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A World of Beer

September 2, 2011

Our time here in the Congo is soon coming to an end.  We will be leaving Kinshasa mid-September, and unless we are offered some extremely intriguing job posts here, we probably won’t be returning.

So, what’s next?

Well first we’ll de-stress with a vacation in Tanzania with Katie’s side of the family, inclusive of a safari and time on the beaches of Zanzibar!  Then Katie and I will head to South Africa where Katie will be attending a conference (more details in a future post).

Right now we’re in the midst of job searching.  So, after South Africa, who knows what we’ll be getting into!

And, with only a few weeks left in Congo we realized we needed to really prioritize our next few posts.  What could we not leave Congo without writing about?…

Yes, that’s right… beer.

DRC has a surprising number of local beers available.  They come from two competing breweries: Bralima and Bracongo.

From Bralima, we have Primus (their flagship beer), Mutzig, Turbo King, and Legend.

And from Bracongo we have Skol (their main Primus competition), Nkoyi, Nkoyi Black, Castel, Doppel Munich and Tembo.

DR Congo Beer Labels

For Primus, Mutzig, Skol, Nkoyi, and Castel, think Budweiser.  Tembo is a tasty amber beer and in my opinion by far the best one of the lot.  Nkoyi black, Turbo King (un affaire d’homme!), and Doppel are all quite dark and heavy beers.  Legend is also a dark strong beer but is different in that it is also quite sweet and malty.  Think very malty Guinness.

Mutzig is the only reasonably sized bottle option at a U.S. standard 12 ounces.  All the other beers come in nice hefty 24oz bottles.

Mutzig beer label

While Mutzig is delicious, with my American “I must get the largest quantity possible for my money” mentality, I couldn’t possibly purchase a 12oz bottle at $1 when I could get a 24oz bottle for $1.30. That’s twice the beer for only a 30% increase in payment!

It’s a flaw I know, but I just can’t.

So, that means that anytime I want to have a beer I either have to find a friend to share with (not a bad option in general, plus I’m lucky since I have a friend-for-life already locked-in), or drink a 24oz beer by myself with dinner, which then just makes me want to crack open another one and have a party.

After a friend of ours visited the Bralima factory (a tour that we were very jealous he got to take), he told us how it was the finest example of a functioning institution he had seen in the DR Congo.  It’s kind of sad when the alcohol production within a country appears to be the most smoothly running operation.

Although I suppose they are just responding to market demands, right?  And even with a DRC average daily income of $0.82 (source: I did a Google), the demand is there.

Now I know what you are thinking – “but Jamie, you and Katie have done some traveling outside of Kinshasa since you arrived.  Did you try the local brews on those trips too?  Could you tell us all about it, inclusive of photographic evidence?”

The answers are yes and yes.

They were all delicious.  Some more so than others.  See some of the labels below from Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, and Congo-Brazzaville.  Katie has actually been collecting beer labels from around the world for years, so we’ll add these to the collection someday…

Other beer labels from the past year

While we’ll be excited to one day get back to the world of seemingly endless beer options on the shelves of supermarkets and specialty microbrews in the U.S., I think we’ll miss our friends from Bracongo and Bralima when we’re gone.

So, raise your glasses.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Melodee permalink
    September 3, 2011 1:27 am

    Raising my (12 oz.!) bottle of Hangar 24 Orange Wheat to you right now! I know you will have an awesome visit with the family. And thank you both for keeping up with the wonderful posts, I feel like you aren’t so far away 🙂 Love you both, and I hope to see you soon!

  2. Radek permalink
    December 16, 2011 2:26 pm

    do you collect beer labels ? Do you want start exchange ?

    • jamesko permalink*
      January 23, 2012 9:23 pm

      Hi Radek, we have a pretty small collection, not really enough to start an exchange. Plus, each of the labels have a bit of sentimental value for us. However, perhaps later on an exchange would be more interesting for us. I’ll let you know!

  3. Bastian permalink
    January 23, 2012 12:24 pm

    Hey jamesko, nice blog!
    Could you send me a picture of the Tembo beer label, i need this for a gift.
    We want to prepare a bottle of beer with this logo.

    Thank You!

  4. jamesko permalink*
    January 23, 2012 9:32 pm

    Hey Bastian,

    I unfortunately I don’t have a photo of just the Tembo label by itself. I have a snapshot of the Tembo label taken from the larger all-inclusive photo, so the quality is not great. If you’re still interested in it, I’d be happy to send it along, just provide me with an e-mail to send it to.


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