2022 is a special year for Kenya Breweries Limited. It is a landmark 100 years since the company’s establishment on the shores of Ruaraka River. A century ago, brothers Charles and George Hurst, accompanied by a friend, Henry Dowding, were gathered on the banks of the Ruaraka River to ponder their intentions of starting a brewery. They had grown tired of toasting to their achievements with tea instead of beer.
Come December of 1922, the trio had come up with the basic requirements to brew beer, copper stills, a wood-burning stove and what have you. It was with this equipment that they produced the first batch of beer, 10 crates to be exact.
The Tusker name, however, came about for reasons far removed from beer. Circa 1921, George Hurst had developed significant notoriety on the plains of East Africa for his exploits as a big game hunter. However, it was a notoriety for recklessness. As a result of George’s ill-considered courage on one occasion during a hunting expedition, George ventured out into a herd of elephants in the hopes of acquiring a quarry. He managed to wound one of the elephants in the herd, but this triggered the jumbo’s wrath. The bull elephant attacked George, killing him on the spot. As a tribute to his brother’s memory, his brother Charles decided to immortalise the events leading to George’s death with the name that we know and love a hundred years later – Tusker.
Present day, and the Tusker brand has now grown into one of the most iconic brands in Africa. There are generations of Kenyans who would be quite sceptical if you told them that the lyrics: “Celebrate good times, come on!” were from a Kool and the Gang song, and not a Tusker jingle. In Kenya, Tusker is a brand that boasts of an unfading imprint that cuts across sports, arts, culture and society as a whole. From being the custodian of one of the most successful football teams in the country, to making its name synonymous with Kenyan rugby, the Tusker brand and Kenyan society and culture are, as the saying goes, “in the same Wozapp group.” Think about Tusker Project Fame. No reality show in East Africa has been able to embed itself in culture as TPF did in its day. This is testament to the pull and staying power that the Tusker brand possesses.
Even as recently as in 2021, the Tusker brand has kept itself alive in the collective memory of Kenyans by staying vibrant at the forefront of culture. In that, despite the continent being ravaged by an unprecedented pandemic, Tusker was named as one of the 150 most valuable brands in Africa. That same year, Tusker gave a helping hand to the Team Kenya delegation to the Olympics, against all odds. This was not new, as the ‘Twende Rio’ consumer promotion of 2016 rallied Kenyans to support Team Kenya when the Brazilian capital played host to the world.
Late 2021, As the hospitality industry looked to recover from the effects of the pandemic, that left bars, hotel and eatery staff staring at bleak futures, Tusker launched the Raising the Bar initiative, which gave a leg-up to these outlets. The positive impact that the initiative has on these establishments is felt to this very day.
In conclusion, as we stand on the precipice that separates the past century of Tusker from the next. One thing remains certain: the last 100 years of Tusker have been a celebration that everyone was invited to. Whether they partake of the drink or not, there is a Tusker story out there, on everyone’s lips. This is because Tusker is the epitome of celebrating life, every day and everywhere.