Castle Lager, South Africa’s national beer.

Castle Lager

Brewed by South African Breweries (AB Inbev)
Style: Pale Lager
Sandton, South Africa

Castle Lager is a South African pale lager. It is the flagship product of South African Breweriesand has been described as South Africa’s national beer.

Its origins go back to the gold rush of 1886 in Johannesburg, when an Englishman, Mr. Charles Glass, founded Castle Brewery and began selling beer to the hard drinking miners of the country after noticing a gap in the market. The new beer soon became popular amongst the prospectors of the gold rush. In 1895, on the success of Castle Lager, the brewery merged with other breweries to form the South African Breweries Ltd (SAB), with its head office being the Castle Brewery.

SAB over time came to dominate not just South Africa, but most of the continent of Africa, and through a series of acquisitions and joint ventures throughout the 1990s, SAB gained a foothold in various countries in Africa, Eastern Europe (Hungary and Czech Rep.) and Asia (China and India). This was a definite process of a company from a “developing nation” buying breweries from countries that had similar geo-political, infrastructural and business issues. Success in these emerging markets showed that SAB could venture into the “Developed world”, such as in Italy and the US. Working in South Africa and in developing countries first was very beneficial as it helped the company come up with numerous innovative ways to deal with lack of infrastructure, supports, and skill shortages. It also made the company more open to take risks. The company also invested in other lucrative markets, such as running hotels and casinos, and diversified into the food industry (coffee, tea, and food products), manufacturing and retail (including green grocers, furniture factories and stores, shoe factories and stores, and clothing stores). This was a company that had its nose in every nook and cranny of SA society!

In 1999, SA Breweries formed SAB plc, and moved its primary listing to London, and in May 2002, it acquired Miller Brewing, of the United States, to establish SABMiller plc., a multinational brewing and beverage company headquartered in Woking, England, on the outskirts of London, and at that time the world’s second-largest brewery. Its brands included Fosters, Miller, and Pilsner Urquell. In 2005 a major holding in the Grupo Empresarial Bavaria was purchased, South America’s second largest brewer. In 2009 SABMiller PLC operated in 80 countries worldwide and sold around 21 billion litres of beverages.

In 2016, it was bought out by Anheuser-Busch (AB inBev), a Brazilian-Belgian corporation with headquarters in Leuven in Belgium, for about £68 billion, (yes billion!), the world’s largest beer company, with more than 400 brands and brewing interests around the world. This acquisition is the biggest in brewing history. Between SAB and Ab inBev, the two companies produce eight of the 10 most popular beer brands in the world. The two companies combined employ well over 200,00 people. This is brewing on a large scale!

The most popular of the AB InBev brands are Bud Light, Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona and Brahma, while for SABMiller it was Miller Light. The acquisition ended the corporate use of the name SABMiller and it ceased trading on global stock markets and became a business division of Anheuser Busch Inbev. Since SABMiller no longer exists as an entity, South African Breweries is now a subsidiary of AB InBev. A result of all this was that the company divested itself of its interests in the MillerCoors beer company to Molson Coors, the former SABMiller Ltd. business (which included Pilsner Urquell andTyskie) in Eastern Europe was sold to Japanese giant Asahi Breweries Group Holdings, Ltd, and Anheuser-Busch InBev offloaded Grolsch Brewery, Peroni Brewery and Meantime Brewery also to Asahi, plus SABMiller’s 49 percent share in the world’s largest volume beer brand, Snow beer, was sold to China Resources Enterprise.

Back to Castle Brewery. Castle Lager sponsors a host of sporting teams and events, from the main sponsor of “Bafana Bafana”, the national football team, to the South African Cricket Team, the South African Rugby Team, ie, the “Springboks”, and a host of others.

Others beers from the Castle stable are Castle Lite, a low alcohol beer, Castle Lite Lime, a Lime flavoured variant of Castle Lite, and the interesting Castle Milk Stout, a milk stout that is advertised as “South Africa’s Premier Stout”.

The main brand, Castle Lager, is brewed in nine countries and available in over 40 countries worldwide. It has also won many awards, from gold medals to the “World’s Best Bottled Lager” award at the 2000 International Brewing Industry Awards.

Review: 330 ml bottle of Castle Lager: ABV: 5% vol

Nice brown bottle with a a logo of a castle, go figure, but nice all the same.

Appearance is one of a clear golden colour, with a white head that doesn’t stay around, some small carbonation going on, and overall the beer is not much to look at at all.

Has a nice piercing smell of sweet corn, and a lager type aroma, very malty, grainy and lemony. Ok on the nose.

Taste has nice warmish mouthfuls. Not a strong initial taste, and a bit flat.
Bit metallic in initial taste, not nice, and in overall taste as well. Difficult to drink to be frank.

Feck me this was a disgusting beer to drink. I felt a bit sick drinking it. It’s like a chemical infused beer with little thought given to flavours or tastes.

Beer two.
Taste is very hoppy, too hoppy, too much sweet corn and all a bit sour, hard to stomach especially for what is meant to be a lager. All in the front end. It’s a dead kind of taste. No, too hoppy for me, not nice.

Very disappointing when you consider that SAB have morphed into the worlds largest brewer of beers yet their baby, Castle beer, is muck. Go figure!

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