For the uninitiated, craft beer probably won’t come top of mind when ordering something to drink at a restaurant. But beer aficionados like me, relish the flavourful taste of a nicely brewed craft beer. And discovering new crafts, like Kasi Craft Beer, is always a treat.
The craft beer industry has grown tremendously over the past few years, with a litany of microbreweries popping out of almost every corner of South Africa, particularly in the Western and Eastern Cape, producing a variety of craft beers for beer lovers.
Despite the proliferation and the growth in popularity of craft beer, it remains an exclusive product, restricted to urban areas and establishments. Prior to the introduction of Kasi Craft Beer, craft beer was alien to the township market.
The birth of Kasi Craft Beer
It was the foresight and boldness of one of Motherwell’s most industrious social entrepreneurs, Siya Mandla (35), that saw the creation of a uniquely township oriented and inspired craft beer.
Siya says the idea was sparked by the fact that craft beer is a phenomenon that’s growing steadily in places like Germany, the United States of America and even South Africa. But this growth, particularly in SA, excludes the larger population.
“What I realised when I did my research on craft beer is that it’s growing in a funny way in South Africa. It excludes the bigger population,
“It’s growing in your urban areas. If you happen to be a black guy in that space then you’ll interact with craft beer. But a lot of people didn’t know about craft beer. And I wondered why. That’s when I decided to do some research,” says Mandla
Kasi Craft Beer is only one of Siya’s many business endeavours under his impressive business portfolio. This Electrical Engineer turned serial entrepreneur is the founder and owner of 469 Enterprises, a trading company that started as a carwash, but now includes a bar, transport services, media and entertainment and lo and behold – a craft beer.
From machine operator to visionary social entrepreneur
After working in the automotive industry for over 13 years and dabbling in a few business ventures in between, it was only when Siya enrolled for his MBA at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in 2010 that his entrepreneurial prowess took full form. In his first year of running his carwash, he entered and won the provincial legs of the SAB Kickstart Business Competition as well as the SEDA Stars Business Competition in 2012, giving him the much needed capital to grow his business.
“Although I was working as an engineer and making a bit of money, I knew my heart has always been in development,
“The idea behind starting the carwash was to give young guys the opportunity to get their entry level job,” says Mandla
He also laments the importance of getting that first entry level job, citing that it prevents unemployed youth from engaging in nefarious acts.
“You’ll never be able to climb the corporate ladder without that first job. Mine was as a machine operator. It also gives the guys a sense of dignity as they now have an income. They also won’t have time to be involved in dubious activities because they’ll be at work from 8am – 6pm,” says the NMMU MBA graduate.
Plans to bolster township tourism
Siya is also a big proponent of the development of the township economy. He has plans to change the township tourism landscape by building a tourism hub and lifestyle centres. These will be antithetical to the current malls and shopping centres which encourage a consumerist culture but do little for the socio-economic development of townships and the people who live in them.
He saw the penetration of the craft beer industry is a perfect way to drive the township tourism agenda. This was made even more attractive by the fact that he already owns a bar in the township, so he has a very close proximity to the market.
Doing things differently
The craft beer industry prides itself on its exclusivity. Unlike mass producers such as South African Breweries (SAB), microbreweries are not as aggressive on their marketing. This is something Siya discovered early on when speaking to different microbrewers; and he decided to buck this trend.
“Microbrewers are fantastic at making beer, not so much with marketing. They also hold this belief that craft beer is a discovered drink and people will look for it, thus placing the responsibility on the customer. I realised that this approach was not going to work for the township market,
“It works for them because they are targeting a certain market. But we know our market, if so and so hasn’t seen it from Khanyi, it’s not going to fly,” says the astute businessman.
A consumer-oriented product
Kasi Craft Beer is brewed at Dockside Brewery which is owned by microbrewer extraordinaire, Karl Schlaphoff (45) and located at The Grand Hotel in Centrahill. 469 Enterprises has sole sale and distribution rights. Once the brewing and bottling process is complete, it’s distributed to certain bars and pubs in the township, namely: 469 Barlounge in Motherwell, Dopparoz in KwaZakhele and Jeya’s Lounge in New Brighton.
Staying true to their ethos of making a craft beer that embodies the aspirations of their target market, both Karl and Siya have had to adjust the product to achieve the kind of taste and aesthetic that appeals to the township market.
“Craft beer traditionally comes in a brown bottle, but we’ve had to change this when we tested the product with the market. As you know in the township, there’s a perceived status and prestige that comes with drinking out of a green bottle. We then changed it to the green bottle at the customers’ request,” says Mandla.
“We also changed the alcohol percentage; it’s much lighter than most craft beers,”
When one door closes, Dockside Brewery opens
Siya initially took the Kasi Craft Beer idea to a number of microbreweries and they all closed their doors on him. It was only Karl at Dockside Brewery who believed in his idea; despite his reservations about the marketing strategies.
Karl has been brewing for almost 15 years and is a 3rd generation master brewer. He and his wife, Jane, opened Dockside Brewery in 2014 and have been running it ever since. They have a wide product range which includes beer flavoured biltong, ice-cream and even mustard.
“We make Kasi Craft Beer only for eKasi. That’s why you won’t find it in the suburbs. People must drive to the township if they want to have a Kasi Craft Beer,” says Karl.
You can follow Kasi Craft Beer, Siya Mandla and Dockside Brewery on their social media channels below:
Kasi Craft Beer:
Facebook: Kasi Craft Beer
Facebook: Siya Mandla
Cell: 083 509 2574
Facebook: Dockside Brewery