UP alumna and brewmaster Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela is the first black woman in South Africa to found a microbrewery. Her company, called Brewsters Craft, trains students in the science of beer making, and also provides beer quality testing services to professional breweries.
Nxusani-Mawela was born and raised in Butterworth, Eastern Cape and is the middle of three children. She holds a BSc Honours degree in Microbiology from the University of Pretoria. “I moved to UP for my honours after having completed my undergrad BSc Microbiology from Wits. I chose to move to UP to expand my knowledge and to experience another tertiary institute. I had heard great things about UP before and it was always highly recommended.”
She joined UP at a time when the Microbiology Department was introducing a brewing diploma in collaboration with South African Breweries (SAB) and FoodBev SETA. “I was one of 10 students who took part in this and four of us ended up working for SAB.” She joined SAB’s graduate recruitment program in 2006 and completed their 18-month brewing internship. “The brewing course I did at UP ensured that I was a few steps ahead of other brewing trainees when I joined SAB as a full time employee,” she says.
Nxusani-Mawela also completed a Diploma in Brewing and a Master Brewer Diploma through the Institute of Brewing and Distilling where she was certified as a trainer. The young brewmaster was also the first person in South Africa to complete the National Diploma in Clear Fermented Beverages (through the FoodBev SETA). In addition to that, she is also certified to judge beer thanks to the Beer Judge Certification Program.
Nxusani-Mawela left SAB in 2014 and partnered with craft beer and smokehouse pub, Hogshead, to start the Brewhogs Microbrewery in Kyalami, where she was brewmaster and co-owner. She left Brewhogs in 2017 to focus on her own company, Brewsters Craft.
Brewsters Craft is based in Roodepoort, Johannesburg and has a 1000L contract brewing facility. They also offer laboratory services to other microbreweries to ensure the quality of their products. The company’s academy is accredited by the FoodBev SETA to offer NQF3 brewing qualifications and internships. They are also accredited by the Institute of Brewing and Distilling to offer training towards the General Certificate in Brewing and Diploma in Brewing.
Brewsters Craft does contract manufacturing, but in 2019 they launched their own beer and cider brand, Tolokazi, which uses indigenous African ingredients.
Her advice for young alumni who are starting their careers in brewing is that they need to understand that brewing, like any other career, requires a lot of work. “One has to be really passionate as there will be days that test your limits. Brewing is very physical and one needs to be okay with the fact that wearing makeup, jewellery or stilettos at work is a big no, especially if you will be spending time in the plant.”
Nxusani-Mawela’s other notable achievements are that she is immediate past chairperson for the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, Africa Section and the Beer Association of South Africa. She is on the Board of Directors for the Craft Brewers Association of South Africa and African Manufacturers Association; and she was also the Chairperson of the Board for the Beer Association of South Africa.
As she looks ahead, the next few months for Nxusani-Mawela will be focused on trying to survive and keeping afloat, this as the country comes out of the lockdown and the recent ban on alcohol sales. “The plan is to grow the business on the training front, to grow the Tolokazi brand locally and to also look at export opportunities,” she says.