The plan to start a craft brewery in Rwanda came about as part of Beau’s turning 10. Being a purpose-driven brewery, Beau’s co-founder Steve Beauchesne was looking for a legacy project to mark the special milestone. We were connected with an organization called The CG Group that was working with women entrepreneurs in Rwanda, and was seeking help for one of the women, Fina Uwineza, who wanted to open a craft brewery.
Inspired by the ideas of empowering women, bringing craft beer to Rwanda, and creating positive economic impact on a global level, Beau’s took on the challenge. We launched a Kickstarter campaign with the challenging goal of raising $100,000 for a bottling line. More than a thousand backers graciously contributed to hitting and even exceeding this goal. We were also able to negotiate the donation of a brewhouse to the project, which was a major accomplishment.
A team from Beau’s travelled to Rwanda with Christian Riemerschmid von der Heide, a master brewer with experience brewing in Africa, to do some location scouting and to learn about locally available brewing ingredients. We are still working on identifying the best location for the brewery and have found help on this effort from Kelly Doran of Mass Design Group. Kelly is a Canadian architect living in Kigali who loves good beer and reached out to us to offer his support on the project. Beau’s Brewmaster Matthew O’Hara has also been doing R&D on brewing with sorghum and banana and has developed a beer recipe that uses up to 70% sorghum in place of malted grain. And Beau’s CFO Tanya Beimers has been working with the team on a business plan.
Building the first craft brewery in Rwanda was a project we knew would likely come with a few challenging twists in the road. Fina decided to step away from the project to focus on the needs of her family. We have since been actively recruiting new leadership with the help of Christian and our new “boots on the ground” in Kigali, Jessi Flynn, and we are looking forward to the skills and ideas that will bring to the project. And unfortunately, the brewing equipment manufacturer who offered to donate the brewhouse has gone into receivership. To overcome this setback, we are now in talks with other brewing industry businesses to seek a new commitment.
We have had very exciting and promising offers of support from new partners who have heard of the project and will be announcing those as their commitments are worked out.
Two decades after the Rwanda genocide, women have emerged as the country’s nation-builders as creators of jobs, driving forces behind the establishment of a vibrant private sector. Rwanda has recently been ranked the Best Place to be a Woman in Africa, according to the Global Gender Gap Report, and ranked 6th overall in the world in terms of closing gender gaps. It is also one of the most encouraging and supportive places to be a woman entrepreneur in Africa. Rwanda is highly progressive in seeing entrepreneurship as a key driver for transformation, economic development and business growth in its country, particularly for women.
At Beau’s, we saw an opportunity to share our love and passion for great beer, as well as work on something that would have a legacy and a lasting positive impact. There are numerous branch-out opportunities for this project to create a ripple effect to create jobs and help the less fortunate in the rural communities.
Official logo for Kweza Brewhouse Company (Kigali, RW), designed in Rwanda.
Kweza is a Kinyarwanda word with two meanings: The first is ‘to ripen’ and the second is ‘to build someone up through compliments.’ It can also mean ‘to brighten.’ The logo is an encapsulation of the dual beer-making and community-building goals of the project. Notice the ripened tree resting within the palms of two hands – a symbol of development – being brightened by the sun behind it.