How Namibian beer, politics, and identity all align

A concise history of the beer industry in Namibia written by history scholar Tycho Van der Hoog begins with the pithy observation by American singer-songwriter Frank Zappa to the effect that every nation worth its salt needs an airline and its own beer. As it happens, the first no longer holds true, while beer remains a marker of national and, for that matter, subnational identities.

The brewing industry is today regarded as a source of national pride in Namibia. Windhoek Lager has not merely conquered the domestic market but has made substantial inroads south of the border where South African Breweries held a de facto monopoly for decades.  This is a tale, lovingly told, of an unlikely success built on the most fragile foundations. The early sections of Breweries, Politics and Identity: The History Behind Namibian Beer are, in effect, a careful piecing together of fragments of information about a series of operations that were very small and left little trace.

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