1898:The Spirit of Enterprise

It all started in 1898

Salisbury Lager Beer Brewery and Ice Factory viewed from Kopje


The role of the rounding pair of Delta Corporation Limited cannot be overestimated. They swelled the fountainhead of the vast Rhodesian Breweries in 1946. from which was to flow the diverse interests of Delta Corporation in 1978 through to its undoubted success in 1999. It has come a long way – there is still further to go — but there is a direct line from the two men who chose to seek their fortune in a dusty. ill-equipped town 100 years ago.

In 1898 Louis Susman and Adolph Rosenthal, recent arrivals in Salisbury, Rhodesia, founded the Salisbury Lager Beer Brewery and Ice Factory company – the new country’s first secondary industry. Planned for perfection and the future. The company bought 12 freehold sites valued at £3 000. Plant and equipment was ordered from Germany and transported to Salisbury by ox-wagon from the port of Beira, Mozambique.
The Berlin College of Brewers approved the building plans and by August 1898 the foundation stone of the new brewery had been laid in Cameron Street by the mayor W.E. Fair-bridge, who was editor of The Rhodesia Herald. The initial building, one of the showpieces of the country, with a 34-foot high central reservoir tower, cost £6 000. In January 1899. as reported in The Rhodesia Herald. all the machinery had arrived and brewing could begin. The manager. German master brewer Stanislaus Schwartz. using the very good well-water available in the grounds, adapted the manufacturing processes to local conditions.

1909: Salisbury Brewery from Charier Road

Salisbury Lager Beer cry & Ice Factory opens

The factory aimed to supply a good sound beer, adapted to the climate. It also provided ice for hospitals, hotels and houses. The brewery, with many additions and alterations, served the country until 1960.

Brewing started in late April 1899 and from 1 May lager beer was sold in all stores at five shillings a gallon in seven-gallon barrels, nine shillings a dozen for small bottles and 13 shillings a dozen for large bottles. Bottles were scarce so the brewery charged a deposit of two shillings a dozen for small bottles and three shillings for the large. The accounts for the six months ended 30 June 1900 showed a turnover of £10 161 19s.7d. and a net profit of £4 084 17s. 4d.

By 1900 the partners, Susman and Rosenthal decided to float the company to form a limited liability company. One hundred thousand shares valued at £1 each were sold of which 10 000 shares were reserved for Rhodesia. Salisbury (Rhodesia) Lager Beer Brewery Limited was successfully launched in November 1900.

London directors were Henry Brack and J.J. Rogers. local board members were T. Meikle. L. Susman and A. Rosenthal. The registered office was in London. and Louis Susman was managing director.

Ready for Christmas

Sales in January 1900 amounted to 4 056 gallons and by June the monthly output had risen steadily to 6 614 gallons. Total sales in the period amounted to £9 890 4s. 10d. while Ice and sundries” brought in another £271 14s. 9d. In September a branch supplying beer in casks and bottles was opened in Gwelo with E.G. Areskong as manager.

In December 1902, Rosenthal, managing director of Salisbury Brewery, announced the opening of a depot in Bulawayo, the introduction of Pilsner and Munich Beer, and the export of beer to Mafeking, Vryburg and Kimberley.

1909: Salisbury Brewery from Charier Road
1909: Salisbury Brewery from Charier Road

Llewellyn Lloyd became Salisbury manager in June 1904 and, in December. Lager and Stout were sold at eight shillings a dozen pints. The Rhodesia Herald wrote:

“A splendid and well-matured quality brew in casks is ready for Christmas consumers.”

The quality was good but the business was faulty. because in November 1905. the High Court ordered the company to be liquidated with Lloyd as liquidator. Tenders to buy the property were offered.

1906:Salisbury (Rhodesia) Lager Beer Brewery

1908 : Mule wagon deliveries

P. V. Samuels served for 40 years from 1908.

Breweries Limited new company

The Salisbury (Rhodesia) Lager Beer Brewery & Ice Factory was sold in April 1906 and Breweries Limited was registered, with 15 000 capital. The share subscription list of 13 500 £1 shares was filled in five days.

1907: Breweries Malt
1907: Breweries Malt

By August 1907 when lager beer was introduced, prices had dropped to seven shillings a dozen pints, brewery grains were advertised at one shilling a bucket as an alternative animal feed and by March “first-class ice” was sold at 1d, per pound with special quotations for large orders.

