“A lot of people were very surprised that a black person can brew beer,” says Ndumiso Madlala, founder and master brewer of South Africa’s first black-owned microbrewery in Soweto called The Ubuntu Brewery.
The microbrewery will open its doors for operation at the end of May 2014 in Ubuntu Kraal, Soweto and will produce approximately three million litres of beer a year. It will employ 150 workers exclusively from Soweto to add to job creation in the suburb.
Madlala was a master brewer for nine years at SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer, where he gained all his experience in making beer. In 2012, Madlala took his chemical engineering background and his love for beer and left the comfort and security of a monthly salary to make quality, locally brewed beer that would be available in townships.
“Each time I took friends from overseas to Vilakazi Street [in Soweto], they’d always ask for locally brewed beer, but there wasn’t any. So I decided to brew it.”
Madlala says he struggled for three years to find investors as they had reservations about giving him money for the brewery. Investors feared Soweto Gold would be crushed by the big beer makers, but he was determined. He finally convinced Swedish investors to help him launch his company.
“I have gone from door to door with investors,” he said. “Some do not want to listen, and people just throwing the idea out, but I never gave up. I kept the spirit up and kept moving, and look where I am today. So, whatever you do or whatever your passion is, never ever give up on your dream, no matter how difficult it is.”
Madlala said they are also looking to partner with the University of Weihenstephan in Germany and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in London in an exchange programme that will see youngsters go overseas to learn the brewing trade and bring the skills back to South Africa.
Madlala says he combined his technical knowledge with his knowledge of the South African palate. “They prefer a little bit of sweetness in the beer and they love fruity beers,” he says proudly. “Soweto Gold is different because it’s much more richer compared to other craft beers and very fruity.”
“I am very proud to show other African people that it is possible to venture into brewing as an African person, and I hope that a lot of people are going to follow suit in the brewing field.”
Ubuntu Brewery is expected to open end of May, until then, Soweto Gold beer can be found at selected Checkers liquor stores around Johannesburg.