By Lanji Ouko
American brewer & beer author from New York, Garrett Oliver, often discusses the invention of beer by saying, “beer is as old as civilization itself.” The author goes on to explain that unlike the Olympics or World Cup, global beer supremacy is a difficult thing to quantify when borders are brought into question. If one is looking at sheer production volume numbers, China is number one. If one is looking at consumption per capita numbers, it’s the Czech Republic.
Beer culture is synonymous to countries such as Belgium and Germany. Thanks to brands such as Kwak, Draak & Rodenbach, the esteem of Belgian beer has not waned even slightly. The Belgians attribute this to their globally emulated brewing techniques and styles. Germany ranks top five globally for its volume of beer production and ranks number three for beer consumption per capita. However, Germany is the most renowned beer producing country thanks to the Oktoberfest! The world’s largest beer festival held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. A sixteen day folk festival running from late September to first weekend in October, with more than six million people from around the world attending the event annually.
Quite often, discussing “beer culture” would involve a Kenyan name-dropping every other country except Kenya.
Kenya? You ask. To begin with, beer in Kenya dates back to pre-colonialism. However, in 1922 Charles and George Hurst founded Kenya Breweries Limited, producing Tusker Lager in 1923 in memory of George Hurst who was trampled to death by a rogue male elephant. Over the years, a number of breweries have been launched all over the country but the big five breweries which recently put Kenya on the beer culture map, boasts East Africa’s state of the art brewery, bar & fine dining restaurant all under one roof, right at the heart of Nairobi.
Of course having a brewery & beer taps doesn’t automatically mean a drinking establishment has a great beer, bar or brewery. So, what makes Brew Bistro tick? Quality, innovation, and the overall scene, the numbers are far from the only things to consider, especially given the rapid change in the industry in the past decade. The knowledgeable staff at Brew Bistro takes their work extremely seriously & clients refer to them as students from the “Big Five Brewniversity”.
Beer brewing is nothing new to The Big Five Breweries Limited Director, Aleem Ladak. Mr Ladak is a former student at Peponi, Hillcrest Secondary before studying Food Science & Technology at McGill University, in Montreal Canada. He later completed a postgraduate Brew Master Certificate in Brewing & Distilling at VLB Brewing & Malting Institute in Berlin, Germany before setting off his career in Montreal, Germany, Netherlands, Burundi, and Nigeria & Sierra Leone.
Since 2009,Brew Bistro has maintained its reputation & its upper middle class clientele. There is a lot of family influence in starting this business based on the fact that his father was a professional chef and his brother is a wine sommelier. What may be new to many is that, Brew Bistro lounge on Ngong Road is owned by The Big Five Breweries and so is the wine bar on the ground floor of the same building.
Ladak, having lived in Europe and Canada where craft beer was nothing new, therefore saw a gap in the industry & filed it in the most innovative style. And it’s from his time in these countries that he cultivated a number of techniques, the best ingredients and traditional brewing methods as per the Reinheitgebot, which is the German Purity Law to produce beer that is 100 per cent malt with absolutely no preservative.
Boasting an unparalleled culinary adventure, The Brew Bistro and Lounge is the one spot in Nairobi open from Monday through to Sunday, but still requires a reservation prior to your drop in. Ranging from a set course business lunch, executive fine dining and express a la carte on the light breezy terrace to a more formal business meal at the Chef’s Table.
Known for their popular half priced happy hour mojito cocktails & specialty crafted premium brews, brewed in-house by their very own Master Brewer Mr Ladak, Brew Bistro is more than a venue. It is an experience.
Last month, the lounge unveiled the highly anticipated limited edition craft beer ‘ENKARE’. It is inspired by the Maasai phrase for “cool water” aimed at representing the nature of Nairobi. The name conceptualized by Reiner Khamala Wanjala, a 24 year old architectural student who won the open call competition to create an exceptional logo and bottle label.
The Enkare craft beer is aged in the distinctive Jameson Irish Whiskey seasoned barrels.
The exclusive collaboration between Jameson Irish Whiskey & Big Five Breweries is said to be the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. The crafted beer is a full-bodied rich Jameson barrel aged Triple Ale. Balanced with the distinctive flavour of caramel and roasted coffee from the malt, hints of vanilla, oak and spicy fruit derived from the bourbon barrels.
Aleem Ladak, spent time at the iconic Jameson distillery in Ireland for inspiration, in order to conceptualize this one of a kind beer, which celebrates two local, loves in this country; beer and whiskey.
Mr. Aleem confesses that being a limited edition premium craft brew with a small batch size of only 700-800 litres, they wanted to keep the product for a niche market, which explains the limited availability to only Brew Bistro, which also recently opened a new branch in Westlands. Additionally, he says the greatest challenge of the venture is the task to make a premium craft brew that is well balanced and that has characteristics from Jameson whisky, the barrels, as well as the malt and hops. The specially crafted brew needed to represent both the Jameson and big five breweries as brands.
“The special craft brew was never produced for profitability but more for the passion for the craft of whiskey and beer making and thus, the financial implication was not relevant as long as we could meet our basic expenses while producing a brew that truly represents both brands,” Ladak says.