Cheers to the beers... It's the Soweto Beer Festival!

October 22 - Godfrey Senwelo Mautloa speaks to eNCA about the importance of the Soweto Beer Festival in South Africa's largest township. Video: eNCA
October 20 - Visitors to Soweto's beer festival next week will be getting a little extra local flavour. That's where a new brew, named Soweto Gold, is being launched, and it pays homage to the historic township. Video: eNCA
Soweto, October 27 - More than 40 locally brewed beers were on offer at the Soweto Beer Festival. It is one of the biggest events in the area, and has been running for 19 years. Video: eNCA

Nothing is more South African than a refreshing beer.

And nowhere is more Mzansi than Soweto.

Therefore, it's only fitting that the nation's largest township hosts a beer festival this weekend.

The guzzling fest, in its 15th year, began on Friday and ends Monday at the SHAP Stadium, opposite Mofolo Park.

For the first time craft brews will be on offer, along with 40 brands from all over the world.

The festival, known as one of the biggest social events in Soweto, launched Soweto Gold Premium Lager. And of course Shapshap cider.

''The four day can-only event aims to generate appreciation for South African beverage products, promote local music, grow Soweto as a major tourist attraction and encourage responsible safe drinking in our vibrant Gauteng townships,'' organisers said in a statement.

''The festival brings together great Sowetan cuisine including, pap and vleis, kotas and magwinya, live entertainment and the opportunity to taste locally brewed umqombothi and over 40 beer brands from around the world.''

With everything happening in Soweto on Saturday, including a whiskey festival and a derby soccer match, 24-year-old journalism student Nthabiseng Ramoeletsi chose to be at the beer festival – even though she’s not a fan of the amber liquid.

"I heard everyone talking about beer festival, beer festival, so I had to come," the Soweto resident told eNCA.com.

That’s exactly the kind of attitude that has made the festival a success, organiser and owner of the event Godfrey Mautloa said.

The fact that people are willing to pay R20 for a beer at his event, rather than the R10 they would pay at a local shebeen, says as much about the rise in incomes as it does about the local social scene.

"When we started we looked around at what was happening in Soweto. The only things that were happening were street bashes and people spinning cars. So we thought: let’s do something that happens everywhere else but people think can’t happen in Soweto."

The event drew 6,000 people on Saturday and a total of 15,000 were expected over the four days.

eNCA.com multi-media producer Mxolisi Mhlongo gave the festival a 5 out of 10 because it lacked a ‘vibe’.

I pointed out though that we arrived three hours after the gates opened, so perhaps we were simply lagging behind the ‘vibe’ of the other revellers.

Also, despite a hail storm and constant rain that eventually soaked through one tent I was in, it didn’t seem to dampen the spirits at all. Perhaps helped by the non-stop array of house, hip-hop and other tunes from DJs who seemed to read the crowd perfectly.

It didn’t look as if anybody left because of the torrid weather.

In fact, as we were leaving around 10pm, a line of cars was still forming at the gate and people were haggling with security to get in.

My complaints include the usual about unpleasant portable toilet facilities and the poor treatment we received from the media organisers who invited us.

We weren’t given any directions and got lost a few times and were then subjected to a drunk security guard at the gate, who was apparently unaware that there was a list that bore our names.

It took a few phone calls to remedy the situation.

It was also a bit of a struggle to find local beers – despite the fact that this is the Soweto Beer Festival, big names like Savanna and Stella Artois dominated.

My friend also gave the event a 5 out of 10 because there wasn’t enough of a variety of beverages on offer, especially for non-beer drinkers who want to attend anyway to soak up the atmosphere.

Still, 28-year-old IT special Neo Dyantjyi said the festival compared well with other beer fests he had attended.

"At least they’ve put up a good show in terms of stands. This is quite a match in terms of other beer festivals," he said, shortly after his arrival.

"It’s comforting to see a lot of security."

All in all, I would give a rating of 6.5 out of 10. If nothing else, because I managed to get a sullen young person to dance with me.

 

eNCA

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