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Closed sign (Photo: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash)
14 October 2019

AB-InBev closes SAB’s World of Beer museum in Johannesburg

South Africa | It’s a shame. SAB’s World of Beer museum is no more. Opened in Johannesburg in 1994, its last tour was conducted on 30 September 2019.

For 25 years, the World of Beer centre has allowed visitors to learn about brewing and its history in South Africa. It also served as a conference centre and ran a bar, where classes on beer and food pairings were taught.

When the former South African President, the late Nelson Mandela, officially opened the centre in 1994, he delivered a memorable speech that summed up the importance of the SAB World of Beer.

He said: “This centre will also help to remind us of a history we neglect at our peril. Inevitably, a product as integral to the culture and economy of a society as is yours, traces in its own history, the history of its society.”

“People will also be reminded that, for all their hole-in-the-wall status, shebeens played an influential role in our cultural development, particularly in music and writing. This is where many of our top artists honed their talents.”

“But in addition to its instructive lessons, the centre will without doubt help promote tourism in this area and in Johannesburg as a whole. It is, therefore, a valuable addition to the economic assets of Gauteng province.”

A post on the centre’s website explains the closure by saying that there are “more appropriate alternatives to people experiencing beer, its history and heritage”.

Although the centre has won prizes in the past, the visitor experience apparently no longer drew crowds. Already, in 2017, SAB launched a competition for ideas as to how to improve the centre’s offerings in order to better compete with other tourist attractions in a self-sustaining way.

SAB has been leasing the building from the City of Johannesburg. What happens next is that SAB’s present owner, AB-InBev, will look for a new tenant, whilst some of the exhibits will be displayed at SAB’s offices and the rest put into storage. The centre’s seven employees will have to find new jobs. 

There are currently no plans to shut the Pub and Beer Museum at the Newlands brewery in Cape Town, as it is an important heritage site and a popular venue for locals and tourists to the city.