There are many things that make a country unique - its flag, its national anthem, its stamps... and its most popular beers. Each Southern African nation has its own trademark brews, and you'll find them in liquor stores, in upscale bars, and in township shebeens. There's nothing quite like a cold Windhoek Lager after a long day spent traveling Namibia's dusty roads, or an icy Castle Lager overlooking a Kruger sunset.
In this article, we take a look at the best national beer brands to look out for on your next trip to Southern Africa.
Angola's national beer is Cuca, a brand brewed and sold in-country since the mid-1900s. It is manufactured by Companhia União de Cervejas de Angola, a company with a 90% monopoly over Angola's brewing industry. Cuca is a pale lager with an ABV of 4.5%, and while it rates poorly in international taste reviews, it is undeniably refreshing after a day spent baking in the Angolan heat.
The weather in Botswana is typically hot and dry, so it comes as no big surprise that the country's national Lager, St. Louis, is both light and crisp with an ABV of 3.5%. You can also order a stronger, more flavorful version, St. Louis Export. All varieties of the beer are brewed by Kgalagadi Breweries, a company located in Gaborone, Botswana's capital city.
Lesotho's trademark brew is Maluti Premium Lager, an American-style pale lager brewed by Maluti Mountain Brewery in the capital, Maseru.
With an ABV of 4.8%, it receives mixed reviews - with some praising the larger for its distinct malty flavor and others claiming that its palate is "thin and lifeless". Drink it overlooking Lesotho's stunning mountain vistas, however, and you'll have few complaints.
The national beer in Madagascar is Three Horses Beer (also fondly referred to as THB).
A Pilsner brewed by Brasseries Star brewery in Antananarivo, it tastes light and refreshing despite a higher ABV of 5.4%. It is pale gold in color with distinct hints of apple - making it a favorite for those with a sweet tooth. For a lower alcohol content, try Three Horses Fresh or Three Horses Lite instead.
Brewing giant Carlsberg set up shop in Malawi in the late 1960s, and today the most popular Malawian brews are produced by Carlsberg Malawi Brewery in Blantyre. These are Carlsberg Green and Carlsberg Brown, so named for the color of their labels. The former is a pale lager with an ABV of 4.7%, while the latter is an amber or Vienna lager with a higher ABV and a much darker color.
The national beer of Mauritius is Phoenix, a pale lager with a light straw color and an ABV of 5%. It's brewed by Phoenix Beverages Group in Pont-Fer and is crafted using naturally filtered water from underground sources. Other varieties include the stronger Phoenix Special Brew and Phoenix Fresh Lemon, a citrus flavored Radler-style beer perfect for sunny days at the beach.
Mozambique's most iconic beer brand is 2M (pronounced doish-em). A pale lager with an ABV of 4.5%, it is brewed by Cervejas De Moçambique - a national company owned by Africa's brewing giant, SABMiller.
The same company also produces Laurentina, another popular beer available in pale Lager, Premium Lager, and Dunkel (or dark German lager) styles.
Without a doubt, the most popular beer in Namibia is Windhoek Lager, a pale lager brewed by Namibia Breweries and named after the country's capital city. It has an ABV of 4% and a clear, crisp taste. Variations include Windhoek Draught and Windhoek Lite (with an ABV of just 2.4%). Namibia Breweries also produce Tafel Lager, an alternative brew with origins in the coastal town of Swakopmund.
Brewed by SABMiller, Castle Lager is the biggest beer brand in South Africa. It's a pale lager brewed with South African hops to create a strong flavor and an ABV of 5%. Castle has several different variations, including Castle Lite and Castle Milk Stout.
There are a number of other iconic beer brands in South Africa, including Hansa and Carling Black Label.
Swaziland's national beer is Sibebe Premium Lager, brewed in the town of Matsapha by Swaziland Brewers. The lager, which has an ABV of 4.8%, is named after Sibebe Rock - a granite mountain famous for being the second-largest monolith in the world. Sister brew Sibebe Special Lager has the same ABV but is distinguished by its amber notes and malty flavor.
Mosi Lager is Zambia's most popular national brew. Produced in Lusaka by Zambian Breweries (also owned by SABMiller), it is a pale lager with a 4% ABV. It is one of the best-rated commercial beers in Southern Africa, with reviewers praising its toasted caramel aroma and dry, crisp taste. The beer is named after Victoria Falls, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders).
Zimbabwe is the home of the refreshing Zambezi Lager, your beer of choice for evening sundowner cruises on the mighty river of the same name. Brewed by Delta Breweries in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, this pale lager has an ABV of 4.7%, a clear straw color and a hint of spiciness. Zambezi Lite offers a lower alcohol content of 2.8% ABV.