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Beers of Kenya. The Ultimate 2019 Guide


Four years ago, precisely in 2015, I wrote about beer in Kenya in what has gone on to be my most popular post this year with more than 5,000 people reading it. It seems that there is a lot of interest in exploring beer in Kenya, which is understandable. The brewing sector has grown since then and we now have lots of options, which means it is time for another review.

Back in 2015, Kenya had one major brewer - EABL/KBL, challenged by Keroche and Sierra which is more of a small volume craft brewer, and arguably Kenya’s first craft brewery. It had also been joined by Brew Bistro which mostly sells its malted stuff at its outlets in Nairobi and later by Sirville, a bar located at Galleria Mall.

Sirville was later sold to Brew Bistro and converted to the latter for a while, before shutting down in what is alleged to be a tax dispute.
Now, the tax man in Kenya has no love for those who partake of the holy brew, and as a result, Kenya has one of the highest taxes and beer prices relative to the size of its economy. When we grow up, we may just be Singapore or Norway. 

Brew Bistro Beers 
Brew Bistro still continues to delight revellers with its fermented servings at its Ngong Road outlet and the rooftop bar in Westlands along Woodvale Grove. For long, the variety of their servings have included Chuikolsch (Chui), Simpils, Temstout and Nyatipa.

Chuikolsch is a lighter (not lite, lite) variant which is also light on the palate - you could say more bread like.

Simplis is a typical medium beer going for a milder flavour, while Nyatipa is a strong Pale Ale with 6.5% alcohol volume and would be the kind of drink preferred by the typical Kenyan drinker known for their preference of strong beer. If you like something that’s more flavourful but not exceedingly strong, then Simpils is your drink.

Temstout is a strong stout, a dark beer in the style of Guinness with a coffee-ish taste and coming in at 6.5% alcohol volume. It’s milder than Guinness though.

Brew does have seasonal beers that usually pop up during the Oktoberfest in September/October. It does seem though they have recently kept over one of their seasonal brews with Wananchi still available at the end of September. Wananchi is a milder light beer picking a rich variety of flavours from its hops with 4.4% alcohol content. This would be ideal for the typical drinker who likes their beer sweeter or more flavourful. 
Wananchi Lager at Brew Bistro - It's a recently introduced light and mild beer
Note that the use of “sweet” here refers to beer sweet, and not sugar sweet. Beers are still bitter due to the use of hops, which double as both a bittering agent and preservative. Some varieties of hops are flavourful rendering this more pleasant taste to their beers in addition to the bitter aspects.

You can find out more about Brew Bistro’s beers on their website. 

EABL's Recent Additions 
Turning to EABL, they have been at work innovating their drinks.

In addition to their usual fare, they now have 2 cider drinks; Tusker Cider and Sikera. I’ve not tried either, mostly due to the fact that they are strictly not beers. They are targeted more at women drinkers who tend to dislike the bitter and strong taste found in beers. At the same time, ciders have grown in popularity starting with Redds which has been in the market for a long time, and later Savanna Dry Cider. Both Redds and Savanna are South African entrants and the latter is especially popular in certain segments due to its quality.

Recently, EABL’s streak of innovation has also extended to its beers, though this time in an import from Ireland in the form of Hop House Lager. Hop House was developed by Guinness to counter the growing preference for craft beers in Europe due to their flavourful hops and selection of barleys. The Hop House in Kenya is locally brewed and does have a different flavour from what I once tried in Amsterdam, but this could be down to the Kenyan one being bottled and the Dutch one being a draft. 

The Waters of Mai Mahiu 

Meanwhile, something has been brewing over at Mai Mahiu.

About 2 years ago, some small, brown bottles began appearing on shelves at some Nairobi outlets, with the labels on the bottles describing a variety of beers. They turned out to be delightful!

Bateleur is one of the new craft brewers in the scene, and they focus on making a variety of beers in different styles. They also go for a selection of delectable hops and other flavouring ingredients, imparting their beers with a rich taste.

Their leading beer in the market is Bila Shaka, which is an India Pale Ale (IPA) style. As I mentioned, a majority of Kenyan drinkers like strong beers which deliver a punch, and Bila Shaka scores highly here being a strong beer at 6.5% alcohol content and taking more of the bitterish variety of hops. It stands out due to its clean taste.

Hot on the heels of Bila Shaka is Dirty Hairy, whose style is defined as a Copper Ale, meaning it has a bitter taste and a copper colour. Dirty Hairy’s alcohol content is 5 percent and its popularity is due to its bitter-ish flavour again, but for those who are looking for something milder than Bila Shaka both in flavour and alcohol content.
Dirty Hairy is a medium beer with 5% alcohol content. Tastes pleasant and appeals to the typical drinker

Bateleur’s third most popular beer is Dire Straits whose style is alternately defined as a Golden Lager and Pilsen. Dire Straits is a medium beer at 5% alcohol content but this time goes for more sweet-ish hops and beer drinkers will define this as a “sweet” beer. Dire Straits straddles the balance between the flavours and alcohol content and if you prefer a good beer but with not as much alcohol, it will be a good starting point.
Dire Straits prides itself sometimes as a Golden Lager and other times as a Pilsen.
It appeals to those who love a typical beer, but with a more pleasant/"sweet" flavour

Besides the three beers, Bateleur also dabbles in a variety of other styles. They typically brew batches of 16,000 litres and decide which one stays around longer based on market reception.

Tandala is their wheat beer(Weissbier if you are German) and arguably the first and only locally bottled wheat beer. Wheat beers substitute barley for the wheat and tend to be cloudy(foamy) as a result.

Verreaux is their coffee ale, which as you can tell by now is a coffee flavoured beer and can be great company on a hot afternoon.


Mantis is their lite beer, which is a light beer at 2.5% alcohol content and the best lite beer I have had. Lite beers though have their audience. If you think beer tastes like horse piss, then you have not had a light beer yet.

Other beers from Bateleur include Mango IPA, a self-explanatory fruit flavoured IPA and Honey Badger, a medium beer in blonde style. Honey Badger again leans to the sweet side and is even more pleasant than Dire Straits.

All in all, Bateleur might be a small brewer by capacity, but their variety of beers is nothing small and it could rank second by number of brands. Their beers are available in select supermarkets, liquor stores and some entertainment joints, at least in Nairobi and Mombasa. The price though is on the higher side and their bottles are non-recyclable as their current plant is not fitted to reuse bottles.

Recently, we have had a new entrant in the local brewing space in the name of 254 Breweries, but I am yet to get familiarised to their products hence can not comment much on these.

At this point, I will note that I once came across bottled traditional beer in a supermarket in Mukuru. I can’t remember the brand and I am yet to see any of the brands anywhere else, but this could be down to distribution challenges. There are relatively few beer stockists in Kenya due to high taxes which translate to relatively higher prices above most people’s purchasing power.


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