Between 1906 and 1909 the company’s business improved. There was a profit over the previous year and a 50% increase in turnover.

Mule wagon deliveries

The head brewer P. V. Samuels served for 40 years from 1908. He and his son Jim became luminaries of the brewery story for half a century.







During P.V. Samuel’s time his horse Molly, who was his friend and mode of transport to the office, would swim the river and turn up unannounced if he left her at home in favour of his bicycle.

There were 36 members of staff who produced 20 barrels per day. Water for the beer came from a shallow well. Two paxman loco-type boilers that used wood fuel generated electricity and an 8-tonne fridge in the cellars cooled the wooden fermenting and storage vessels. Half the output was delivered in casks by mule wagon to hotels and beer halls. The bottled beer was carbonated. because the refrigerators were not cold enough, and siphon-filtered into old whisky quart and pint bottles that had been discarded in Beira.

1911: Castle Breweries Salisbury
1911: Castle Breweries Salisbury

1910: Breweries Limited Sold

1907: Breweries Malt

Breweries Limited sold to South African Breweries

Breweries Limited sold to South African Breweries

In 1910 when the Union of South Africa was formed in the British Commonwealth. three directors negotiated the sale of Breweries Limited to South African Breweries. Nearly all Rhodesian beer companies were merged under SAB Castle Breweries was registered.

Country’s capacity astonishing

South African Breweries transferred an entire brewing plant 1 000 miles from Kroonstad, South Africa, to Salisbury. When it was built, using 100 tons of steel for the six-storey building, the brewery was as good a model as any in the United Kingdom or Germany. In December 1911 The Rhodesia Herald reported that Castle Breweries was opened by the Marquis of Winchester, who said he hoped that the brewery would be self-supporting, not only in its barley requirements from Rhodesian farmers, but that it would be self-sustained by locally made crates and bottles.

The capacities of this country for the production of local industry, is quite astonishing.” he said. The injection of £60 000 by Mr C. Chidell of the London board indicated faith in the future of Rhodesia.

1912:Castle Ale

1912:Castle Ale

Castle Ale was introduced in 1912

Castle Ale

Beer and Skittles

Castle Ale was introduced in 1912. During World War I beer consump­tion increased, helped by advertisements that Castle ran in The Rhode­sian Herald. They featured Colonel Castle Brewes and portrayed beer as “safe. pure and pre-eminently the temperance war drink.”

1914-18: advertisements Col. Castle Brawes
1914-18: advertisements Col. Castle Brawes

Castle Breweries was now on a sound working basis and set to take advantage of a rapidly expanding, appreciative market. At the Salisbury Show, the popular annual meeting place of the farmer and the townsman, the company built a miniature castle that supplied cool beers to the crowd.

At the 1916 SAB annual general meeting in London. a nett earnings of £187 585 was reported, an increase of £19 464 over 1917. A reserve of £700 000 was held for post-war expansion.

In 1920, at a time when First Street had vacant stands. Castle Breweries built the innovative Salisbury Beer Hall on the comer of First Street and Gordon Avenue. to enhance the town’s night life. The attractive amenities included a long bar of highly polished local mukwa, a lounge and skittle alley, with imported American equipment and a cool creeper-covered palm court. The financial outlay indicated a “distinct mark of the confidence of the directors in the future of Salisbury.” Skittles could be played at night and competitions became a feature of the town’s nightlife.

Those associated with the building were to become well known in later years – architects D’Arcy Cathcart and Cowper: builder M F Cleveland: lighting Johnson & Fletcher and plumber Mitchell and Liddle.

1920: Salisbury Beerhall
1920: Salisbury Beerhall

In 1921 bottles for the beer were ordered from two different companies in the UK. Glass Company and UG Bottle Company and shipped via Beira at a time when pints were sold for 10d. each. For five years Castle Breweries encouraged Rhodesian farmers to grow barley by offering a two-year guaranteed price of 13s. 6d. per 150 lb bag. However, the farmers were able to produce only 24% of the brewery’s requirements.

