Beer is a beverage that has been brewed for centuries in diverse parts of the world by monks, women, craftsmen, capitalists, and hobbyists. It offers a common denominator: it is drunk in almost every country across the globe and offers a relaxing atmosphere for people to get to know each other – sometimes without speaking much of the same language. While Africa is not exactly known for its beer and other countries still snag the title of biggest beer drinkers in the world, you are likely to find at least one brewery and go-to local beer when visiting an African country. While these beers may not necessarily be produced for the export market, they have plenty to offer on home soil and to those in search of adventure whilst travelling.
Craft beer has become an explosive industry in South Africa and has seen a shift away from industrially-produced beers to artisanal beer brewed in micro-breweries using fresh ingredients and natural methods. The hippest joints are the restaurants serving craft beer and you can expect two to three big beer festivals happening in a city like Pretoria each year such as the Capital Craft beer festival usually held annually in June. There are close to around 200 breweries of this kind and choosing becomes close to impossible but a personal pick would be Devil’s Peak Brewery, a small brewery that produces its own selection of craft brews located in Cape Town. They brew not only one of my (and many family members’) favourite beers, but one of South Africa’s as well. Their flagship IPA King’s Blockhouse won best beer on show at the 2011, 2012, and 2014 Cape Town Festival of Beer and the 2014 Johannesburg Festival of Beer. If you find yourself in Cape Town, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the brewery and sample their entire range of crisp, delicious beers at their brewpub The Taproom.
Since it opened in 1922, Kenya Breweries Limited located in Ruraka near Nairobi has been one of the leading breweries in Kenya for over ninety years. Their flagship lager, Tusker Lager, is a favourite amongst locals and tourists alike, arguably selling the most beer in East Africa. It was first brewed when KBL opened and as such is a very historic beer yet it has managed to win various awards at the World Quality Selections. It is a commonly accepted fact that the beer was named after the founder of KBL was killed by an elephant during a hunting accident. Tusker has been described as a part of Kenya and the picture of the elephant has become well recognised throughout society. Any trip to Kenya would be incomplete without a good sample of the tried and trusted.
Established in 1951, Nile Breweries in Uganda is the biggest producer of beer in the country, with a capacity of around 2.4 million hectolitres. NBL produces beers such as Eagle Lager, Eagle Dark, and Eagle Extra as well as Uganda’s flagship beers – Nile Special and Nile Gold. If you’re in search of something on a smaller scale set in a sociable, inviting outdoor environment, try Yasigi, Uganda’s first micro-brewery offering amber ale, stout, pilsner, or even wheat beer. If you’re interested in brewing, take a walk through their brewing room which is open to visitors.
Beer is a serious matter in Tanzania. Serengeti Breweries Limited is one of the major distributors of beer in the country. Its flagship beer is Serengeti Lager but they also brew Kilimanjaro and Safari. From the names given to their beers, it is easy to deduct that the names reflect a nationalist pride. Tanzanian Breweries Limited, another big brewery in Tanzania, offers Ndovu Special Malt, Tanzania’s premium lager that has won two grand gold awards for taste and quality.
With fifty-four countries on the continent, this short list barely touches on the options available from local breweries across Africa. The best advice would be: whenever you go someplace new, make a point of finding out what the locals like and what the drinks of choice are. Sample, experience, and get to know the place from the inside – through eating, drinking, and getting to know the people. When in Madagascar, tryThree Horses Beer. Definitely sample what Habesha Breweries in Ethiopia has to offer and when in Nigeria, try Star Lager or “33” Export in a local pub – why limit yourself to only one? Do not underestimate African breweries; there is nothing like a cold beer in the hot African climate after a hard day’s work or travels. And while you’re at it, have a blast at learning how to say “cheers” in the boundless languages you’ll come across!