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The mystery in Keroche’s history

By Julie Masiga | Feb 4th 2014 | 2 min read
By Julie Masiga | February 4th 2014

By Julie Masiga

Kenya: There was a time when it was impossible to imagine that beer could be brewed anywhere other than EABL. They were our designated brewers, and no one dared jostle with them for the car keys.

But then a new kid on the block crashed the party and not only wrested the keys from the East African brewing giant, but also took the wheel in several, key beer-drinking markets.

These days everyone recognises the Summit brand, whether they are partial to it or not. It stands tall among the beer drinking masses, just as its name suggests.

But the johnny-come-lately that pushed EABL off the proverbial perch did not launch with lager. It started with fortified wines that were priced for the low-end segment of the market, a segment that had been largely ignored.

Fortified wines aren’t sexy like, well, regular wine, or a staple like beer. So it’s no surprise that the industry big boys were turning their noses up. Who needs cheap liquor when you can sell expensive beers, whiskeys and what nots?

Well, apparently the consumers did, and that’s how Keroche Breweries made a killing. Their journey to the launch of Summit Lager (and later Summit Malt) was not without its hurdles. But under the persevering management of Mrs Tabitha Karanja, the woman at the helm of Kenya’s first locally owned brewing company, they have risen from the humblest of beginnings to become a force to be reckoned with.

That’s almost the stuff of legend, and they should be congratulated.

But one niggling question remains — what does the name Keroche mean? And why hasn’t any journalist asked that question before?

Well, it could be because the answer is not forthcoming.

Several calls to various Keroche employees came up empty. When we finally bit the bullet and called Mrs Karanja herself, she laughed — in a “What kind of question is that?” way — and promised to call us back. She hasn’t yet.

Thankfully, I think I may have workable theory.

By the sound of it, Keroche could be derived from the vernacular. But then, which vernacular? Kisii, maybe? Suba? Pokot? Maasai? The name doesn’t sound particularly Kikuyu-ish. Perhaps Mrs Karanja is of mixed ethnicity? On account of all these unanswered questions, I discarded the vernacular theory.

It is, therefore, my considered opinion that KEROCHE is an acronym of some sort. Maybe the letters stand for a mantra that she repeats every day. Perhaps they stand for the makes of all her cars. Most likely though, they stand for the names of her children in some way or other. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

However, I welcome any clarifications from the brewery. Either way, the name has not stood in the way of the company’s success.

What business name confounds you? Email [email protected]

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