Picture yourself immersed in the vibrant culture of Kenya, surrounded by the rhythmic sounds of lively music and the dazzling colours of the bustling city. You find yourself sitting in a local bar, surrounded by people enjoying the quintessential Kenyan experience of cracking open a cold Tusker beer. As you take your first sip, the crisp and refreshing taste ignites your senses, and you can’t help but feel a sense of connection to the people and the country.
Tusker beer has become an iconic symbol of Kenyan culture and pride, capturing the hearts of both locals and tourists alike. But how did this beer become such an essential part of Kenyan identity? Join us as we explore the history of Tusker, from its origins over a century ago to its status as one of the flagship brands of East African Breweries Limited and the largest African beer of the Diageo Group.
The history of Tusker beer is a captivating tale of perseverance, tragedy, and triumph. It all began with Welsh brothers George and Charles Hurst, who arrived in Kenya with dreams of success and prosperity. After failed attempts at plantation investments, Charles had a vision of establishing Kenya’s first brewery. With the help of a friend, they established the Kenya Breweries, the predecessor of Tusker.
The first beer that would later become Tusker was produced in 1922 in small copper vessels heated by firewood. It was bottled by hand, and the first order of ten cases was personally delivered to the General Manager of the Stanley Hotel. The hotel was the meeting point for visiting presidents and world-renowned figures, making it the perfect place to introduce the first beer brewed in a factory in Kenya.
Tragically, in 1923, George was killed by an elephant while hunting in Tanzania. In honor of his brother, Charles decided to name the beer Tusker and use the image of a black elephant head with large tusks against a yellow background as its iconic logo. The large male elephants of East Africa are known as “Tuskers”, and the name and logo serve as a tribute to George’s love of Africa’s wildlife and natural beauty.
Despite the loss of his brother, Charles continued to build the brewery and established the East African Breweries Limited (EABL) in 1922, which has grown to become one of the largest brewing companies in Africa. In 2021, Tusker celebrated its 100th anniversary, marking a century of providing quality beer to the people of East Africa and beyond.
“Bia yangu, Nchi yangu” (“My beer, my country”)
Tusker beer, the largest African beer brand in the Diageo group, has become a symbol of Kenyan culture and pride, with the slogan “Bia yangu, Nchi yangu” (“My beer, my country”) capturing its essence. Contributing to 1% of Kenya’s GDP with over 700,000 hectolitres sold annually, Tusker has a significant economic and social impact in Kenya. In addition to being a staple drink, it has created job opportunities in the brewing, packaging, and distribution sectors and contributed to the growth of the local hospitality industry. The EABL uses Tusker to promote tourism and sponsor sports events, including the Tusker Football Tournaments. The East African Breweries Limited (EABL) is committed to social responsibility and sustainability initiatives, investing in water and sanitation projects, education, and healthcare in local communities. The EABL Foundation has also supported initiatives aimed at improving the lives of disadvantaged individuals and communities.
The refreshing 4.2% ABV pale lager has gained popularity across Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, making it a vital product for EABL. Tusker offers several varieties, including Tusker Lite, Tusker Cider, and Tusker Malt, all of which have received Gold awards from the World Quality Selections and Monde Selection’s International Awards.
But what makes Tusker unique?
Tusker is distinguished by its use of 100% locally sourced Kenyan ingredients, including barley from the Savannah and the Maasai Mara, spring water from the Aberdare Mountains, and locally developed yeast. This not only enhances the beer’s taste and colour, but also deeply embeds it in Kenyan culture. Despite its African roots, Tusker has gained popularity outside of the continent, with major UK supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s stocking the beer, and specialty shops and online retailers offering it to consumers in Europe and the United States. Tusker’s unique flavour profile includes a perfect blend of light grain flavours, subtle sweetness, and a hoppy bitterness that lingers on the taste buds, along with a clear, golden yellow body and a foamy white head, complemented by hints of cereal and honey.
How do Kenyans enjoy a cold tusker?
Kenyan culture is intertwined with Tusker beer, and there are countless ways to enjoy this iconic drink. Some Kenyans enjoy a cold Tusker while rooting for their favorite football team, while others savor it with a plate of sizzling nyama choma (grilled meat) shared with friends and family. In fact, Tusker beer and nyama choma go hand in hand in Kenya.
On sweltering weekend afternoons, you’ll find Kenyans cooling off with a cold Tusker at neighbourhood pubs while swapping the latest news and gossip with friends. And when special occasions like weddings or parties arise, you can be sure Tusker beer will be a popular choice.
But drinking Tusker like a local is about more than just the beer. It’s about immersing yourself in Kenyan culture and way of life. It’s about coming together with loved ones, sharing stories and laughs over a cold beer. It’s about taking a moment to unwind and appreciate the simple joys of life.
So, when you find yourself in Kenya, be sure to grab a cold Tusker beer and partake in the pride and shared experience of Kenyan culture. It’s a taste and an experience you won’t forget. Cheers to Tusker!