“We want the best”

1912: Castle Breweries Salisbury Show stand
1912: Castle Breweries Salisbury Show stand

The head brewer, P.V. Samuels, insisted on the best crown corks for his beer. In a letter placing his order for crown corks in 1921 his instructions were specific:

“Quality in a crown extends to the whole 100%: if there are 2% or 3% bad then the quality of the whole lot is bad. Nothing is more important than that this last operation in bottling should be effective. We want the very best crown it is possible to get – the ‘Wallis Noleta.”‘

1946: Lager beer – next 55 years

1946 : Lager beer - next 55 years

Template for the future

Template for the future

“I went with Mr Samuels to the top of the big tower which is one of the landmarks of Salisbury. There we saw great stores of sweet smelling malt all made from Rhodesian barley. It was quiet, fragrant and clean in the malt room, as was indeed the whole brewery. As for the way they wash their floors, scour their vats with steam and pasteurise their bottles, I never saw anything like it.”

The Rhodesia Herald – 8 July 1927

1931: Castle Brewery
1931: Castle Brewery

During P.V. Samuel’s fastidious and thrifty planning of the extensions to the boiler-house, cellars and bottling department in 1928, he corresponded closely with K.S. MacKenzie, SAB’s head brewer in Johannesburg, and JA Topf & Sochne machine manufacturers and boilermakers in Berlin. Letters were answered within three days and telegrams were delivered within three hours of dispatch. In January 1929 Castle Pilsner came on the market, followed in July by Castle Winter Stout.

Although beer supplies to retailers was cut during World War 11, consumption increased three-fold, aided by both the troops’ training camps and the dearth of spirits. When the company suffered from shortages such as crown corks, beer was sold in thrifty barrels and quart bottles.

1928: Empire Shopping Week, Salisbury
1928: Empire Shopping Week, Salisbury

When World War II ended in 1945, the next decade saw a huge expansion of both Rhodesia and of Castle Breweries, as immigrants streamed into the country.




Unexpected competition

A new brewery was founded in Salisbury and registered on 19 September 1946 creating unexpected competition for Castle Breweries. Rhodesian Breweries Limited, was listed on the Rhodesian Stock Exchange by James Frederick Kapnek. A wealthy farmer and experienced company director with a Johannesburg business address, he was the force behind the new company and an effective chairman for five years.

1950:Sable Brewery in Bulawayo

1950:Sable Brewery in Bulawayo

1950:Sable Brewery in Bulawayo


On the advice of an English brewing consultant, the new Rhodesian Breweries Limited built the magnificent ultramodern Sable Brewery in Bulawayo in 1950. one of the largest commercial buildings in Central Africa. It adopted the sable head as the company trademark and introduced three new beers onto the market. Sable Lager. Milk Stout and Ace 13cer which were sold in the Rhodcsias. Nyasaland and Bechuanaland. Because the cost of the building and plant was higher than anticipated. a £100 000 loss was !worded in 1951 depleting the company’s working capital.
Iii idsorne profit in lows merger Consolidation was the key and soon the two breweries amalgamated. Rhodesian Breweries had made a considerable loss, had a declining market share and their new beers had not been very successful, but they had a fine new brewery. Castle Breweries was still making a handsome profit. After discussions, Rhodesian Breweries and South African Breweries boards agreed that SAB should sell its Southern Rhodesia. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland business, excluding the hotels, to Rhodesian Breweries for £3 300 000. The Rhodesian Breweries board was reconstituted in 1951 and SAB, as the largest shareholder provided expert technical assistance and management, and supplemented the capital. The hotels were to be tied to a new company to be formed. At that stage Rhodesian Breweries head office was in one room at the Cameron Street plant. Between 1953 and 1957 an annual net profit of 10% was maintained. Production and profit rose to nearly nine million gallons a year between 1958 and 1960, not only because of increased demand. but also because of further expansion. The company took over Ohlsson’s Brewery and the marketing of Ohlsson’s Lion beer, enlarged Ndola Brewery, and installed new fermentation and storage tanks in Bulawayo. Production soon rose to 8,S million gallons a year in 1960 despite civic unrest in the capital city.

1958:More Beer in less time


In 1958, Jim Samuels. nick-named ‘Boss Jim’. became managing director of the executive management team comprising a technical director, financial adviser, and marketing director.

All brewing ceased fora day in Cameron Street in February 1962 when Sir Roy Wclensky. prime minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. opened the new Southerton Brewery, on a 30-acre site. The £2 000 000 brewery bottled 150 000 bottles a day and employed 480 staff. New offices at Southerton were completed in 1966.

Prior to the break up of Federation in 1962, Rhodesian Breweries and Rhodesian Anglo-American agreed to form a new company in Northern Rhodesia known as Northern Rhodesia Breweries Limited. Rhodesian Breweries sold all its assets to the new company.

