Brewers rally to feed the needy

Drifters Brewery director and co-founder, Nick Bush.

Brewers have repurposed their breweries to make soup for the needy.

The Brewers Soup Collective (BSC), a non-profit initiative, was started in response to Covid-19, the lockdown and the resulting rise in the number of people going hungry.

BSC director Anna Hart said craft breweries had been sitting idle due to the alcohol ban and many had had to close their doors.

“Our breweries were armed with the biggest pots in the country, with the larger craft breweries having pots (mash tuns and kettles) as big as 3 000 litres,” she said.

“A group of brewers, chefs, non-government organisations and many volunteers saw a solution to produce bigger volumes of soup than any normal industrial kitchen could.”

They sourced vegetables directly from farmers, through donations or wholesale from markets, using vegetables that would otherwise go to landfill as they did not meet the quality needed to sell to supermarkets.

Volunteers prepare the vegetables which are then minced using a wood chipper and added to boiling water in the mash tuns with spices, soup stock and other ingredients.

“Once the soup is ‘brewed’, it is pumped either into 1000-litre flow bins or into smaller 20-litre buckets and driven to community soup kitchens and on-the-ground feeding NGOs,” Ms Hart said.

More breweries joined in as word spread on social media.

The Drifter Brewing Company in Woodstock was one of them. Two months after it decided to convert its beer tanks into giant soup-making tanks, it has provided more than
250 000 meals.

Drifter director and co-founder Nick Bush said the initiative addressed the hunger crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 lockdown, especially for those who lived hand to mouth.

“Food security has always been an issue in our country and with the rate of unemployment on the rise, the need for meals will only continue to grow. Our beer business has taken a hard knock, but the silver lining was using our space to make huge quantities of food.

“Our brewing system is a 1000-litre tank, so a single batch of the soup can feed at least 2 500 people. And we’re cooking multiple batches in a day, which means we can feed up to
10 000 people come dinner time.”

Mr Bush credited the Woodstock Brewery for creating the “blueprint” for the soup-making initiative that other breweries like Drifter had followed.

While the alcohol ban has now been lifted, Drifter is continuing to produce soup for communities in need such as Hanover Park, Heideveld, Retreat, Tafelsig, Lavender Hill, Dunoon, Kraaifontein, Langa, Khayelitsha and Gugulethu.

Donations can be made through Drifter’s website to keep the project going.

The Brewers Soup Collective is made up of The Hemel en Aarde Brewery, Drifter Brewing Company, Longbeach Brewery, Old Potters Inn, Stellenbosch Brewery, and Richmond Hill Brewery in Port Elizabeth.

To date about 450 000 meals have been produced by the breweries in the collective.