- The Story of Jack Black -
FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO SOUTH AFRICA'S MOST WELL LOVED BEER.
With the year drawing to a close, we couldn't help but look back on the year that was 2023. Embarking on this conversation with founders Ross and Meg, it was clear that there was a cool opportunity to look a little further back, with a slight jog a down memory lane...
While the story of Jack Black might be familiar to some, even internally, we're always learning new things about where we came from - and how we got to where we are today.
So here we go...
Back in 2007, long before "craft beer" became a local phenomenon, Ross and Meg McCulloch took a giant leap of faith. The duo, who crossed paths in Vancouver while working in the wine industry, were captivated by Canada’s growing craft beer scene. Recognising a golden opportunity in Ross’s native South Africa, they packed up and relocated to Cape Town. Fuelled by sheer passion and a shoestring budget, they set about introducing South Africa to craft beer.
From a small stall at The Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock, Ross and Meg brought their brainchild, Jack Black’s Brewing Co., to the country. Operating on a tight budget, the duo did more than just sell bottles—they began laying the foundations of a community. They chatted, laughed, and educated curious folks about what makes craft beer so special. Now, 16 years later, that friendly neighbourhood vibe hasn't changed a bit. At the heart of Jack Black is still a commitment to brewing great beer and celebrating the community that's been cheering them on since day one.
The McCullochs’ relentless efforts soon saw Jack Black's transition from bottled beers at farmers' markets to being stocked on tap at restaurants and bars in 2009. This ingenious move placed Jack Black front and centre among South African beer giants and exposed their flagship pre-prohibition lager to a whole new crowd. Traders, with their keen sense of what South African beer drinkers wanted, couldn't get enough. This was when Meg and Ross realised they were onto something special. By 2011, Jack Black had taken the lead in the craft beer revolution. Not only were they producing some of the finest craft beer in the country, but they were also turning a nation of South Africans into genuine craft beer enthusiasts.
As the movement gained steam, instead of becoming competitive with other craft beer brewers, they welcomed them with open arms. For Meg and Ross, it was less about competition and more about camaraderie. They believed in building relationships, collaborating with competitors, and fostering an environment where everyone could thrive—an approach that continues to define how they operate to this day. In 2015, one of their biggest dreams turned into reality with the construction of their very own brewery. The following year, in 2016, their success continued and was marked by the opening of Jack Black’s Taproom in Diep River, Cape Town. However, 2020 threw a curveball no one saw coming. As the pandemic swept the globe, South Africa took drastic measures and implemented a full prohibition. This hard stance dealt a heavy blow to the craft beer industry. Many local players, who had been the heart and soul of the growing community, found themselves devastatingly closing their doors. Yet, Jack Black was able to navigate these turbulent waters and, by 2023, the craft beer industry was once again flourishing.
Since day one, innovation has been central to Jack Black's ethos. They’ve always believed in offering a range of beers for diverse occasions and palates—even welcoming those who aren't traditional beer drinkers. Over the years, they’ve crafted a wide spectrum of beers, punctuated by limited releases that celebrate community, seasonality, and unique ingredients. Their first flagship brew, the pre-prohibition lager, was an instant hit and offered South Africans a taste that felt familiar yet distinctively special. Then came the game-changing CPA (Cape Pale Ale), a brew tailored to meet the demand for a drink that combined lager-like sessionability with the distinct hop character of an ale. Their adventurous spirit continues with the Super Crush range, encompassing both a Radler and an Ale. Both products were orginally created to form part of the limited release ranges - but due to popular demand are expanding into year round products. Whether they are coming up with new beer styles, or working with our team to engineer better packaging, and more sustainable solutions - and let's face it - some hair brained ideas - they are always championing and pioneering the category. Their programs that give back to the community, such as Pint for a Purpose and Shoes for good have grown from strength to strength. And none of this, they promise, would be possible without an amazing team behind them (thanks guys!!). From the beginning, Jack Black was more than just about beer; it was about bringing people together. As Meg and Ross have navigated the highs and lows of the craft beer world, they’ve always returned to this core principle. And as Jack Black continues to evolve, grow, and innovate, their dedication to community continues to guide them.