The company’s advertising was innovative. For instance when a Viking aircraft of Central African Airways flew over Salisbury just before Christmas in 1963. the mayor, one of the 55 passengers aboard, pressed a button on board the aircraft and the largest neon spectacular sky sign in Central Africa blazed into light. As the mayor pressed the button a Pye high-frequency receiving station at the sign took up the signal from the aircraft and set in motion a series of switching mechanisms which illuminated the neon spectacular. In all 171 guests were taken aloft to view the sign that night.

Despite economic sanctions imposed in 1965 by the international community in response to Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence from Britain and which adversely affected the country’s economy, Rhodesian Breweries’ net profit after tax increased from L107 000 to £917000. Taking a broad view of its role in the country’s

development the company started implementing extensive diversification plans that were to transform it into a major conglomerate involved in alcoholic and soft drinks, foodstuffs. hotels and tourism, with beer as the major concern. Beer exports increased to Malawi and other neighbouring countries while exports to Zambia and South Africa ceased. Several fresh ideas excited the public in the late 1960s. Draught beer dispensers were introduced at outlets in Salisbury, pop-top cans, and canned water using the same process as canned beer, was produced for the security forces. When the self-contained Beer Division, the successor to National Breweries was formed in 1969, production and marketing were centralised to cut costs. In 1967 SAB offered a substantial number of shares in Rhodesian Breweries.

1970 : Carling Black Label Launched. Salisbury’s biggest private party ever

1970: Carling Black Launched. Salisbury largest private party

1970: Carling Black Launched. Salisbury largest private party


The international Carling Black Label was introduced in 1970 and was launched at the biggest private party ever held in Salisbury. The beer keg and the twist-off crown were launched. Lion Ale was withdrawn due to lack of demand: Zimbabwe Beer was introduced, but because of disappointing sales it was withdrawn in 1980.

Simultaneously, to meet the increased demand, there wcrc major extensions to brewing facilities in Salisbury and Bulawayo.

Eighteen years later a shortage of beer bottles over the Christmas season forced National Breweries to use the 340 nil Carling Black Label bottles for Castle Pilsncr. which was normally sold in 375 ml containers. This was a temporary change for llarare only and was reviewed when the bottle rotation returned to normal after the busy festive season.

Canichni Sitcct

In 1971 the remaining fermentation and storage facilities at the Cameron Street brewery were closed down. Operating since 1898 and taken over by the group in 1910, the building. on a six-acre industrial and commercial site, was sold for $875 000 to the Olympic Finance and Trading Corporation of Central Africa in 1972 and was soon demolished.

But first the brewery was slowly stripped – the most spectacular deal was the sale of the towering R0-foot smokestack for S100. the sale went through although the harassed buyer tried to withdraw the sale after he was quoted S2 R00 for dismantling the smoke stack! Sixteen of the giant storage tanks were sold to African Distillers for S20 each: seven tanks were sold to a market gardener for water storage; scrap metal dealers bought the piping and machinery.

Always regarded as a blue chip share on the Rhodesian Stock Exchange. the company decided to invest outside the beer industry in the 1970s. The name Rhodesian Breweries described only one aspect of the company business. From the basic activity of brewing lager-type beer it managed a spread of investments, mainly consumer goods and tourist hotels.

Jim Samuels. Rhodesian Breweries chairman, said in 1972: As far back as the early 60s it was apparent that we had to become less reliant on the single activity of brewing lager been. As the size of our brewing operations increased, so cash resources were accumulating, and further avenues of profitability had to be created to maintain the level of returns required by our shareholders.

“Amid the continuing political and economic pressures and uncenainties in Rhodesia. the company has bubbled to the brim of business success.”

Clutch of Awards

1973: Businessman of the Year John Carter, chairman Rhodesian Breweries

1975: beer bottle label size is reduced

1975: beer bottle label size is reduced


From 1969 to 1972, Rhodesian Breweries planned capital expenditure of EIS million on new manufacturing plants and agriculture. It was the largest commercial and industrial undertaking with S28 million turnover. 2 000 employees and afier-tax profit of over S3 million.

A battery of 12 multi-purpose Rhodesian-made vessels was installed at Southerton. Planned for either storage or fermentation. the 360 hectolitre containers substantially increased the brewery’s production capacity. With this came vigorous marketing in remote areas where 90 new retail outlets were opened using modem retail techniques. From the Bulawayo bottling plants. 500 000 bottles a day rolled off the production line, while beer was distributed across the country by rail and in a fleet of 15 trucks to the new retail outlets.

