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People of Joburg – Eben Uys from Mad Giant

Jun 12, 2017, Author: Hello Joburg

We recently got to spend some time with the brains behind Mad Giant breweries, Eben Uys and find out a bit more about how the concept of Mad Giant was born, and how this young business man grew his vision of producing craft beer that would have everyone talking…and that he did, indeed.

Where did the idea originate from and how did it all begin?

“Mad Giant was born from the desire to conquer the world and to take chances with no fear of the outcome.” When I first wrote this slogan I had no idea what was in store for us, I literally had no idea what the outcome would be or that we would be here today.

This is better than I could’ve imagined but also a lot harder to get to than I anticipated. At times I asked myself “are you still sure about this”? The answer always was, I quit my job and I’m too proud to go beg for it back.

When I went to university I made myself a promise. Work towards something that will get you to jump out of bed on a Monday morning, excited to get on with it. Something that makes you lose track of time when you’re at it. And this is it.

I first started brewing in my final year as a chemical engineer undergrad when I built a 50L brewery for the university. I fell in love with the process and science behind beer.

Mad Giant, before it had a name, started while mountain biking one morning with my friend Graham over the rolling hills of the highveld town Secunda. The air was unusually fresh, the morning crisp and life was good. Craft beer has not reached Secunda yet so I constantly imported some through The League of Beers and then tried to convince my new found friends to try it out.

It was because of this that Graham on that morning asked me what I needed to start a brewery. I immediately told him that we don’t have enough money. More than what the 2 of us had in savings anyway. In December 2013 when things quieted down at work we decided we are going to do it. I had a makeshift business plan and decided
that we should spend the money on branding, some trial brews in the garage and then find a brewery with spare capacity. And that is what we did.

We launched Mad Giant on 21 June 2014 and the first beer went to market end of July 2014. After bottling that first batch by hand for 2 days straight I drove past our first customer, John Pienaar to deliver a case. I was exhausted but excited. The journey had begun.

How did you end up in your premises at 1 Foxx Street?

We very soon realised that we needed to expand and started the search for our new home. My dream was to make Mad Giant a destination. A place where people can get close to the process and see the action.

Due to very specific zoning and utility requirements it took a while before we found this gem in the heart of JHB. This is the oldest part of town where miners set up shop to chase their dreams of gold at the end of the 19th century.

It is here that we decided to continue our promise of brewing bold beer. Where the focus is to brew authentic unadulterated full of flavour beer. We don’t think people should take beer seriously but we do. We care about the details and every step of the process. This is where we make mad science happen.

Mad Giant hopes to inspire the little guy that is crazy enough to pursue his massive dream. The yeti is our symbol of the dream. A bit awkward, a bit scary, a bit unrealistic but always with one eye on the prize.

What are some of the processes and challenges around the business?

Brewing requires specialised equipment, quality raw materials and the expertise to brew beer of quality. Challenges we encountered are:
• Expertise & experience (There are very few trained brewers in SA)
• Cash Flow & Capital. It is a very capital intensive business.
• Sales & Distribution. It is a young industry but massive competition to get the attention of the consumer and shelf space.

What are some lessons learnt and experienced?

It is so important to find people who are as passionate about it as you are, and to build a great team – there are some amazing human beings around us.

The focus is the product and the brand not the money, and that often times things do go wrong, make peace with it and move forward.

Where to now – the way forward and the future

We are focusing at growing our footprint into Gauteng & Durban before we focus on other regions, as well as continuing to improve on all fronts (sales, brewing, marketing, customers)

We would love to become the most loved beer brand in SA, and of course keep inspiring others to pursue crazy dreams.

What is your most popular quote or saying?

There are two – Be grateful but never satisfied and of course the Mad Giant slogan – Dare to Conquer.

Find out more about Mad Giant on their website here

For similar articles on People of Joburg that are changing the face of our city – click here

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