How Allsops and “Rui-Rwa-Aka” (Ruaraka) got their names

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It was the original home of Allsopps Pilsner and White Cap and was built in 1938 by Taylor and Company Brewery.

Taylor and Company Brewery was the main competitor to Kenya Breweries, which had been established in Nairobi’s Ruaraka plains in 1922 by George and Charles Hurst — the two brothers who were initially based in Kitale as farmers.

Allsopps Brewery, as Taylor and Company was later known, was built by a former East African Breweries Limited Managing Director William Taylor — a man who had steered EABL from 1931 to 1938. He had introduced and popularised the Tusker beer into the market.

In 1947, the indigenous Kenyans were allowed to drink and sell bottled beer, thus opening a new market and saving the breweries from bankruptcy after major losses associated with World War II.

The Liquor Ordinance of 1934 was amended by Attorney General J. Basil Hobson. Some of the Africans who entered this market included Njenga Karume, who in 1948 opened a bar in Kiambu. He later became a beer distributor too.

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So broke was East African Breweries that one of the bar jokes of those times was that its flagship Tusker should be renamed “White Elephant” — since it had become difficult to either maintain or dispose of. The White Elephant has remained in the Tusker brand ever since.

In 1951 Mr. Taylor sold his stake in Coope and Allsopp (East Africa) Limited. The new extension of the factory was completed in 1954 – at a time when Allsopps had, together with Schweppes East Africa, started manufacturing soft drinks way before Coca-Cola entered the scene.

During these years, Allsopps started making losses and after recovery in 1961, its chairman H. Travis received a proposal in 1962 from EABL which was seeking to purchase the brewery. Allsopp (East Africa) Ltd was amalgamated with EABL to form the East African Breweries Group.

The river, known as “Rui-Rwa-Aka”, meaning “women’s river”, was reserved for Kikuyu girls during circumcision for its cold-morning anesthetic waters. Ruaraka was the corrupted version of the name.

Courtesy of Museum of Kenyan Architecture.

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