South Africa: Soweto celebrates black breweries

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The famous Johannesburg township of South Africa organized a Blacktoberfest, the first in its name, on Saturday. An Oktoberfest is also taking place this month in Los Angeles and Durham (North Carolina) in the USA. Several craft breweries were present in Soweto to showcase their products and promote a black African brewing culture.

From our correspondent in Johannesburg,

Eight breweries are available to taste several different beers. Taste, shall we say, because the drink is served in small quantities. Quality comes first, explains Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, organizer of Blacktoberfest.

“We realized that when we talk about craft beer produced in townships, people imagine a beer brewed in a backyard with poor quality ingredients, and through this event we want to show that our beer is as good as that produced by a multinational.”

Umqombothi, mother of all beers Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela is a figure in the South African brewery that the shebeen queens were before them. These women who brewed Umqombothi, a light craft beer sold in illegal bars in apartheid cities.

Umqombothi is the mother of all beers, promotes Thembisile Ndlovu after filling a glass by pulling a plastic from a seal. “Umqombothi is cooked with cornmeal and sorghum and then fermented for 5 days and voila! Look around, everyone has a beer in hand, but it is not our traditional African beer and yet it all starts with that, says Thembisile Ndlovu.

Between tradition and modernity The breweries at Blacktoberfest play on this link between tradition and modernity. Here is a sorghum beer that Lesego Mokhutswane, a customer, enjoys. “We produce sorghum here in South Africa so it goes back to an identity. It’s not bad and it’s different, says Lesego Mokhutswane.

Entrepreneurs participating in the event want to create a place among South Africa’s 200 microbreweries. One of them was a dazzling success: the Soweto brewery, founded in 2012, bought by Heineken five years later.

It symbolizes the emergence of black breweries, according to Mandla Magangane, his co-manager. Before we only knew Umqombothi, but now we know how to make beer, filtered beer, lots of different things. It is important for the new generation to find their place. There is a market, but it is not easy. People who are so loyal to the beer brands that they are used to consuming “, explains Mandla Magangane.

Despite the powerful power of the brewing industry, there should be room to fill a country as beer accounted for 56% of alcohol consumption in 2016.

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