Home-brewing has increased strongly in South Africa after the government ordered a strict lockdown in March, which saw the sale of alcohol being banned to contain the spread of Covid-19 and to limit social contacts.
This came with some dangers, which saw several people dying or being hospitalised after allegedly consuming their own home-brewed beer.
However, experts say not all alcoholic beverages produced at home are harmful. Some can even possess useful properties. They say that an alcoholic drink prepared by yourself may have no extraneous toxic components, but this is just on the surface of it.
Brewmaster and founder of Brewsters Craft, Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, said that people need to be aware of the food safety requirements to ensure their brews do not cause harm to those who will be consuming it.
Nxusani-Mawela said this means that you have to use ingredients that are safe for human consumption; make sure that all utensils used during the brewing process are clean and sanitised, and that there is no introduction of other foreign material that shouldn't be consumed, such as methylated spirits and battery liquid which are harmful.
Nampak Liquid Cartons managing director, Raymond Dube, details for us the importance of using safe packaging for beer to prevent deaths and also ensuring that we protect the long and rich history of quality traditional (or sorghum) beer-making in South Africa.
Dube said the brewing and consumption of quality traditional (or sorghum) beer has a long and rich history in South Africa. That tribes throughout Africa have brewed beer for centuries and carried the art of brewing sorghum with them as they migrated across the continent.
He said protecting such a key part of the South African ethos must become a priority for the country, that sorghum beer needs safe packaging.
Unscrupulous traders often open the beer and water it down or add dangerous concoctions to it such as other alcohol, methylated spirits, and in severe cases even battery acid to give it a “kick”. This means that people often get sick or worse.
Some traders also reuse unsafe packaging and under-declare how much beer they are really selling, thereby dodging excise duties and other taxes.
Illicit home brews are mostly packed in open and unhygienic containers that are easily susceptible to abuse and meddling. But conical cartons are sealed and cannot be meddled with. So, retailers and consumers can trust that the beer inside a sealed carton is the same great quality that left the brewery and nothing else, said Dube.