Micro-breweries expanding their craft beer empire

By Given Majola Time of article published Dec 16, 2018

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DURBAN - Micro-breweries  in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) industry are gradually expanding their local and international footprint, despite a slow economy, red tape and big player dominance. 

Shongweni Brewery (SB) director Brian Stewart said the brewery was expanding its footprint concentrating in the main on KZN outlets.

Stewart said the beer sector, which is measured by litres consumed, was relatively stable albeit trending somewhat lower over the past 10 years. 

“The craft beer sub-sector is tiny compared to the Heinekens and SAB’s of the country. However, an upward trend can be detected, especially from younger beer drinkers, showing a preference for craft beer.”

Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest brewer, has become a dominant global player  in the craft beer industry, squiring Goose Island Brewery and since thena dozen craft breweries.

Challenges faced were South Africa’s state of the economy, the “heavy” excise loads on small breweries, licensing bureaucracies and procedures and labour issues, he said. 

Despite the challenges, Stewart said that SB would grow additional outlets for its exclusive beers over the next five years and invest an estimated R15 million in an upgraded brewery and restaurants to increase capacity.

SB's sales had increased mainly as a direct result of opening two restaurants in Point and Ballito that accounted for the bulk of their beer sales.

Over the past two years SB had established the “Robsons Real Beer” brand as one of the dominant craft beers in KZN. Robsons Beers are made from imported grains (barley malt),hops as well as yeasts, Stewart said.

SB also recently produced three new variants: Vanilla Gorilla (porter), Skhokho (light lager) and Big Red (Irish Red Ale) increasing their range to nine beers. 
Meanwhile, the Zululand Brewing Company owner Richard Chennells said their flagship Zulu Blonde beer would next year be tapping into a market of more than 500 outlets in France and Italy.

“It is also available at selected outlets in South Africa namely Quay Four Restaurant in the Cape Town Waterfront, Alba Lounge at King Shaka International Airport and was expected in more outlets. The thirst quencher is also a frequent guest beer in pub chains,” said Chennells.  

The micro-brewery was founded by the Chennells family in Eshowe, north of KZN in 1997. Its team of brew masters has since grown locally and internationally through their partnering with breweries in Africa, Europe and the UK. In 2010 the ZBC flagship beer Zulu Blonde was launched in the UK in more than 900 pubs where it was voted Best Beer at the Wetherspoons International Real Ale Festival. In 2017, their Zululand Pale Ale beer also headlined in the UK in over 700 pubs.


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