Okavango Craft Brewery (OCB), a new and exciting venture that produces craft beer from the finest quality ingredients, including locally-sourced millet and mineral water from the Okavango Delta has found home in Ngamiland, Botswana.
The 100 percent citizen owned Brewery Company began operations in 2020 and has been hailed as the country’s first licensed micro-brewery. The beer company continues to make strides in the beer brewing business, is upbeat about its sales market and is looking into a possibility to expand production.
The Managing Director and Co-Founder of OCB – Graham McCulloch says the brand is gaining momentum among beer lovers is premised on the fact that their product is made with water from Okavango Delta, a world class tourism destination and partly with local produce from rural subsistence farmers living in and around the Okavango area. He further said OCB aims to provide an attractive market for small scale farmers who work hard to co-exist with elephants in the Okavango area. While he could not reveal their financial information at the time, he said the company is growing in leaps and bounds.
“Our brand appeals to the tourism market and with our unique story behind the brand, it allows us to gain support in the market place for the product and help boost our local economy based on social and environmental principles,” he said.
McCulloch said setting up a beer brewing company in a tourism capital like Maun gives them a competitive advantage as the story behind their brand matches and benefits the local tourism product. He also said they are soliciting support from international tourists to support local initiatives that contribute social and environmental impact. OCB currently has nine staff members, eight of which are Botswana citizens. McCulloch said brewing beer is a scarce skill therefore they had to recruit a beer brewing expert from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo as an additional employee. He was however optimistic that once the economy improves and things get back to normal post Covid 19 pandemic, they will need additional staff. He also said they are looking forward to opening a brew pub to serve their beer with food.
Asked on their citizen skills transfer policy, he revealed that they are currently training their local brewers. He singled out one of their trainees who hails from Maun whom he said is very enthusiastic and loves the opportunity to become a brewer.
“ Being from Maun, and indeed Northern Botswana’s first micro-brewer, skills transfer and building capacity among our staff has and will continue to be an essential part of our company’s growth and success,” he said.
He explained that the whole brewing process happens in Maun. He said their state of the art brewery equipment was imported from Europe in order to enable them to make consistent quality products. Asked if OCB procures its raw materials from Botswana, McCulloch said they procure some of the ingredients like malts, hops and yeast from outside but emphasized that all the processing is done in Maun.
“We however buy and transport our millet grain from “elephant aware” farmers around Okavango Delta panhandle,” he said.
“Through our current equipment, OCB produces 500litres in one brew, which takes between 6- 8 hours. So we can brew a large quantity in a week if we brewed every day. However our production capacity relies in the fermenting capacity which currently stands at 4 000 litres,” he further explained.
McCulloch said the beer is stored for fermentation and then matured before being put into kegs and prepared for consumption.
On how it has been to break into the already saturated beer market, he confidently said they have always been ready for the market even before the Covid 19 outbreak. Like any other business he admits that their operation was affected by the pandemic. He further revealed that they intend to expand their product by opening a large brew pub for large numbers when the tourism industry gets back on its feet post Covid 19 pandemic.
“We envisage higher sales both over the counter at the brew pub and hopefully through distribution to the local tourism industry,” he added.
He revealed that their clientele range appeals to a wide range of local consumers who have shown interest in the beer and have signed up to their customer membership programme(the majority of which are citizens). He however could not rule out competition from big brewing brands in South Africa and Botswana but was adamant that they have strategies in place to beat their competitors. He took pride in the fact that they are different from other competitors as they are a Maun brand with a unique story.