The 1970s brought a clutch of awards to Rhodesian Breweries. Chairman John Carter was named Businessman of the Year for 1973. For several years in succession the company won The Herald Stock Exchange Trophy for the best annual report. Rhodesian Breweries led The Herald’s Top Companies survey in 1977 with Market capitalisation of S71 million, followed by Hippo Valley with over SU million. Turnover rose from S34 million to $42 million from 1974 to 1976. Two years later the group traded at an annual tevel of $65 million.

Belt tightening

With this success came belt•tightening, for government had held down the price of beer for 10 years since 1964, whereas all production costs had risen and eroded profitability. Rhodesian Breweries requested a 3,80% increase in the beer price, which was granted a year later. With limited manufacturing capacity at the Gwelo Glass Works, the nation suffered a shortage of glass. Rhodesian Breweries changed its packaging in 1974 and suspended non-returnable dumpies to enable maximum manufacture of essential glass items. But, to increase sales in the off-sales market, 12-pack beers were packed in pint sizes. The group helped promote a nation-wide campaign to collect waste glass for recycling and worked with National Parks to provide special collection points in the parks. Proceeds went to charity. When the price of glass rose by 50% in 1975. the company’s bottle deposit rose from four to six cents. To save foreign currency in 1975, Government ordered economies in packaging and labeling. The size of the labels was reduced to 57 mm by 70mm. The company substituted locally manufactured plant and equipment items for those traditionally imported.

1978: Southern-1n Brewery, Salisbury


“Crises, whether economic or political, lead to higher demands for the brewers’ product. It is the group’s forward planning policy that has maintained its strength in difficult circumstances. This has had three elements – to maintain full employment. complete major projects designed to reduce reliance on imports and to increase liquidity and concentrate on traditional fields of investment. It is not marking time waiting for the political situation to clear -the group is planning for the post-settlement era.” The Rhodesia Herald October 1977.

April 1978. in line with political changes that lead to the country’s Ina m e changing to Rhodesia-Zimbabwe, the Cirri’s changed its name to Delta Corporation Limited. The company managed a portfolio of investments including beer. National Breweries was established as a separate corporate entity and took over the operations of the fodder beer division.

An important event was the new brewhouse, completed in 1979 at Southenon, with the most modern locally built equipment. In 1980 when Zimbabwe attained its independence and international recognition, the company attended to both local and international development. Locally it helped reconstruct the outlets in the rural areas so beer sales and local business could resume. Internationally, an associated management company was established in Europe to control various brewery activities in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

During the 1980s government reviewed the legislation governing price control and implemented further price freezes that decreased profitability of the breweries. There was a brewer’s price increase of 8,5% in 1980 but later applications were only granted after many months. A significant trend was the high growth rate of the rural market where 141 outlets were opened. High gravity brewing and more efficient yeast strains improved production and reduced costs in 1983.

1979: Delta Engineering Training Centre
was opened


The Delta Technical Division was formed in 1980 to provide technical, planning and research and development facilities for all the group companies. In addition a comprehensive apprentice training school with specialised facilities, was built at Southenon brewery. It trained artisans for the Salisbury and Bulawayo breweries and worked closely with the Polytechnic.

In early 1984, Delta Corporation launched its assistance project for the !lethal Collective Fanning Co-op in Headlands by providing S86 000 for the purchase of implements and irrigation equipment. National Breweries gives financial planning advice, technical training and marketing back-up to the barley project as, apart from the winter barley source, a stable business environment is created in the rural area.

In 1986 Delta Corporation started projects to improve the quality of lift in the rural areas, by providing training for retailers and by supporting the co-operative movement. A trade-training department conducted seminars on retail business techniques. The network of distribution franchises was increased through local agents, and many new businesses established in the rural areas. To improve distribution in the rural areas the transport fleet was built up and the group was involved in establishing rural depots for all group products and services.

Research should probe

Regard for the customer, reasoned marketing procedures, and scientific analysis and research, are the three pillars on which National Breweries built their most advanced manufacturing and selling structures. The company believes research should probe beyond present trends and a generation ahead and that worldwide market forces should be analysed. Preferences are monitored, product ranges adapted to meet consumer needs and to ensure that installed brewery capacity is fully utilised.