7.5 Million Hectolitres of Beer


Beer takes between 18 and 21 days to produce, 300 litres of water are used to make 100 litres of beer, and demand for beer in South Africa triples in December. These were some of the stats Sapics members heard while on a recent site visit of the SAB Miller Rosslyn brewery, north-west of Pretoria.

Heinrich Havenga, operations manager at the brewery, took Sapics members on a tour and “Supply Chain Today” joined the group. The plant runs along a spine with east for delivery of raw materials through to west for distribution.

Rosslyn is one of the biggest manufacturing plants in the country, and for the past two years has been the biggest by volume brewery in Africa. At 183 453m2, it has a production capacity of 8.1 million hectolitres (hl). One hectolitre is 100 litres. Currently, production is at around 7.5 million hl, which is delivered by two brewing houses and five packaging lines.

The brewery’s primary role is as an inland supplier and peak flex up, which means they take on demand that other plants cannot meet. The Rosslyn Brewery is also solely responsible for exports of cans to many African countries including Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana.

When you are sipping your brew on the banks of Lake Malawi, chances are it came from Rosslyn. And your milkstout? That is also most likely to come out of the Tshwane brewery.

Spotlessly clean

The plant is impressive in size (there is an ATM on site) and efficiency. And it is spotless, you can see your face in the floor and on every reflective surface. Some of its smooth operations are clearly down to the company keeping up with the times. Despite the plant having been established in 1982, the operation is modern, electricity and water efficient.

The municipal electricity supply is stable, according to Heinrich, however, the intention is for the plant to be 100% self sufficient. Currently, three of the boilers run off natural gas, and another off biogas, produced by the plant in the brewing process.

Only one coal boiler remains, and is headed for redundancy, Heinrich tells us. In addition, solar panels are being installed in the plant. The switch to natural gas, which commenced in 2006, will save 100 941 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent per annum.

Treated water

CO2 is a very important part of the process. Heinrich highlights that Rosslyn is the only plant in the country that can provide CO2 for Coca-Cola, and sells excess CO2 to ABI.

Water is also essential to the brewery. “We use a lot of water in the process and have made massive inroads in terms of reducing consumption,” says Heinrich.

The before and after numbers bear out his claim. Previously it took 600 litres to make a 100 litres of beer, the number is now down to 300. This doesn’t change the alcohol content of the beer, nor can you claim to be drinking water when you flip open your can.

The water is also treated before use. “The water we are getting is not very good, so we treat it to get rid of the waste,” Heinrich explains. This process produces the biogas that is used in power generation.

Cascading malt barley signals the start

The first step of brewing beer is the arrival of malted barley at the far east side of the plant. This is barley that has been soaked and dried in hot air.

Malting develops the enzymes required for modifying the grain’s starches into sugars and develops other enzymes, which break down the proteins in the grain into forms that can be used by yeast. “It awakens the grain,” says Heinrich.

Malted barley looks like very dry barley, and every day, 10 to 12 trucks deliver the grain to the Rosslyn site. Barley is also delivered by rail, which Heinrich says is preferable as there is less damage to the product. However, rail can be slow and unreliable, so granary trucks deliver the bulk of the brewery’s grain.

Potent and flammable

When it cascades out of the truck, which we were lucky enough to see, the accompanying barley dust cloud is potent and highly flammable. Workers wear safety glasses and nose and mouth masks. “One spark,” warns Heinrich, “and a fire is ignited.” Rosslyn Brewery is equipped with a fire truck, housed in its own fire station.

Barley is not just great for beer, it also holds attraction for pigeons and rats to the point that the rats grow large enough to scare cats, making rodent control measures essential. Thankfully, they work!

All the brews use local malt except for Peroni where the malt is imported from Italy.

SAB Miller owns one farm in Caledon, and uses local farmers for the remaining 90% of its raw materials supply. Each year’s brew uses the previous year’s crops, so the effects of the drought will only be felt in 2017. If necessary, barley can be imported from countries like the US and Australia, which Heinrich says have good quality grains.

Quality control is strict at both source and destination, and a dedicated team in the central office makes sure that “what we get is what we expect and what we agreed we would get.”

From the delivery of the barley, it’s a quick stop at the boilers. Not only is this clean energy, it is a lot quieter. Ear protection is mandatory throughout the plant, but unnecessary on the tour of a boiler room, usually one of the loudest places in a plant. The ear protection is, however, a must in the brewing houses.

The scientists domain

Home to 99 fermenting vessels, 64 maturation vessels, 3 Filtrox candles (used in filtration) and 36 bright beer tanks (used in maturation), the brewing process unit is the domain of the scientists. Each brew is the result of a unique mix of ingredients and number of hours in fermentation and maturation. Total brewing time of the various brands is between 18 to 21 days, and time in fermentation and maturation ranges from 8 to 11 days.

Just before we enter the brewing house we are invited to smell the hops, a quick sniff only. The smell of the brewery is nothing like the smell of beer – dry grains and ammonia is an apt, although not complete, description.


These processes produce a concentrate which looks like a green undrinkable liquid. The ‘beer’ is cooled, pure water is added and the now palatable brews make their way to one of five packaging lines. A constant movement of cans and bottles is monitored at various points to ensure quality, safety and accuracy.

Two lines are dedicated to 750ml RB (returnable bottle) and one to 660 or 750ml RB. The final two lines are dedicated to 330, 340 and 440 NRB (non-returnable bottles) and 330 or 440ml cans. The can line is the biggest in Africa, but 60% of Rosslyn’s production is the 750ml bottle.

Returnable bottles are critical to the brewery operation. “If a customer takes a pallet, they return a pallet of empties,” Heinrich says. Shipping the end product signals the end of the integrated supply chain, although with returns so critical, the supply chain is looped from start to finish.

Direct to the customer

Getting the beer to customers takes place via a mixture of direct delivery and independent owner distributors. SAB uses 10 independent distributors, who deliver 58% of the volume.

There are two warehouses in the plant, five road loading bays and 17 rail loading sidings. Rosslyn also has a direct shipment facility. “We identified an opportunity to send beer to the customer instead of sending it to a depot.”

There clearly is some competition between the various breweries around Gauteng, but the operations team works closely with central planning when it comes to raw materials logistics, brewing and packaging. Load planning and primary distribution are undertaken at a central level but execution is the responsibility of the individual plant.

Stock cover is usually two days, although in the peak time of December it can reduce to around 0.5. “Peak demand triples in December, and increases every year. We do not have the capacity to produce real time, and start early to ensure December stock. The biggest sin we have in the business is to be out of stock,” Heinrich concludes.

SAB Miller, Tel: (011) 881-8111, www.sab.co.za