DURBAN – Chemical engineer Nick Roberts took a giant leap out of his corporate comfort zone to open a small craft brewery that has become a hit, supplying hotels and lodges in the central Drakensberg.
Roberts, who previously worked for multinational engineering firm SNC-Lavalin as a project manager, said he had always aspired to open some kind of small business and it was after he observed a friend’s home-brewing operation that he decided to open a craft brewery.
He first bought a small home-brewing kit which he tested in his garage at home in Johannesburg, before investing in a local bottle store in Cathkin Park, just outside Winterton, and taking out a loan to develop The Drakensberg Brewery.
“I had not brewed before but I had always thought of doing a small brewery and I knew there was a gap here. Market research is expensive so we just worked out a plan,” he said.
Roberts said he calculated how much beer he could sell locally to hotels and restaurants as well as through his on-site pub.
“We did not want to get into bulk so we decided to go small. We have 5 000 litres per month capacity and we are probably doing about half of that and we have potential to add another 2 500 litres per month,” Roberts said.
Roberts designed the brewery himself and developed the recipes for his beers which carry the “Proudly KZN Craft Beer” quality assurance logo.
His small business has created four permanent jobs and two part-time jobs for local people and further staff are added when his brewery hosts private corporate functions.
Roberts says he does not plan to grow his brand nationally at this stage but aims to strengthen his market share locally.
– THE MERCURY