Mash No.3 – The State of Beer

In July, Beerhouse branches in Johannesburg and Cape Town hosted The State of Beer: An Industry Review. It was an inclusive discussion with a panel of some of the best beer minds in the country and representatives from the industry all along the value chain .

Our industry is in a state of flux at the moment with many challenges to its future growth. Questions of independence and divisions following macro acquisitions of micro; pending prohibitionist-style government legislation; lack of internal self-regulation and an uneducated market are all immediate threats to the beer industry that are not often discussed in open dialogue in a public forum. These events, held in conjunction with Beerhouse’s birthday celebrations, were aimed at creating a platform for constructive discussion and subsequent positive outcomes. 

Beerhouse has always championed the beer revolution and believes in inclusivity and transparency. We curate a beer menu that includes macro and micro beers and is committed to the education of the market. We are in a great position where we observe both macro and micro challenges to the market and wish to create dialogue to increase further cooperation and education. The debates centred of whether macro and micro can actually work together for the betterment of the industry or if interests are divided. We touched briefly on the Competition Commission undertakings that AB-In-Bev took on regarding supplying ingredients to the micro-brewing industry as well as allowing access to fridge space. Discussion then moved on to challenges facing ‘craft beer’ in SA, including quality issues, market education, route to market, being too exclusive, current economic conditions and legislation. The way forward and collective problem solving was a welcomed result with beer appreciation, training and quality initiatives discussed.

The Johannesburg panel featured of Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela  founder and owner of Brewster’s Craft, Alan Melville, partner and director of Red Rock Brewing, Eben Uys, owner and head brewer at Mad Giant Brewing and Danie Odendaal of Bearded Brew Consultancy and a former SAB brewer. In Cape Town the panel included Steve Miller, owner of Garagista Beer and former SAB, Wolfgang Kodel,  brewmaster atCBC, Nick Smith, owner-brewer at Soul Barrel and CBASA committee member and OnTap editor Lucy Corne.

Audience at both events was forthcoming with a range of representation all the way along the value chain from brewers to distribution to beer lovers. Cape Town’s turn out was poor and considering it has many more breweries it was a shame and an indictment on an industry desperately needing cohesion.

The most common themes at both events were poor beer quality and a lack of curation from retail including bars, restaurants and bottle stores. This was ultimately seen as the micro industries biggest threat along with the industries inability to cohesively lobby the government.  The theme of education was a common thread that spoke to brewers taking more time to up-skill through various courses and sensory training while a spotlight was shone on retail lack of curation and understanding of cold chain. It was suggested for future discussion that some of the nation’s biggest retailers would be included so a working relationship of mutual benefit could be initiated. An open environment of skill and knowledge sharing that also allowed for honest feedback amongst brewers was essential. Both panels fielded questions from the audience on what the industry was doing to face these challenges and responded with unanimously plea to support and actively engage with the newly formed Craft Brewers Association of South Africa (CBASA).

Questions were raised about a divided industry and that bigger micro -breweries building portfolios by purchasing other brands and breweries is a concern. The panel unanimously responded that if quality is the yard stick then these ventures can only be good for industry.  

“We are in a pick ourselves up phase” remarked Alan. It’s a tough economy and the feeling is that it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. The industry will continue to go through challenges but open discussion like these will serve as being cathartic and ultimately lead to better cooperation and cohesion. We are current guardians of the world’s oldest and greatest beverage and it’s up to us to make beer great again.

Listen to Mash No.3 -The State of Beer: An Industry Review

This is the recording of the event hosted in Beerhouse, Fourways, Johannesburg

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