Ukhamba: Where beers are brewed at home, for all homes

By Lonwabo Marele Time of article published Oct 17, 2017

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Ukhamba Beerworx is Cape Town’s first and only black-owned craft brewery, and Lethu Tshabangu is the Mother City’s only black brewer. 

A bit of about the history of how Ukhamba came about?

Tshabangu: Ukhamba (clay pot) is one of the few words used across all Nguni languages (Ndebele, Tshwane, Xhosa, Swati and Zulu).

My grandfather used to send me to buy him beer but he called all beer Ukhamba. That word stuck with me for many years, and after I home-brewed my first beer (Pursuit of Hoppyness), I decided to call the business Ukhamba.

I started off as a waiter. I saw that there was an opportunity in the production industry and so I bought books and started to network with people about the brewing industry in 2013.

I started by learning how a lager and pilsner are made. I then brewed the Pursuit of Hoppyness.

Where is Ukhamba located?

Tshabangu: Ukhamba Beerworx is located at The Palms Décor & Lifestyle Centre, 145 Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock, Cape Town.

This is where the tasting room is located, and it is also a venue where people are able to come and network with like-minded individuals. We are small enough to be very personal with everyone who comes to Ukhamba Beerworx.

Duration of the brewing production?

Tshabangu: We have three brewing machines - 1 000 litres, and two 500-litre machines. The temperature outside plays a key role in us brewing, but on average, it takes 15 days to brew the beer.

Flavours of Ukhamba?

Tshabangu: I love brewing because it is easy and consistent with the brand to make. We try to recreate umqombothi in a modern way. 

Umqombothi is a South African and African utywala (beer). We currently have three flavours; the State Capture (IPA), the Pursuit of Hoppyness (Black IPA), and Utywala (Sorghum Saison).

Lethu Tshabangu is the Mother City’s only black brewer. Picture: Dariyal Photography/www.dariyal.com

State Capture (India pale ale): The IPA is normally heavy, it is a beer for experts. It is based on a flavour and aroma, it has a little less of alcohol volume but all the citrus-grapefruit flavours in the all-day IPA are all put together by us without an exterior influence.We call it the State Capture because it gets everyone together.

Utywala (Sorghum Saison): It is a refreshing farmhouse ale, with an African twist. Tart and fruity nose with a crisp mouth feel. The Sorghum malt is popular with making Umqombothi (traditional African beer) gives this beer a unique modern day character.

Pursuit of Hoppyness (Black IPA): This is a beer I made when I was a home brewer. It is dark but happy, it is the best of both. A perfect marriage of roasty-chocolate and lightly spicy malt flavours with citrus hops aroma make up the beautiful Cascadian Ale.

Short- and long-term goals?

Tshabangu: Our short term goal is to survive and get the brand to be as known as possible.

Our long term goal is to create consistency by offering people a unique product and expand. The direction is to get people in front and let them taste Ukhamba.

Local and national stalls?

Tshabangu: We have local stores that we distribute to at the V&A Waterfront for example. We supply huge stalls in Cape Town and Johannesburg, such as Hudson Restaurant, Beerhouse, League of Beer, etc.

How many employees?

Tshabangu: We currently have four part-time workers at Ukhamba.

How do you get people to know about Ukhamba?

Tshabangu: The key element is to be social, people are able to find us through the networks we create with distributors, people who have tasted the beer and through social media.

Partners?

Tshabangu: We have three voluntary partners at Ukhamba.

Words of motivation to upcoming entrepreneurs?

Tshabangu: Every entrepreneur knows how to find their way. They are able to sail through the wind.

Lethu Tshabangu, 36, is originally from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. He began brewing beer in 2013. In 2017, his Woodstock-based business (Ukhamba Beerworx) produces and distributes to stalls around South Africa. Beer is Lethu’s passion and his gateway to success.

“In the history of the Nguni people of southern Africa like Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele and Swazi, it was custom for tribesmen to gather in a circle sharing umqombothi (a traditional beer) from a clay pot called ukhamba,” Tshabangu said.

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