Why South Africans have beer bellies

Local and lekker – Taste the difference in South African beer

The development of South African beer - as might be expected – was influenced by European settlers who brought know-how to the country. Dutch and British immigrants each contributed in different ways to the history of beer in South Africa.

Too frequently, however, the local influence is overlooked. Sothos, Zulus and Xhosas already brewed forms of sorghum and maize beer long before the Europeans came to South Africa. "Umqombothi" (in Xhosa), for example, is a traditional beer brewed in the Transkei.

Today, the South African beer market is controlled by South African Breweries (SAB), the second largest brewery in the world. Except for imported beers like Heineken and Guinness, all the major brands in the country are owned and produced by SAB. Their best-known and most popular beer is Castle Lager, which has a warm and heady taste.

‘Black Label sê die Bybel’

Other popular South African beers are Black Label, Amstel and Carlsberg. Black Label is very popular amongst the black population and is often known as Zamalek, because it is considered a strong beer. Another famous Afrikaans slogan for Black Label in South Africa is, "Black Label sê die Bybel", which means The Bible says one should drink Black Label.

Also very popular in South Africa is the Windhoek Lager, a beer from Namibia, which is entrusted to the purity law of 1516.

Local and lekker

A number of smaller breweries have sprung up in the past decades. One of these is Shongweni Brewery near Durban producing Robsons bottle conditioned beers unique to South Africa. Their Wheat Beer, for example, is inspired by the German Weißbier. Another brewery is Birkenhead Breweries in Stanford, near Hermanus in the Western Cape. They produce a number of lagers and ales, which they describe as "liquid gold".

Beer is intrinsic to communal South African culture. No wonder the beer belly is such a proud physical characteristic.

Get the taste of South African beer in one of the numerous bars in Cape Town.

By Susanne Klatt

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