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Local brewer wins top prize at international beer awards

Tolokazi Beer is making waves across the globe after winning the best packaging design for bottles at the Craft Beer Marketing Awards in Minneapolis. Picture: Supplied

Tolokazi Beer is making waves across the globe after winning the best packaging design for bottles at the Craft Beer Marketing Awards in Minneapolis. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 18, 2022

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Johannesburg – The 2022 Craft Beer Marketing Awards (CBMAs) “Crushie” winners were announced recently. Most of the winners were announced in a virtual awards ceremony on Facebook Live and the final winners were announced on stage at the Craft Brewers Conference in Minneapolis.

The CBMAS is the only global awards competition to recognise and celebrate the importance of craft beer artwork, culture, retail marketing, and design efforts as a key to success in this competitive marketplace. The CBMAS has grown dramatically since its founding in 2019. This year a judging panel of more than 500 industry professionals from 24 countries evaluated entries in more than 40 categories from around the globe.

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South African entrepreneur Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela’s Tolokazi Beer won a platinum Crushie for best packaging design for bottles at the 2022 Awards.

Nxusani-Mawela was elated with the win, saying it was as a platform from which she could launch her foray into the global market.

Master brewer Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela wants to see her beer brand, Tolokazi being distributed globally. Picture: Supplied/Facebook

She said: “It shows that the brand is recognised on a global platform, it aligns with our future strategy which is to tap into those markets. So it is great that the brand is getting known in those markets so by the time we are ready to introduce it, people will already know about it.”

Nxusani-Mawela’s entrepreneurial journey has been characterised by many challenges.

Her claim to fame is that she is the first black woman in South Africa to found a microbrewery. She describes herself as a proud African woman and a brewmaster who celebrates beer-making by taking Africa to the world.

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Before Covid-19 hit, Nxusani-Mawela established her microbrewery, Brewsters Craft, where she produced her beer and cider brand Tolokazi.

She was forced to close her microbrewery in 2021 as a result of the lockdown restrictions imposed by the government when the country was in the grip of the pandemic.

She was due to begin her loan repayments to the IDC in 2020 but had been able to make little or no income as a result of the restrictions. She asked the IDC to restructure her loan agreement, but her request was declined, and as her bills piled up she had to shut down operations.

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However, closing her microbrewery was not the end of Nxusani-Mawela.

“I thought about the worst-case scenario. What can I do if I cannot make my payments? They will repossess my assets, but I will still be here. They will take my house, and I will go find a back room somewhere, but I will still be here.”

Since losing her brewery, Nxusani-Mawela has focused her energies on growing her brand.

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Her efforts bore fruit; earlier this year, she partnered with Beer52, headquartered in Edinburgh, England. Beer52 is a club that introduces beer drinkers across the UK to new beers from around the globe.

This partnership saw 200 000 cans of her Tolokazi beer being produced in Croatia and distributed to 100 000 subscribers across the UK.

Nxusani-Mawela has hopes of making the deal with Beer52 a permanent one after the success of the initial agreement.

Nxusani-Mawela’s international exploits are set to continue in early August. She will be jetting off to Germany, where she’ll be a judge at the European Beer Star which is an internationally renowned beer tasting competition dedicated to honouring top-quality beers.

“For me, it is exciting because I will be exposed to what the global trends are, and what is happening in the beer industry in Europe. I’m hoping to bring back the learnings to help me further grow Tolokazi,” she said.

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