggressive marketing strategy and bold advertising was a threat to the well-established Ohlssons Lion Lager. To expand their market-share, Castle had also purchased the Martiensen Brewery in Cape Town.

Between 1899 and 1902, there was a lot of fierce competition between Ohlssons and Castle Breweries. By 1912 they began a tumultuous relationship wherein both companies struggled to survive the depression, shortages of labour, shortage of supplies, and attempted a joint venture in hops production.

In 1902, the Boer Wars broke out and Ohlssons hired guards to protect its storage facilities and prominent canteens in the Newlands area, the main one being Forries. The guards would sleep in the stables and would travel the main routes, guarding the beer from ‘Boer guerrilla attacks’.

By 1920, the Meyerowitz family had taken over stewardship of Foresters Arms from Ohlssons Cape Breweries. Charles Meyerowitz took care of running Forries, the storage area and the stables. His son, Julius took over in the early 1940’s and managed Forries until the late 1950’s when the first removals of ‘non-whites’ in Newlands started. He became disillusioned with the current government policies and was arrested numerous times for selling beer to ‘coloured folk’ which at the time became illegal even though they had been Forries’ original clientele from Newlands Village.

In 1948, the National Party won the post war election and 45 years of statutory race segregation – Apartheid – was ushered in. Along with this was the upgrading of the Newlands area and Newlands Village and was the beginning of the forced removals of the ‘non-white’ inhabitants of the area. Roads were tarred, electricity was introduced and water-borne sewage installed. Newlands was now open for urban settlement of a more affluent nature and the Foresters Arms clientele would change.

Between 1949 and 1951, Foresters Arms was demolished and rebuilt further from the road. This was to accommodate the rezoning of the roads and the sewage systems. This is the Forries that we now know, although it has gone through some alterations over the years.

Between 1952 and 1983 substantial changes and alterations were made to Foresters Arms, both inside and out. These included the granting of a Restaurant Keepers Licence, extensions to the bar and toilets, new stores, gas installations and walls.

There are accounts from various locals that this new Forries became an instant success with the students of nearby UCT and was soon seen as a popular gathering area. ‘Old boys’ from the nearby schools would play cricket and rugby matches on the weekends and afterwards come to Forries for a beer, as it was one of the only off-sales allowed to serve alcohol on a Sunday. Families would go to church and afterwards would stop by Forries for a drink with friends.

During this era, women of reputable standing were not allowed inside the off-sales. (This changed in the 1960’s when women had an inside area allocated to them). The fathers would therefore gather inside for a beer while the mothers and children would sit outside in the little garden to the side of the off-sales and drink tea. Mrs Meyerowitz is remembered for putting down blankets for the ladies to picnic on.

SAB retained the ownership of the land and the buildings till 1994 when Mrs Lorraine Epstein was able to buy the whole property. She had owned business rights since 1991 but had not owned the property itself. She is still the current owner of Foresters Arms.

Foresters Arms has become one of the prime establishments of Newlands, and has grown into a cherished venue amongst the people of Cape Town.

If you, as our readers, have anymore facts, figures or anecdotes that you would like to contribute to our ‘History page’, we would be delighted to hear from you.

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