JOHANNESBURG - The search for new beers in South Africa has taken to new levels. Analysts are saying that the country is in the throes of a craft beer revolution with independent brewers opening up, almost on a weekly basis.
Serbia might not evoke ready memories for most Africans but the taste of Serbian beer made a lasting impression for the Brawlers that came for a round of golf at the Houghton Golf Estate last month.
Businesswoman Linda Khoza’s Kabinet Brewery makes no bones about the push to capture a slice of the local beer industry. Khoza says it is open season in the industry, and those who win will be judged, not on mass production, but on the quality of the brew.
“We consider ourselves to be passionate gourmets. We are searching for new and unusual tastes, while aiming to offer the highest quality craft beers from selected ingredients. We have created the Kabinet Brewery in South Africa, and its all about curiosities in the market,” Khoza says.
Kabinet is the brainchild of Serbian Branimir Melentijevic, whose passion for golden liquids inspired him to build a brewery in 2015.
The brand has not looked back since then, and is now a favourite in major parts of Europe. Malentijevic has partnered with Khoza to bring the brand to Africa and he says the natural launchpad was South Africa.
Khoza says the reception to the brew has been slow but promising.
“Should our locals palets appreciate this fantastic and sophisticated craft, we will venture into the next phase of setting up a brewery in Johannesburg, and grow organically from there” she says. “This young brand has already won a few awards at European craft beer festivals and we believe this is only the beginning of greater success.”
Craft beer is brewed slowly according to traditional methods using natural ingredients such as hops, barley, malt, yeast and mineral water.
Among craft breweries in South Africa is the Cockpit Brewery in Cullinan whose brands include Mustang IPA, Black Widow Stout, Muncher Weiss and Fokker Weiss . There is also the Black Horse Brewery in Magaliesberg which has been in the news for its technique of using natural spring water from the Magalies mountains as the secret ingredient in the signature 'dunkel' a dark German lager which is made out of German hops.
Kabinet made its debut in South Africa last month in Houghton and days later at The Dros in Midaran, setting tongues wagging as golfers imbibed on produce such as BrrKaa, SuperNova, Single Hop Citra, Schatzi and the aptly named Rufaro.
“Ours is a cabinet of curiosities and wonders. The word itself comes from German Kunstkammer, Wunderkammer – a collection of distinctive, unique items, all that is rare, strange and precious, finest handicrafts, natural wonders, usually received and gathered from exotic travel as examples of the natural, geological, religious, ethnological and artistic value. That is our beer,” Khoza says.
Other names on the Kabinet craft beer catalogue list include John Lemon and Vertigo.
Khoza says beer tasting and drinking is an art in itself. She says it takes seasoned cicerones (name given to a beer connoisseur) to distinguish between a good brew, and a bad one.
"Look you can tell what ingredients went in by the taste alone, but the experts can also tell by the aroma. You need to be sharp in sense to recognise wheat beer, hops, lagers, to anything and everything mixed with tangerines, mangoes, herbal beer with hemps and cascades,” she says.
Kabinet Brewery is hoping to make an impression in South Africa where craft beers make up at least 34 percent of the country's formal beer market. On average South Africans drink 60 litres of beer per person every year, far more than the 14.6 litres per person in the rest of Africa, or the global average of 22 litres per person.The continent itself is reportedly the most exciting growth region in the world in terms of total alcohol beverage regions.
Africa's beer market is said to be worth $13 billion and despite economic headwinds on the continent that have slowed growth in commodities and other sectors, research has shown that the beer volumes growth in Africa is set at 4.5%, compared to 1.4% globally. While beer business has centred on popular brands in a market that is dominated by SAB-Inbev, emerging operators like Kabinet are hoping to capitalise on consumers in the lower end of the spectrum. They believe that the consumers could be moving away from illicit, dangerous or home-made concoctions that are common tipples among the poor.
"Ours are distinct handicrafts, brewed with the thirsty consumer in mind. We may just surprise a few players in this market, and Kabinet is here to stay," Khoza says.
- BUSINESS REPORT