Global trends indicate that microbreweries may become more popular in future, reports South Africa’s largest microbrewery, Mitchell’s Brewery.
Mitchell’s brand manager Lauren Henderson says that being a microbrewery in a market dominated by beer brewer SAB Miller is not an easy task. However, there has been a significant increase in the number of microbreweries in the US, as well as being an established trend in the UK, which gives Mitchell’s hope that this trend will catch on in South Africa, and that microbreweries will become a sustainable business locally in the near future.
“It is difficult to convince restaurants and bars to stock our product, as there is not so much of a consumer-driven demand for smaller breweries’ products. We do not have the big advertising budgets of some of the larger companies, so we rely on word of mouth and relationships to keep our brand alive,” she says.
However, Henderson believes that the take-home market is becoming increasingly important across the board for alcohol sales owing to factors such as the recession and stricter drinking and driving laws in the country.
“It is, therefore, invaluable to be able to offer the public draught beer for sale in bottle stores, as well as the opportunity to collect a keg and take it home with the necessary equipment needed to pour the beer at home,” she points out.
Mitchell’s Brewery aims to supply a portion of the South African market with a 100% natural draught beer that is neither filtered nor pasteurised.
Henderson says that the fact that the beer is not tampered with in any way is what makes Mitchell’s beer unique.
“We do not brew to specific gravity, or add any chemicals to our beer. We do not carbonate our beers, rather relying on the natural bubble that forms during the brewing process to give it its fine fizz. Our beer is not filtered or pasteurised, making it a live product,” she explains.
The company manufactures six different draught beers. Forester’s is Mitchell’s flagship brand and the most popular, being a lager-type beer.
“We also brew a Bosun’s bitter, a 90 Shilling ale, Raven Stout, Old Wobbly, which contain 11% alcohol, and a Milk & Honey speciality brew,” she adds.
The brewery is actively pursuing the possibility of exporting its beer, particularly to the west of Africa. Henderson notes that Mitchell’s faces challenges with shelf life owing to the beer being unpasteurised, but says that this is easily overcome with the use of refrigerated containers for the transport of the draught beer.