Gold Beer has its eye on the prize

Mandla Mbatha, bartender at Soweto Gold beer.

Soweto Gold is predicted to become a leading brand in the South African marketing landscape over the next couple of years.

Ndumiso Madlala, Master Brewer and Chief Beer Officer at MadMead Brewing and owner of the Soweto Gold brand,tells us more about his vision. 

 Why the name Soweto Gold?

Ndumiso Madlala, Master Brewer and Chief Beer Officer at MadMead Brewing and owner of the Soweto Gold brand, tells Spotong more about his vision.

The name was obvious from the start: “Soweto” being the home of the brewery and “Gold” being the very reason for the existence of Soweto as we know and love it today. Also, the connotation of “Gold” as a label depicts something valuable and precious. It shows that Soweto Gold is a premium product. But we prefer to call it a ‘Superior’ product.

Why do you call your beer a ‘Superior Lager’ rather than a ‘Premium Lager’?

I love beer. I love good beer and I love great beer. The word ‘premium’ is so frequently abused by the marketing departments of the big breweries. For example, if a labourer shares a beer with his friends after work it’s considered ‘a beer of the people’, but if the marketing department decides to reposition the same beer to premium, they will hire a golfing pro to pose with the beer and suddenly it’s premium and aspirational. Or they will change the packaging and serve the same beer in a fancy green bottle, maybe wrap the neck in gold foil and increase the price. There we go – it is premium. Soweto Gold is not premium in this sense, not as a marketing positioning statement. It is our aim to make Soweto Gold superior – in taste, in craftsmanship, in its universal quaff-ability steeped in Sowetan passion. Ultimately our beer-drinkers must decide if they feel in their throats and hearts that Soweto Gold is just another beverage or if it is superior, premium or special. 

What is the story or inspiration behind the design of your brand?

The closed fist or the hand shows that this is hand-crafted beer and a natural product made by South African hands to be enjoyed by all South African throats. All South African throats of legal drinking age, of course. The launch of our Soweto brewery will coincide with the 20-year anniversary of freedom and democracy. We feel that the imagery in the logo pays homage to this national milestone. We had long discussions about the colour scheme of the logo. Initially I felt that I wanted the logo to include all the colours of the South African flag but in execution it didn’t feel right. Now Soweto Gold is red, green, gold, white and black, and if your raise your Soweto Gold to the clear blue South African sky – you complete the colour scheme. The reactions to the logo are overwhelming and emotional. Soweto Gold clearly resounds with the Sowetan spirit and calls for a township craft beer revolution. Amandla, Soweto Gold!

The Soweto Gold cans look amazing. We noticed the words ‘Brewed for millennia – perfected in Soweto’ on the can. What does that mean?

Chemical tests of ancient pottery jars reveal that beer was produced about 7,000 years ago in Egypt and Iran. So we don’t claim that we invented beer – it’s a fact that beer in various forms has been brewed for millennia. With Soweto Gold we hope that we have advanced the art of brewing almost to perfection.

In your design, why did you put a spin on the warning label?

We take the packaging instructions and the warning label very seriously. As a matter of fact, we sent the label to the ARA – the industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use – for it to be approved before print. The idea came to me when I was flying with Kulula. You know how they put a funny twist on the emergency announcements? Well, I thought it was clever and it actually made me pay attention. So we added a little twist of our own to our warning labels to create awareness and maybe a smile around a serious subject.

On the lip of the Soweto Gold can it says ‘Soweto Kiss’ – what does that mean?

 Perhaps you know of a famous South African beer brand that promises the kiss of a certain hop? I don’t want to smooch something bitter; I’d rather send my thirsty brothers and sisters a sweet kiss of a Sowetan beauty. Cheers!