South Africa’s Oldest, Largest Beer Festival

05 Dec 12

Friday 26 Oct 2012 - Monday 29 Oct 2012

South Africa’s Oldest,  Largest Beer FestivalAs beer fever grips South Africa and events in honour of the amber nectar emerge en masse around the country, it’s easy to forget that there were a few festivals flourishing long before beer became the new wine. The Soweto Beer Festival was launched in 1999 and over its 14 instalments has grown to be undoubtedly the country’s largest beer event, with an astounding 12, 000 drinkers descending on the SHAP Stadium over this year’s four-day fest.

Soweto restaurateur Godfrey Mautloa launched the event from his restaurant, Masakeng, along with his wife Gloria. The objective was to generate business for the pub as well as interest for the area and when you compare the first fest’s 500-strong crowd with this year’s throng, it’s clear that both goals have been achieved. The festival naturally captures the local vibe, setting itself apart from other beer festivals with its range of food, beer and music.

It might not yet feature any of the ever growing range of South African craft beers – although popular demand means this is on the agenda for next year – but the Soweto fest does include a crucial ingredient of the South African beer scene that is conspicuously absent from virtually all other events – umqombothi. Alongside stalls selling local and imported beers, one brewery provides patrons with the chance to taste and drink the opaque sorghum brew.

And sorghum beer is not the only component that makes this a singularly Sowetan event – the food stands also feature dishes that offer familiar flavours to local festival-goers and give visitors to Soweto a real taste of local life. “The food court has grown bigger, ” says Godfrey. “We are sponsoring local food vendors who sell items such as steaks, chicken, wors, tripe, trotters, burgers, ribs, liver, head meat, chips, pap and dumplings.”

Music is just as important as beer at the festival and you can expect a constant stream of local DJs and live acts belting out everything from jazz to house. “There is hip hop and house, Afro pop, jazz and old-school soul, ” Godfrey explains. “We even have stand-up comedy. We are planning to put more emphasis on live, interactive entertainment. We want to create a "fun fair" atmosphere.

It’s clear that the Soweto Beer Festival has a proud identity and will never blend in with the rest. Join Godfrey – and 12, 000 others – for a fest that pairs beer with a whole new partner: culture.