Tasting beers in a garden

Crafty Chameleon bar

The Crafty Chameleon bar on the left, brewery far centre and garden out to the right. Inset: The beer garden at the Crafty Chameleon. 

Photo credit: John Fox | Nation Media Group

There’s an interesting new place in Lavington – at 159 James Gichuru Road. It’s called the Crafty Chameleon Brewery and Garden Restaurant.

It’s the first beer garden in Nairobi with its own micro-brewery. ‘And why Chameleon?’ I asked the young owner, Arjun Malhotra. His answer went straight to the heart of what this place is all about:

‘As a chameleon changes its colour according to its environment,’ Arjun said ‘so we want to create changes in the beers we craft – not changes in colour so much, like the chameleon, but changes in aroma and taste. That’s why I recommend you try our taster board so that you can sample our range of five beers.’

It was good advice. The board came with small glasses of all the five beers. I will say something about them, but let me admit that I am no expert on beers and I don’t have a rich experience of drinking them. I grew up in a country as far back as the pre-lager days, where there was a choice mainly between mild and bitter draft beer. And it was served warm. These days, when I want to quench my thirst in a way wine can’t, I order a lager.

So, when I first visited, I tasted – more than just tasted – all five of the ‘crafty’ beers. I started with the mildest – the Crafty Lager at only 4.5 per cent ABV, which I now know means alcohol by volume. I noted the brewery website description that it is the perfect choice for a warm day. It was a warm day.

Craft beer

The last I sampled was the Crafty IPA – India Pale Ale. It is the strongest of the beers at 6 per cent ABV. I have also found out, through Google, that the IPA is the most popular craft beer style, thanks to its ‘bold, bitter and fruity hop flavour’. The Crafty Chameleon website, with its detailed and well-written descriptions of the beers, notes that the flavour of their IPA is ‘juicy citrus and tropical fruit’. It is certainly a distinctive and attractive taste.

 However, the one I chose when I went again last Sunday was the Crafty Golden Ale. It has a taste rather like the IPA, but the ABV is a safer 5 per cent. I wish I could say more about all five, but I don’t have the space. Anyway, if you go to the website (www.craftychameleon.co.ke) I feel sure you will enjoy the descriptions. They could well tempt you to try them out. I was lucky, too, to have an introduction to the mechanics and pleasures of craft beer brewing by Rochelle Dunlop, the place’s Chief Brewer. I asked her which of the beers she drinks. Without hesitation, and with a smile, she said, ‘The IPA!’

So, those are the beers. And you can enjoy them in a Lavington garden. A lot of care has also gone into developing an appropriate choice of bitings and dishes to go with them. First, there is a range of kebabs from the charcoal-grill BBQ. I chose the Beef Mishikaki – cubes of beef fillet, marinated in yoghurt with spices and grilled on a skewer. There is also a Veggie mishikaki.

Last Sunday, I chose from the tapas on offer and settled on the Coconut Chicken Bites – boneless chicken nuggets coated with desiccated coconut and panko breadcrumbs, and served with a Thai sweet chili and lime sauce. The next time I go, I will explore the choices of pizzas and burgers. The food prices are very reasonable, ranging from Sh750 to Sh1,500.

The Crafty Chameleon has become popular  quickly. I am not surprised. A few weeks ago, I wrote about my six of the best restaurants in Lavington. If I had visited the Crafty Chameleon by then, my article would have been about seven of the best.

John Fox is Chairman of iDC Email: [email protected]