Beer in Nairobi - A newcomer's first impressions
One of my first stops after getting settled was the local Nakumatt (Kenya's equivalent of the Super Walmart) where I bought one of every beer they had. The selection is mostly lagers and is dominated by products produced by Kenya Breweries, Ltd. So here is a run down on the commercially available beers I have found so far. The dollar is around 67 Kenyan shillings, so you can get an idea of how much things cost. I will need to start home brewing ASAP.
Pilsner Lager “Mimi ni mwenyewe - Bia imara kama simba” Brewed by Kenya Breweries Ltd., Nairobi. 4.7% abv. Listed ingredients: barley malt, sugar, corn starch, hops, CO2, water. After I learn some Swahili I'll translate the slogan. A very average beer similar to third tier mass market US beers.
White Cap Lager “A beer of distinction” Brewed by Kenya Breweries Ltd., Nairobi. 4.7% abv. Listed ingredients:equatorial barley malt, sugar, corn starch, hops, CO2, water. Not much different from Pilsner Lager.
Allsopps Lager “ Distinctive Taste” Brewed by Kenya Breweries Ltd., Nairobi. 5.5% abv. Listed ingredients: malting barley, corn starch, sugar, hops and CO2. The label describes the ingredients as “extra roasted equatorial malting barley, imported hops, and the purest Aberdare water” Allsopps is the cheapest beer made by Kenya Breweries (55 Ksh for 16 oz) and also their highest abv offering - that says it all.
Tusker Lager “Bia Yangu – Nchi Yangu” Brewed by Kenya Breweries Ltd., Nairobi. 4.2% abv. Listed ingredients: barley malt, sugar, corn starch, hops, CO2, water. This is the unofficial beer of Kenya and is available nearly everywhere. Unfortunately it is not a very good beer. Ranks behind Pilsner and White Cap in my opinion.
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout “Search for Greatness” Brewed under license by Kenya Breweries Ltd., Nairobi. 6.5% abv. Listed ingredients: barley, malt, hops, yeast, CO2. Not really equivalent to the Guinness you know. At 6.5% abv this is the strongest beer available. Much stronger flavor with a molasses flavor, but still with the typical Guinness sourness.
Tusker Malt Lager “Bia Bora” Brewed by East African Breweries Group, Nairobi. 5.0% abv. Listed ingredients: barley malt, hops, CO2, water. This is a premium beer at 85 Kenyan shillings for 12 oz vs 75 for 16 oz of Tusker. A little cleaner taste without the adjuncts. Second best local lager.
Castle Lager “The Premium African Lager” Brewed by Tanzania Breweries, Ltd, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 5.0% abv. Listed ingredients: water, barley malt, maize & hops. I'm not a big fan of corn in my beer.
Premium Serengeti Lager “Refreshingly crisp” Brewed by Serengeti Breweries Ltd., Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. 4.8% abv. Listed ingredients: malt, water and hops. Probably the best local lager also 85 Ksh for 12 oz.
Stella Artois “Belgium’s Original Beer” Brewed under license by Serengeti Breweries Ltd., Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. 5.1% abv. Listed ingredients: water, malt, maltose syrup, hops. The best selling beer in England is 105 Ksh for 12 oz here in Kenya. Probably not purchased much by the average Kenyan. You're better off with a Serengeti Lager.
Bavaria Brewed in Holland by Bavaria Brewery, Lieshout, Holland. 5.0% abv. Listed ingredients: purest mineral water, barley malt, hops. This beer is similar to Heineken, but not as "good" also comes only in the 22 oz bottle.Bavaria Barley Brown Brewed in Holland by Bavaria Brewery, Lieshout, Holland. 5.0% abv. Listed ingredients: purest mineral water, barley malt, hops, sweetened with sugar, caramel. This is an exceptionally sweet beer and not very drinkable.
Sierra Amber - Brewed by Ozzbeco Ltd., Nairobi. 4.5% abv. Listed ingredients: water, malted barley, hops, yeast.
Sierra Blonde - Brewed by Ozzbeco Ltd., Nairobi. 4.5% abv. Listed ingredients: water, malted barley, hops, yeast.
By far the best tasting are the beers by Sierra (Nairobi's only microbrewery). The samples I tried were a little watery, but had a distinctly better flavor than any of the other local beers - malt was actually detectable. Unfortunately they are only available in cans at the store. I have heard that the blonde and amber are really not their best offerings, so a visit to the brewery will be on my schedule in the near future.
The US Embassy morale store brings in beers from the States about once a month and I was able to obtain a 12 pk of Fat Tire and Sam Adams Boston Lager last week. The last time I stopped Miller Lite was all that was available, so it appears to be hit or miss.
One good thing is that all the local beers are sold in returnable bottles, so I have started to build my collection for future homebrewing efforts. Brewing will commence once we move into our permanent quarters.
Look for more in my continuing quest to report on the beers of Africa.
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