Thursday, July 22, 2010


5 km outside of Gisenyi, in a beautiful spot on the lake, is Bralirwa: the factory that brews all of the Primus, Mutzig and Guinness sold in Rwanda. They use roads and a boat to distribute beer all over the country. The factory is run on methane extracted from Lake Kivu.

Tours are currently available on Thursdays. We weren’t charged, although I’ve heard that it sometimes costs 5000rwf. We showed up just before 11 and were asked to write a letter requesting to tour (this might be better done further in advance, but my hasty English and Kinya translation on a piece of notebook paper did the trick). After a short wait, we were allowed to join a group that seemed to have planned in advance (maybe they paid?). The tour was mostly given in French, and the employees were very amenable to answering questions. I highly recommend it if you’re anywhere near Gisenyi.

Here are some covert snaps – the sign is unfortunately blurry, but on either side of the guy’s gaping arm wound are gears.

Sugar waiting to be added to beer. Ew.

I think this is the fermenting hall. Most of the tanks were making Primus, with a few on Mutzig and Guinness. They said it takes 2 weeks to make a batch of beer, including fermenting and then cooling.

The very modern lab has a typical wooden bottle opener. They test the beer to make sure it conforms to the formula, has the proper alcohol content, and is free from pathogens.

The coolest part of the tour was the bottle room. They gave us protective glasses because sometimes bottles explode. Here there are machines that take empty returned bottles from the crates, steam clean them, fill them with new beer, cap them and label them.

The tour ended in the office area, where there was a bar complete with a dart board. I managed to finish off a Guinness and a couple small Mutzig before they cut us off. Below, the Bralirwa business model – take a look, it’s good unintentional comedy.

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