Over the past few years, South Africa has seen what could easily be termed a ‘craft beer revolution’, with more beer consumers looking to explore further than the regular lager brands many of us are used to.
While many may have enjoyed making their own beers in their kitchens or garages as a hobby, others have leveraged on this growing demand in the country by turning their beer-making hobby into a business.
One person who has made this a success is Tsikwe Molobye (31), founder and head brewer of Stimela Brewing Co. With almost two years into the business, Stimela has seen massive growth and popularity.
“There has been a craft beer boom in South Africa and I see it still growing quite exponentially in the next few years,” Molobye says. “Also with the rise of the black middle class, people have more disposable income allowing them to explore a bit more, explore the night life and with that comes exploring new beers and new drinks.”
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
Following a trip to Cape Town that exposed him to the world of craft beer, Molobye got frustrated when he couldn’t find a similar offering in Pretoria where he was based. This is when he started doing some research and started making his own beer from home.
“I eventually became obsessed with it and was brewing about four to five times a week, like a mad scientist. I would share some of the beers with my friends, and eventually some of them would ask me to brew some for their parties and events. One friend asked me why I don’t turn this into a business and that was my light bulb moment,” Molobye says. This is where it was born.
Because he still had a full-time job at the time, Molobye rented some equipment at a warehouse in Pretoria and would spend his weekends brewing – and during his spare time during the week, he would make his deliveries.
We understand that the craft beer drinker is a person that likes to explore and that’s why we don’t only offer a lager, but also offer an IPA, Saison, an Amber Ale and a Chocolate Stout.
Before he knew it, the demand for his product grew exponentially and he could no longer produce at the little warehouse he was using.
“Because of the increased demand, I could no longer brew at the warehouse I was at and had to start brewing with Swagga Brewery. I managed to up the batches from 350l to 1000l per batch, and from there we’ve slowly grown to about 3000l per batch on average. The goal right now is to bump it up to about 6000l to 9000l per month,” he explains.
Molobye explains that his business has been self-funded all throughout but with the ever-growing demand, he has begun the process of trying to secure funding either through an investor or from the government.
He also explains that another challenge has been finding and training employees because of how complex the skills set for brewing are.
“Finding a team has been a bit of a challenge because the guys that work with me need to have a basic understanding of science, and making sure that everything is properly sterilized so that the beer doesn’t get infected and so on,” Molobye explains.
He cites distribution as another one of his biggest challenges.
“Educating the retailers on how to handle the product has been very important because it’s not like your average beer product. For example, craft beer is not meant to be pasteurized – the whole philosophy behind craft beer is that it must be kept pure, unfiltered and not pasteurized,” he explains.
Molobye has also been very deliberate about distinguishing the Stimela as one that has set itself apart.
“We understand that the craft beer drinker is a person that likes to explore and that’s why we don’t only offer a lager, but also offer an IPA, Salson, an Amber Ale and a Chocolate Stout,” he says. “We’ve also just given the brand an element of cool so that it appeals to young professionals and this comes across strongly in our packaging and on our social media platforms.”
“Now we’re planning on adding a gin to our offering. I’ve found that wherever we go, not everyone loves beer and many people want to have a cocktail of sorts and while I’m not really a cocktail guy, if I were to have one, it would be a simple Gin and Tonic,” Molobye says excitedly.
Sharing his trade secret with us, Molobye goes on to explain how they plan on producing the gin using a technique that distills it using the beer with a few other additions.