Three women, Josephine Uwase, Jessi Flynn and Debby Leatt are making their mark on the local beer industry through craft beer brewing with focus on boosting women’s economic empowerment. Theirs is a women owned, women led brewery.
Craft brewery is a small brewery that produces beer in a traditional or non-mechanized way.
The first and women-owned modern craft brewery in Rwanda “Kweza Craft Brewery” registered in Rwanda Development Board (RDB) recently received license from Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority (RFDA) to produce fresh beer- beer in its optimum state after processing cycle ends- that can be consumed at its perfect flavour since it doesn’t need to be packed in bottles before drinking.
The brewery project was started through a Kickstarter campaign in 2016 and started to mature in 2019.
Some of the beer styles are Sorghum Ale (produced with sorghum and some fruits such as mango), Ginger Beer, India Pale Ale, Stout, Belgian Honey Blonde, Gose Beer and others and are produced without manufactured sugar.
Malt (barley that has been steeped, germinated, and dried, used for brewing), sorghum, banana, ginger are the main raw materials used by the women to produce different styles of beer.
“The goal of a craft brewery is to provide a variety of taste options- like a restaurant offers a menu. So we will work on having different styles of beer. We will use seasonal products, so the beers will always have something new to try.
We are very serious about making high quality, enjoyable beers! And about being a value driven, women led business,” said Jessi Flynn the Managing Director who is also leading fundraising for the project, design and construction of the factory.
Over $1 million is the expected initial capital contribution for the project, she said.
Kweza craft Brewery produces differeng styles of beer.
Jessi said that craft beer brewing has been found as a big industry around the world and therefore could lift many Rwandan women out of poverty.
“We want to put economic opportunities back in women’s hands through craft brewing because it is a big economic driver around the world .The goal is women empowerment,” she said.
She said that the licensing step will allow the women to start selling beer, adding they are going to start registering every product of beer they produce.
“We are working with food and drugs authority on how to present products accurately,” she said.
She said that there is also a need for local production of malt because it is one of the main raw materials for many styles of beer they produce.
“The process of malting doesn’t exist in Rwanda. Malt grain has particular processing,” she said.
She said that craft brewing could create many jobs along the whole value chain from growing raw materials, supply chain, processing in the factory and selling beer products.
One of the core goals of the brewery is to focus on raw materials sourced from local women farmers in rural areas.
“We can train many women. We will build a factory in Kigali and a restaurant that will create a lot of jobs. It is a new industry in Rwanda, it is a startup and Rwandan women have to learn about it. It will create opportunities,” she said.
Josephine Uwase, an assistant brewer at Kweza Brewery said that once the business becomes viable it will create opportunities for many women.
“The business was a bit affected by Covid-19 pandemic but we have produced samples distributed to different consumers. The beers are on high demand,” she said.
She said that it takes at least a week to produce a style of beer.
“We import the processing equipment from Kenya and we will import more as soon as we get a big work place. The big investment we made is our time and marketing,” she said.
So far the trio’s company has produced about 1,500 litres as samples of seven beer products.
“We have been producing them in batches. We produce 50 litres every batch. We want to expand the market across the country,” she said.
Who are the trio?
The country’s first brewpub, Kweza Craft Brewery, has been in the works in the capital city of Kigali since launching but three women are reviving and running the project after the first Canada-based Rwandan went back abroad.
Jessi Flynn, an American lady who joined Kweza in 2018, is the managing director, head brewer, and chief convener responsible for executing the business plan, overseeing construction, investments, marketing, design, and of course, brewing.
Debby Leatt, a Zimbabwean who joined Kweza in 2020, is the executive chef and partner in charge of menu planning, hiring and training, as well as business development.
Josephine Uwase, a Rwandan who came on board in 2020, is the brewing assistant responsible for brewhouse operations, traditional brewing and recipe development for brews like sorghum beer, ingredient sourcing, cultural knowledge, and general operational organization.
Uwase has been an avid homebrewer since 1994, and she claims her sorghum beer is so popular that people would travel hours to get it.