United National Breweries
About Beer
UNB still adheres to the ancient principles of the traditional way of brewing
1 Packaging department
2 Preparation of Ukhamba as the final packaging for the end consumer
3 Harvesting of the sorhgum
4 Malting
5 Grinding
6 Heating of Ingredients
7 Sieving
8 Fermenting
9 Showing respect
Showing respect
10 Packaging for consumer
11 Sharing
12 The brewers have a turn
13 Celebrating

Beer has many names: From Cerveza in Spanish, Pia in Hawaii to Utshwala in South Africa. The word Beer has its roots in the Latin 'Bibere', meaning 'to drink' and was simply named 'The Drink'. Cultures across the globe seem to have started brewing beer independently. Beer is theorized to be the glue that gave the critical mass to agricultural revolution around 10 000 years ago, causing the formation of small cooperative communities forming larger economic alliances leading to the domination of regional cultures.

Beer is defined as an alcoholic beverage that is produced by brewing and fermenting of starches derived from cereals. It is differentiated from other fermented alcoholic products that use non starch raw materials such as wine, whose main ingredient is grape juice, and mead which mostly comprises honey.

According to analysts, beer is also the oldest and most consumed alcoholic beverage and the most popular drink worldwide after water and tea.

Today there are a myriad types and brands of beer with a fierce competition between global companies to buy out strong regional brands to try and achieve the status of the biggest producer of beer. Most commercial beers these days are filtered to give them a clear or consistent nature. Basic ingredients, unchanged for many centuries, are still water, starches, hops, yeast and some even add clarifying agents. Most beers include barley malt but other may include wheat, rice, maize, oats, rye and less frequently, sorghum. Recently there has been a move to use sorghum by some major manufacturers as a brew for a niche market and for consumers who are gluten intolerant - as they can't consume mainstream beers that use wheat, barley and rye. The product today though, with all the changes it underwent over several thousands of years, is quite different from the original product in looks and maybe even characteristics.

Sorghum Beer: The Mother of all beers

No one can be sure but beer is thought to have first originated in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and moved across to the Nile delta in Northern Africa maybe even as early 8000-9000 years ago, as the first evidence of domesticated grains is from a period said to be 10 000 years ago close to Jericho. The first evidence of brewing beer though, is from around 6000 years ago when shards of pottery from this period, was chemically analysed for traces of beer. This was substantiated by later finds of Hieroglyphics depicting beer making and consumption. These Hieroglyphics depicted groups of people sitting around huge pots of beer sipping at the content through reed straws. Pictures from central Africa around the turn of the century showed a group of men doing exactly what was depicted on the Hieroglyphic: drinking sorghum beer out of a huge pot with straws, proved that this practice had been going on uninterrupted, at least in Africa, for thousands of years. Nobody knows how the practice of brewing beer started. As various types of grain gruel is the staple food of many traditional cultures, one might believe in a theory which suggests that one day someone left the gruel to ferment and the effect was a joyous experience that led to the practice of it, being repeated and communicated.

Beer is, in essence, a thin fermented gruel made of mashed sprouted grains or malt. In ancient times all beer was cloudy and unfiltered. Today, the picture is different as all the complex carbohydrates and a good lot of the nutritional value of beer is filtered out of the beer we drink.

However, this one type of beer is different and in essence, a living monument having survived through continued use by an unknowable number of generations in Africa: Sorghum Beer.

Sorghum Beer is an unfiltered alcoholic beverage made according to the different recipes that survived the long journey over millennia from mother to daughter and its use migrated down from North Africa to Central and Southern Africa with tribes moving down to seek a better life. The road behind this product was cut off by the advent of Islam that do not tolerate the brewing or consumption of alcohol. This created a pocket of history in a part of Africa that speaks of millennia of celebration and mourning facilitated by beer. Sorghum Beer is deeply rooted in every aspect of these Africans' lives. Not only is this traditional African beer a social tool for much mirth in the tree shades and around the fires in Africa for longer than history can remember, it is also an integral part of African cultural and religious practices as almost every ceremony requires traditional beer to show respect to ancestral spirits whom the Africans revere.

Sadly there is a trend by some to use this product only as a ceremonial tool and when it comes to socializing they aspire to consuming non- African clear beers thereby threatening to dilute a social practice that spans most of the civilization.

UNB is committed to responsible drinking. Our products are not for sale to persons under the age of 18.