Women in Beer: Meet South Africa's first black female brewmaster
Welcome to the second edition of our Women in Beer series. This week we’re chatting with trailblazer Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela. She’s a SAB veteran who holds the title of Master Brewer and is working hard to ensure a bright future for all in beer.
Who are you and what is your involvement in the beer world?
My name is Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, I am the founder and Brewmaster of Brewsters Craft. Brewsters Craft is a 1000L brewery based in Roodepoort, Johannesburg, that offers contract manufacturing services and accredited brewing training. My involvement in the beer world began in 2006 when I joined SAB through the company's graduate recruitment programme. I trained and qualified as a brewer and later as a Master Brewer. I have been part of the craft brewing industry since 2014 and started my company Brewsters Craft in 2015. I am currently involved in the beer industry as Chairperson of the Beer Association Board of Directors, Chairperson of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, Africa Section, and a committee member of the Craft Brewers Association of South Africa.
When did your love for beer begin?
My love for beer began through my interest in brewing sciences and the science of fermentation while studying microbiology at university.
What’s your favourite beer right now?
I am currently enjoying the Belgian style beers, which are famous for their complex fermentation flavours. I don't really have a favourite beer per se, but I enjoy tasting the various beers available.
Beer has long been a male-dominated industry – do you think things are changing, and if so, how?
Things are definitely changing. We are seeing more and more women holding senior positions within the big brewing companies, but also more women getting involved within the craft beer space. We are also seeing more women choosing beer as their beverage of choice and breaking the many stereotypes that exist.
What has been your most encountered difficulty as a woman in beer?
To be honest, the brewing community is very welcoming and what I have noticed is that many don't really care who makes the beer, as long it is a good beer. Coming from SAB and with all my credentials, I have gained the respect of the industry not because I am a woman, but because I am a good brewer. However, this can change when dealing with people from outside of the industry who can be judgmental of a woman in beer. Brewing is also a very physically demanding job that requires a lot of time. This is very challenging for a woman like me, who is also a mother.
If you could change one thing in the current industry, what would it be?
I would like the industry to be more diverse and equally representative of the different races we have in South Africa. This goes for brand owners and consumers.
What advice would you give to any young woman starting out in the beer industry today?
Brewing is not easy and you can’t be in it just because it is a job. You need to be extremely passionate about brewing and you will require a lot of resilience and patience.
What one thing in the South African craft beer scene really gets you mad?
The biggest thing that gets me mad in this industry today is the lack of racial diversity.
I still go to some beer events and happen to be the only black person there. The industry needs to be more inclusive, but having said that, it is also up to these guys to actively participate in the industry and not just watch from the sidelines and then complain that the industry is not diverse enough. What are you doing about it? Who are you waiting for to invite you ‘in’?
What do you think the future holds for women in beer in the next 5 years?
I hope we see women owning successful breweries and for brewing as a career path to be the norm rather than an exception.