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Heineken takes another gulp of SA craft beer

After months of rumour, the news is official that trendy Jo’burg craft beer brand and brewery, Soweto Gold and the Soweto Brewing Company, have been bought by brewing giant Heineken.

Local craft brewing guru and writer, Lucy Corne, reports that this is not really the case of a straight-forward buyout, as was the case with Stellenbrau brewery in Stellenbosch earlier this year.

She writes: “There will remain a craft, or ‘speciality beer’ arm of Soweto Brewing Co – the original lager recipe has been reincarnated as ‘The Master’s Brew’ and the flavoured brands will still be brewed in Soweto.

“But these are just welcome extras for Heineken – what they really wanted was the name ‘Soweto Gold’ – a brand the megabrewer has transformed into a mainstream lager, its target market not found in Maboneng markets, but in township taverns.

“Soweto Gold launches in Soweto today, with the rebranded 500ml cans retailing in taverns for R12.

“These will be followed by 750ml bottles later this month. So this isn’t an attempt to muscle in on the craft scene but a challenge to the might of SAB’s products.”

The idea behind Soweto Gold began to ‘ferment’ in 2012 and soon after was registered as a trademark.

The beer’s tagline is “Born in Soweto, brewed for all” and the long-term dream, according to co-founders, Ndumiso Madlala and Josef Schmid, is to go global.

Ndumiso Madlala, brewmaster at Soweto Gold (pictured above) says what Heineken saw is what they had envisioned for their brand.

“We saw an opportunity to collaborate on distribution, sales and marketing.”

“We saw an opportunity to bring craft beer to townships such as Soweto.”

“I want people to know that we are not selling Soweto as a destination but that we are selling the spirit of Soweto.”

Ndumiso Madlala, co-founder and Brewmaster at Soweto Gold

See more: Soweto Brewing Co

Hear a  Radio 702 interview with Madlala here:

Related reading:

Stellenbosch’s Stellenbrau joins Heineken South Africa


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