Kovsie Brewing Hits Bloem With Academic Innovation
Before I even ran for SRC president at the University of the Free State, I sat at a table with the then rector, Prof Jonathan Jansen, and pitched the idea of a UFS Beer. Of course the idea was shut down. The demand for such a thing was so high though that scarcely a month following his departure, I received Facebook invitation for a Kovsie Brewing Market (Kovsie is the nickname of the University). I was happy yet shocked and inquisitive all at once. Fortunately, I happened to be in Bloemfontein on Sunday when the market was taking place.
Unfortunately, I was suffering terribly from the Mystic Halloween Party the night before. Of course some craft beer to sooth the hangover was a welcome prospect so I made for the monthly craft food market at the botanical gardens where I used to work when I was still an 051-er.
Indeed the market was not the way I remembered it. It was significantly larger than before and with far more things for people to purchase. Bloem has a weird way of attracting people to certain events of late. The ingredients seem to be, (1) things to do for the kids, (2) food you’re not able to get anywhere else and would be too much effort to make yourself and (3) some form of live entertainment.
While the market had all of that, it obviously lacked beer before. I think this is where the genius in the plan came to the fore. Instead of setting up a dedicated craft beer festival, rather piggyback on a festival which had demand, but no supply, for beer.
I actually had no idea what the beer part was about so I asked around and it was a rather innovative multidisciplinary project of the university to expose students to the modern trends in beer brewing. Turns out Kovsie Brewing has been a thing for some time but it only recently surfaced from Jansian asylum and took on a formal identity.
The gist of the project was that Kovsie Brewing wanted to test a few of their craft beers in the market and gauge interest while gathering feedback from potential customers. They then approached the marketing department and set up a competition between the marketing and entrepreneurship students.
There were 3 teams. Each was assigned to a different craft beer and competed against the others on the basis of profit made, branding, interest from restaurant owners etc.
The competition seemed pretty intense as I walked away with all kinds of swag from stickers to sunglasses. There were four beers on offer but the one which tickled my fancy was the Jury pilsner (I didn’t have it in me to tell them it tasted more of lager but hey, I’m a lager man and it tasted fantastic…distinctly fruitier).
The Black Muti porter came in at a close second for me with its heavy yet distinct flavour. I’m not sure why the craft beer market isn’t filled with more porter, it’s one of the relatively easier ones not to mess up. If you’re not certain what a porter is, think stout but lighter!
My choice of favourite was a choice vindicated as they placed in the top spot of the competition.
I asked student Jehan van Vuuren what he’s thoughts of the day were and he responded, “What do you get when you mix 4 scientists and 15 business management students? An amazing, proudly Kovsie, craft beer festival! Multi-disciplinary interaction proving that studies can be fun! Our amazing group of B.Com Hons, Marketing and Entrepreneurship interns put together a truly unforgettable day, and our 4 scientists, well, they put together some have-to-experience-craft beer! #KovsieBrewery” (I pause here to say that it sounded rehearsed so perhaps that’s also the press release)
On top of all the fun and learning, the teams also did some significant charity work by partnering with the Children’s Wing Project to get teddy bears to underprivileged sick children.
All told, it was a fun day out and I was delighted to witness youths having fun and learning from beer. The only education I got from beer at my alma mater was the use of pizza and beer in explaining opportunity cost…I’d say the University of the Free State is certainly undergoing a modern evolution of its teaching methods…and a good one at that!