The Observer (Kampala)

20 January 2013

Uganda: Beer Lovers Drink Fresh Brew At Club Venom

Something has certainly changed about the entertainment life of Kabalagala that has got it back into the charts for partygoers.

This is because of Club Venom, which is the new talk of town that has re-opened partygoers' route to Kabalagala, once Kampala's nightlife capital -until partygoers discovered that the residential suburb of Bukoto could be turned around to match or even overtake Kabalagala on the entertainment menu. All roads have been leading to Cayenne, Alfredo's, Mask Lounge, and the other string of bars in Bukoto.

That is not to mean that Kabalagala had completely lost it. The suburb has its own class of partygoers who never abandon it even in bad times when bombs have occasionally threatened its nightlife. However, there are those that keep leaving when such bad omens happen or when the beer and shisha stop tasting as nice, or when they discover that there are more prostitutes than good girls in Kabalagala.

From the days of Capital pub, Cherrie, and Mama Mia to recent establishments - Timeless and Da Posh - Kabalagala has attracted bar hoppers but failed to retain them. But now there is Club Venom. I had only heard about this new club until last Wednesday when I couldn't miss in action as the club launched a new theme night called Variety Night, where they will be featuring live performances by Barbed Wire Thong, an eight-man band led by Isaac Zimbe.

With lead vocalist Mathew Nabwiso, and other vocalists like Afrigo band's Rude Boy Devo, Barbed Wire Thong will let you stay out late on a working day because the band does music that meets everyone's taste; from jazz, to lingala, zouk, blues, reggae, etc. By 8pm, I was already climbing the stairs of the usually busy Tirupati mall, but by this time most shops were already locked apart from Uchumi supermarket, a coffee shop and sports betting bar.

The mall is designed is such a way that it has an open surface in the middle that allows you to scout the entire building -until you get to the last floor where the club is located. Inside, the band was still preparing and only a few guests had turned up, which gave me chance to tour and see what makes this club tick.

Club Venom is so spacious, with a high ceiling, unlike some clubs that have very low ceilings that make you feel closed in a container. Even the toilet is spacious enough that I counted up to eleven urinals for men. For décor, everything is carefully and artfully designed. No one smokes inside the club; the club offers a big smoking lounge on its balcony facing the roadside.

But while all the above is good, it is not what brings people here - by 10pm the club was full - it is the sweet and fresh beer brewed at the club with its microbrewery. The idea of a microbrewery - the first in Uganda - was born out of Sundeep Shenoy's (one of two Indian brothers who started the club. The other is Trashanth Rudrappa) several trips to Uganda where he observed that Ugandans loved their beer.

The concept of fresh beer was taking shape in India, so, he brought the club brewery to Kampala. The brewery has four taps at the counter - serving four different beer brands, mixed with different flavours; it could be chocolate, ginger or lemon.

"Our beers don't have sugar, no chemicals, no preservatives, because we naturally ferment the beer for 21 days. So, you drink 100% fresh beer. It is really very good, very tasty. I bet if one drinks a fresh beer from our brewery, they will never drink another beer," says Dev, the club's head of marketing.

The beer flows directly into the taps and into a glass which costs Shs 7,000, or a jug which costs Shs 20,000. I must say the beer is fresh, nice, and smooth with nice aroma.

The club has other theme nights; Monday night is Retro night, more similar to oldies' night. There is the house music on Thursday night, Friday is rich and famous night where Kampala's crème de la crème get to party, while Saturday is fever night.

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