Heritage month: Entrepreneur celebrates the art of brewing uMqombothi

Published Sep 21, 2022


Johannesburg - African beer has been an integral part of African culture since time immemorial. Cultural celebrations, weddings, and even funerals are not complete without African beer or uMqombothi as it is known in isiZulu.

The reverence for sorghum-based uMonqombothi even spawned a musical hit by Yvonne Chaka in the late 80s.

The brewing of beer has always been left to women, and the art and techniques have been passed down from generation to generation. This is a tradition that is not unique to African culture. Even in Europe, women were the first brewers of beer.

It is only fitting then that the first black woman to own a microbrewery in South Africa is spearheading the preservation of this long-standing tradition.

Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela is the founder of the Tolokazi beer and cider brand and is passionate about women reclaiming their rightful place as the master brewers of the beer industry.

She said: “My brand is about paying homage to female brewers because, as women, we’ve been making beer for centuries, but through civilisation and industrialisation, it has become a very white male-dominated industry, and for me, I feel it is up to our generation to reclaim some of these things.”

To this effect, this Heritage Day, she will be hosting the third annual uMqombothi Brewing Competition under the theme ‘Umlando’ which places a focus on family brewing traditions.

Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela explains how to brew uMqombothi Video: enca

The event will see participants get their brews judged by a group of expert judges while also being available for tasting by the general public.

She will also host a master-class, where she will be sharing some of her learnings with regards to the brewing of uMnqombothi.

“This year is not about how well you can brew, but most importantly, how well contestants understand their own brewing family tree ‘umlando’, which has been passed from one generation to another,” said Nxusani-Mawela.

The event will not just be purely about prizes and money. Some of the key objectives of the competition are:

● To celebrate and preserve our African culture and heritage.

● Ensure passing on of the brewing tradition through the generations.

● Educate on the right brewing methodologies.

● Share the fun in beer brewing.

Nxusani-Mawela is well-respected by the international beer-making community. She has recently returned from Germany, where she was a judge at the European Beer Star, an internationally renowned beer tasting competition dedicated to honouring top-quality beers.

IOL Business