By Tafi Mhaka

The beer is gone.

That fulsome homegrown taste of beer has gone pretty stale following Anheuser-Busch InBev’s £79bn takeover of SAB Miller two days ago.

Now, the lively unforgettable moments of fun and laughter at home, university – or work, which we have all experienced at some point or the other, those quintessential moments of fun-filled drunken stupor that we all hate to love, are nothing but a mellow distant memory.

It is about time to recall how, South African Breweries – SAB, like the city of Johannesburg, was established in the 1880s on the back of the gold rush.

With the glittering prospect of untold riches, the city grew into a rich mining region for small groupings of prospectors and miners, as well as budding entrepreneurs like the British-born Charles Glass.

Glass, who ran a small brewery in Northern Natal, which is in present day KwaZulu-Natal, opted to join the gold rush by setting up South African Breweries, along with a group of fellow brewers.

The company, much like the city of Johannesburg, grew into a diversified global behemoth, and arguably, outgrew its humble beginnings in the place then known as the Transvaal.

With time, premium alcoholic beverages from SAB like Carling Black Label, Castle Lager, Castle Lite, Castle Milk Stout and Hansa Pilsener, began to dominate the local beer market and occupy a highly visible space in the cultural landscape.

SAB kept abreast of changing trends in the food and beverage industry: The company brought Castle Lite to the market at time when consumer interest in low-carb drinks had soared.

Castle Lite is a hip, urban brand, targeting health-conscious, young-at-heart and fun-loving middle-class South Africans.

Black Label, the best-selling beer brand in South Africa, remains hugely popular with money-conscious blue-collar workers and university students.

While Castle Lager, which sponsored the Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok sides of 1995 and 2007, as well as the Africa Nations Cup champions of 1996, Bafana Bafana, retains a strong position in the market.

When Makhaya Ntini, South Africa’s first ethnically black cricket player, played in his 100th test cricket match against England at Centurion Park in Johannesburg in December 2009, guess who was there to help celebrate his landmark achievement?

Castle Lager.

How SAB, which became known as SAB Miller, after its $3.6 billion takeover of American beer manufacturer, Miller Brewing Company, in 2002, will fare in the fiercely patriotic hearts and minds of South African consumers, in the years ahead, is simply uncertain.

Now, the name synonymous with all things tipsy on frenzied Friday evenings, or chilled out moments around the braai stand with close friends or family on Saturday afternoons, is history.

SAB will in future be known as AB InBev.

Let’s raise a toast to Charles Glass and SAB.

130 wonderful years later, the beer has died.






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