At the end of the 19th century valuable commodities such as beer were imported from Europe. The beer brewed for the colder European climate was found to be unsuitable for the hot climate in Namibia. This led to the establishment of four local breweries in 1904 namely; Kronen Brauerei (Swakopmund), Omaruru Brewery, Klein Windhoek Brewery and Felsenkeller Brewery (Windhoek).
On 29 October 1920 the four breweries were acquired by Messrs Carl List and Hermann Ohlthaver who consolidated them to form The South West Breweries Limited .
The company acquired the Hansa Brauerei in Swakopmund in 1967. South West Breweries Limited was by then already, the only remaining independent commercial brewery in Southern Africa. With Namibia’s independence in 1990, South West Breweries Ltd changed its name to the current name of Namibia Breweries Ltd (NBL).
In May 1996, NBL listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (NSX) and became a public owned company. The Ohlthaver & List Group, a major Namibian group, is the controlling shareholder in NBL.
In 2003, leading drinks company Diageo and brewer Heineken became NBL’s strategic partners. Brandhouse Beverages (Pty) Ltd serves as a vehicle for NBL’s joint venture with Heineken and Diageo in South Africa. In 2008, the joint venture was deepened through the formation of DHN Drinks (Pty) Ltd in South Africa. In addition to penetrating the extensive South African market, NBL is also growing beer volumes in other markets such as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Visit the Reinheitsgebot Website for more information
At Namibia Breweries, we are extremely proud that we uphold the tradition established in 1516 and brew according to the Reinheitsgebot. We believe that this is the only way to brew a pure beer. It is not an easy task, but NBL chooses not to compromise on quality. All NBL’s beer brands are brewed in strict accordance with the Reinheitsgebot.
The only ingredients we use in our beers are malted barley, hops and water.
We use only the best quality ingredients and NBL imports all its malted barley and hops from suppliers in Europe. Rigorous quality controls and supplier approval procedures are in place to ensure standards are adhered to at all times. Our raw materials are regularly quality tested at accredited laboratories in Europe before being shipped to Namibia.
Brewing according to the Reinheitsgebot alone however, does not guarantee quality beer. It is the combination of excellent quality raw materials and the craftsmanship of our German-trained master brewers that provides the guarantee that you get the best beer possible.
NBL is thus the only large scale commercial brewery in sub Saharan Africa that brews in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot standards of 1516.
The Reinheitsgebot symbol on our beer guarantees that you get only the very best that beer can offer. Exceptional quality!
The Beer Brewing Process
Earliest record of beer brewing in Namibia
Import of beer from Germany
When the south west coast of Africa was declared a German protectorate there was a influx of European settlers and they decided to import all sorts of goods including beer.
Importing beer from Germany proved to be expensive and the dark and rich beer was unsuitable for the hot and arid climate. The first formal brewery established by settlers was most probably the Swakopmunder Brauerei of Rudolph Jauch. The brewery opened on early 1900 and sold the beer ‘Bavaria-Bräu’.
In Klein-Windhoek a brewery was opened by Heinrich Schmidt.
Felsenkellerbrauerei Aktiengesellschaft is established.
Richard Kretschmann is named as brewery-owner and Johann Heuschneider as the brew master.
The Kronen-Brauerei opens with Johann Heuschneider as the director. The brewery was famous for its Kronen-Bräu.
Felsenkellerbrauerei opens the Omaruru Urquell brewery.
The Kronen- and Felsenkellerbrauerei were struggling with the difficult economic climate and the fierce competition with each other so the German duo, Carl List and Hermann Ohlthaver, bought both breweries and merged them into a single company - South West Breweries Ltd.
The Union Brewery is founded by Johann Heuschneider and Mr. Barella.
Hansa Brauerei is established, also founded by Johann Heuschneider.
The start of a new political era: German South West Africa was transformed into South West Africa with the new Mandate Agreement including a Liquor Licensing Proclamation that forbade any non-European to buy or drink liquor. It’s interesting to note that earlier legislation did not differ on this but it never had that much effect in the so-called ‘wild decades of alcohol trade’.
1920: South West Breweries (SWB)
1922: Union Brewery
1928: Hansa Brauerei
The breweries faced difficult conditions - drought and economic depression and in 1939 World War II broke out. The German brewers were highly suspicious in the eyes of the South African government and were forbidden to trade with Germany. Most ingredients were imported from Germany which caused a major problem with beer production.
The liquor law caused much uncertainty and trouble. It was a complex system of laws and had a loophole: home brewing grew excessively and cuca beer was smuggled from Angola into northern Namibia. Despite restrictions, people found a way to enjoy beer - they were very inventive and were able to brew beer with sugar, maize, honey, mealie-meal, beans and even dried peas.
In 1947 the government demolished 352 stills in Ovamboland.
By 1950 roughly 60% of all criminal cases was the illegal drinking of liquor (mostly beer). The government realised this situation was unstoppable and established state breweries in every township and started brewing and selling ‘African beer’. It was a sort of stepping stone were the local people could drink under control of the state. Before the government started brewing the ‘African beer’ themselves, they asked SWB to do it. However, the brewmaster at SWB, was not familiar with the process and the beer didn’t turn out as expected. This then promted the government to establish the state breweries.
The sixties changed everything! In 1966 the Independence War broke out, the List family takes over South West Breweries in 1967. In 1967/8 SWB takes over the Hansa Brauerei. In 1969 the liquor legislation was changed and drinking beer became available for everyone.
After 1970 SWB dominated the national beer market. It was still very much a beer meant for the South Westers and the market for it was quite small. SWB faced the challenge that South African Breweries (SAB) owned more than 90% of the southern African beer market. In 1975 the Angolan civil war broke out, resulting in a stop of the imported cuca beer. Northern Namibia was a big market, the majority of the population lived here, but SWB was not able to gain a foothold in that market - yet. This changed and the beer production expanded majorly. The brewery in Tal Street was small and outdated and a new brewery was necessary.
Namibia celebrates it’s independence on 21 March 1990.
SWB changes its name to Namibia Breweries (NBL) and embraces the new Namibian identity.
In 1996 NBL is listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange.