Earlier this month, SAB launched a limited edition eight-pack of beers from across the African continent. Beers For Africa features lagers from Tanzania, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. The best bit isn’t the beers though – it’s that funds raised from the initiative go to Stop Hunger Now, with a donation from each pack sold buying a wholesome meal for three school students. The goal is to provide a million meals by 2018.
It’s a nice chance to sample a few pan-African beers, although for the beer nerd there’s not too much variety – lager, lager and a bit more lager. Happily, there is also Laurentina Preta, which is a dark lager and definitely the star of the mixed pack (which we didn’t include in the tasting because a} it’s quite obvious what it is and b} I’d already drunk it.)
To find which other beers shone and which fell flat, I got a group of five beer lovers together for a blind tasting. They talked about the beers and ranked them on a scale of 1–5:
1: Would return it to the bar and ask for something else
2: Wouldn’t return it but probably wouldn’t finish the pint
3: Would finish a pint then move on to something else
4: Would order a second pint
5: Could drink this all day
One beer stood out as being blander than the rest (some might say that’s no mean feat). This beer is so weak in colour that I initially thought I had poured some into a glass containing water. Some of my favourite comments from the panel included “could drink this all day but what’s the point – I could save some money and just drink water”; “it tastes like sparkling water that’s had a mealie dipped in it” and the simple but clear “it’s lame”. Sorry Botswana – St Louis (3.5% ABV) was the resounding loser of the pack. The marketing bumf insists “it is brewed with a special blend of hops” and that it has “full flavour hop association”. I have no idea what that latter statement means, but I can assure you it does not apply to St Louis.
There were a lot of middle-of-the-road beers – Maluti (4.8% ABV, from Lesotho), Kilimanjaro (4.5% ABV, from Tanzania) and Manica (5% ABV, from Mozambique) were all solid 3s: we’d all happily finish the pint – particularly on a fishing trip, after a game drive or watching the sunset on an African beach – but wouldn’t make this a go-to beer unless there was nothing else to drink. (N.B: I got a dud pack with no 2M and two Malutis. If it had been lacking in Laurentina, you’d have been hearing from me, SAB…)
So who came out on top? The second-place beer scored a whopping five from one of our judges and he obviously he likes the taste of home – Castle (5% ABV) was the runner up with an average score of 3.5. And the resounding winner, with 4s across the board was Zambezi (4.7% ABV) – “Zimbabwe’s own lager”. What we liked most was the bitterness – something lacking a little in Manica and certainly the weirdly sweet Kilimanjaro. Interestingly, most of the tasters were convinced that this was Castle – proof that beer geeks appreciate that Castle is a well-made lager.
The Beers for Africa pack is a great gift to take to a braai, and even when you’re forcing down those last few sips of warm St Louis, know that you’re doing it all for a good cause.