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Meet the women behind SAB’s beer

Besides being remarkable women who have both worked at South African Breweries (SAB) for almost 20 years, Frieda Dehrmann and Lauren Steytler have at least one thing in common: they love everything about beer.

To celebrate Women’s Day, the SAB World of Beer asked them a few questions about their careers and their love for what they do.

Frieda Dehrmann.

Frieda Dehrmann. (Image: South African Breweries)

Frieda Dehrmann, sensory and consumer science manager: Zone Innovation and Technical Development at AB InBev

One thing’s for sure: Frieda knows her beer. Not only does she have a PhD in biochemistry, she’s been crowned SAB’s champion beer taster and she’s been a judge in the World Beer Cup five times (yes, there is such a thing and it’s considered by some the world’s most prestigious beer competition).

She was offered a position as laboratory technician at SAB’s Prospecton brewery in Durban in 1998 and has also worked as flavour specialist, quality assurance manager, and taste and sensory manager.

In her current role as sensory and consumer science manager based in Johannesburg, Frieda supports the innovation team by providing key insights into consumer behaviour and preferences. She loves being able to understand people, and what drives them to make certain choices and decisions.

You have been a judge in the World Beer Cup in the US five times. Tell us more.

It’s like going into a candy store for a beer lover. There are hundreds of beer styles and brands from all over the world taking part in the competition, and this is the most extreme opportunity to taste and experience a collection of these beers.

What is your favourite SAB beer and why?

This is really hard to answer – it’s like asking what your favourite pair of shoes is. It depends on the occasion and what you are feeling like. If I’m feeling like a comfortable beer, then Black Label or Castle, and if I’m feeling like something a bit more sophisticated, then Stella. And then, if I’m feeling adventurous, Golden Pilsener from Zimbabwe or Hoegaarden, a Belgian beer. I’m spoiled for choice!

Do you have any advice for women in the industry?

Find something you love, and stick with it. And don’t ever believe that there are things women can’t do. Take an interest in the field and stay relevant by reading blogs and papers and staying up to date with current developments.

Lauren Steytler, general manager: SAB Hop Farms

Lauren is a qualified microbiologist who completed a master’s degree in brewing science at the University of Nottingham in the UK in 2011. After getting a diploma in microbiology, she started as a level-1 brew tech operator at SAB 18 years ago, where she spent her days “pulling hoses, moving beer from place to place, doing analysis and being a lab technician”.

Lauren Steytler.

Lauren Steytler. (Image: Supplied)

A number of years later, she completed an apprenticeship as a brewer and, following a few roles in brewing, moved into raw materials as manager of SAB Maltings in Caledon in the Western Cape.

Lauren was appointed in her current role in the George area two-and-a-half years ago. Although moving into the field of agriculture has been a big learning curve for her, she counts herself lucky: “I think there are many jealous brewers out there who would love this role.”

Growing hops at a latitude of 34 degrees south is no easy task (it’s traditionally grown between 40 and 45 degrees north or south), but Lauren and her team deliver great-quality hops in a safe, sustainable and cost-effective way.

Building relationships with stakeholders across the business, including private hop farmers and brewers all over the world, is another important aspect of her job.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The amazing aromas I infuse myself in. When I was a brewer, I used to say my most favourite thing was the smell of the wort just after the hops have been added to the kettle. I thought nothing could beat that, but I was wrong – the smell of the hop plants in their fresh natural state while being dried is a truly special experience. Harvests are sublime – you live in almost-heaven all the time.

I also work with a great group of people – both the staff and the private hop farmers are amazing.

Tell us more about the hop industry in South Africa.

The South African hop industry makes up only 1% of the total world hop production. We currently have about 400ha under cultivation on corporate and private farms. The latest hop varieties, released by SAB Hop Farms, namely Southern Passion and African Queen, are firm favourites of the craft industry, both locally and internationally, imparting aromas like granadilla (passion fruit), gooseberry and chilli.

Do you have any advice for women in the industry?

Nothing is handed out freely, you need hard work and determination. Don’t give up on what you set your mind to – hard work will always pay off. And, of course, keep a good sense of humour.

What is your favourite SAB beer?

I enjoy Castle Lite. I’ll let you in on a little secret – it is made with hops grown right here in George, making it a perfect home-grown choice for me.

  • Love beer? Join us for a tour. In celebration of Women's Day, all women will get a R20 discount on our tour or a R40 discount on our tour-and-tasting combo until this Saturday, 12 August 2017

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