Tanzania's First Craft Beer Maker

Tanzanian Chintu Patel is a communications and technology expert turned beer-maker.

In 2016 he gave up a well-paying corporate job of 12 years and plunged into the unknown world of craft beer production.

"Life seemed pretty static, there was little excitement and zero enthusiasm. I began seeking for something more challenging and fun, and decided to reinvent myself by creating Crafty Dee's," said Chintu.

Crafty Dee's Brewing Company in Dar es Salaam is the first small-scale brewery producing mostly ales and Pilsner which are served on draught at select locations.

Chintu learnt the craft, recipes and guidelines from researching on the Internet and obtained more knowledge by interacting with suppliers.

The company's slogan is 'In pursuit of happiness', a playful take on hops which are a key ingredient used as a bittering and stability agent and to imparting floral, fruity, or citrus flavours and aromas.

"It is through differentiation of flavour and aroma that we hope to stand out among the crowded lager segment," says Chintu.

There was a lot of learning for him in the early days but more recently his focus has been on maintaining quality while strategically growing distribution.

"Our products have no sugar, no preservatives and no additives. However, whatever we do produce is very tasty," says Chintu.

His ales are known for their broader flavour range and fruitier taste compared with the widely consumed lagers made by the big beer companies.

Crafty Dee's produces less than 1,000 litres per month but supplies some of the best eateries in Dar es Salaam such as Taproom, Thai Kani, Toscana Wine Bar and the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel.

In 2018 his Pilsner won silver category of the Craft Brewers Award in Tanzania.

That same year, his business was recognised by Tanzania's Small Industries Development Organisation for its "invaluable efforts and commitment ... therefore contributing to the national economic development."

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What inspired you to open a craft beer business?

It dates to my time in the US, where the craft beer industry was just gaining momentum around 2000. I recall my first experience at a microbrewery where the beer was not the standard beer I had known growing up.

Different styles, unique glassware, different colours, different clarity, etc. It was truly inspirational. That experience was forever engraved in my heart. It is the same Wow! factor that I hope to create for the next generation of beer consumers.

What do you enjoy the most about creating craft beers?

It is not the beer making that I enjoy. It is more the excitement it creates among people when they hear about the availability or taste something different from the mainstream lagers. Taste is complex, subjective and each person has their own experience, usually a happy one. Now who does not want to see happy faces?

Where do you get your beer ingredients from?

Most of my raw material come from New Zealand. They have some of the most fertile soil, growing fantastic barley, hops, and have innovative, highly advanced beer making systems.

Which of your brews is the most popular and why?

Dee's Gold, an award winning Pilsner, remains our hot favourite due to its simple and crisp taste profile with strong flavours of tropical fruit. It seems to match the hot and humid conditions of Dar and works well with quite an array of food dishes in enhancing flavours.

What is your favourite beer?

This is a tough one because the spectrum of beer styles and flavours is incredibly diverse. It is practically impossible to state a stand-alone favourite.

But a few notable performers, are Heady Topper from the Alchemist in the US, the Hoppy Wheat by Little Wolf Brewery of Cape Town, South Africa, and Dee's Gold by Crafty Dee.

What are the challenges of popularising craft beer in Tanzania?

Being among the first to introduce small scale craft brewing, there are challenges from regulators, to tax authorities and business licensing. The rest is pretty academic such as the scale production, reducing costs, increasing distribution footprint and so on.

Who are your clients?

Our business model is not to distribute widely, therefore retail packaging is not in our immediate plan. Aside from restaurants and bars, we also do a few events with the intention set on maintaining quality and freshness.

Wide distribution often takes the attention away from this practice, therefore our focus remains on consumption on-site, or near site, from the production facility.

How would you advice somebody new to craft beer?

Beer is to be best enjoyed fresh, however, some people differentiate a "young" beer from a "conditioned" beer, as sense of taste is rather subjective.

I personally enjoy our beer 2-4 weeks after the process is complete. However, I have had beer a year or more from production date, and they still taste great!

How do you deal with competition from the bigger producers of commercial beer?

Craft beer does not and cannot compete with the incumbent giants. I would guess there are around a total of 20,000 breweries around the world, macro, micro and nano-. Yet almost half of the world is controlled by only four conglomerate breweries.

Where do you see your business in the future?

We are just getting started, and look forward to a few exciting years ahead of us. We intend to increase our production, distribution, and brand recognition over the next few years. But most importantly we will focus in creating more award winning beers and highlighting Tanzania on the international stage for craft beer contenders.

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