Maybe it’s the January heat but good watering holes in this city are proving to be elusive and decent ones seem to be spreading thin leaving eager gents with a dry throat no option but to settle for second best.
So I weave myself through Nairobi’s hellish traffic, in between honking cars and unruly boda riders you can smell the frustration of Kenyans faces as they shuffle through the streets dodging laid out piles of clothes by the side walk, all rushing to get home. In this medley of confusion, they could be thinking about their kids. Are they back from school? They could be thinking about what to eat when they get home. Or possibly imagining if their better half had a better day. There’s definitely someone in that cocktail of their thoughts cussing at Brian from finance cause that advance request was declined. This city is a cacophony of problems and to each, their own.
My destination is Westlands. I’m not new to the place. It’s a city within a city where all dark secrets stick to the walls waiting for dusk so they can snake out and whisper all manner of hedonistic indiscretions. The assignment is The Kraft. I’ve been here before but with zero intentions, other than downing a cold one. It was new. A friend knew a friend of another friend and we got an invite for its prelaunch. Pretty much how anything gets done in this city. Knowing people. But this time round I want to experience the place. Sit down and explore its personality. Have an intimate conversation with its ambiance and find out what makes it tick.
After navigating the CBD and finding myself sandwiched between a man carrying a huge ass duvet, reeking of cheap alley liquor (the man not the duvet) and the kawaida perennial urban female in a pant suit possibly from crunching numbers behind a desk she hates for a boss she equally hates, I find my way to Westlands.
The Kraft is on the first floor of Fortis Tower. Take the stairs. It won’t hurt. From the outside there’s barely any life breathing out of the balcony. But it’s early so you never know. You can see the heads of the balcony plants peeking at you. I suspect they are young bamboo shoots, but I will leave that to the potato and plant experts. The wind is waving their pointy shoots as if in a welcoming beckon or maybe a sign for help. We all know the balcony is set aside for those that fancy a cigarette; there’s nothing calming about a breeze that seeps through your jacket and attacks your chest.
Remember the stairs? I took them. They’re not long or unwinding. Nothing really memorable about them but faster than waiting for an elevator just to get one floor up. I’ve never understood people who do that. What goes through their heads? If anything at all goes through their heads. It’s just one flight of stairs plus you’ll get in your steps for the day if you’re one of those people. In the process save those going higher up a few precious seconds of embarking and disembarking. I digress. One flight up and you can hear some music snake out into the staircase. Not loud. Not inviting either. It’s the kind of music that’s nonchalant—come in if you want, don’t if you don’t want. On the surface that sounds like a bad thing, but it’s not. After a rough day you want that kind of nonchalance to embrace you. It’s the kind that understands and gives you a subtle nod to reassure you while it goes on about its business.
“I ask for a glass, intentionally forget asking about the price because it’s not the kind of place you ask about price. You just let it shock you like second semester exam results.”
Inside is just as the outside had promised. Empty. Like most of our wallets at this time of the month. The music sort of gives you an acknowledging smile. The kind of smile that warms your ears and shows its happy you decided to come in after all. The lonely plants on the balcony do a little jig. Or they don’t. Might just be the wind. Now here’s one thing I love about empty spaces on a weekday: they’re serene. They let you walk in drop all the hubbub at the door, take your guard down like a coat concierge service and usher you into an environment where you can forget about mundane things like how much gas is left in the house or the price of cooking oil. You secretly hope the evening stays the same keeping you in that comfort zone.
Allow me to drift a bit. Usher’s Let it Burn is playing. It got me thinking, how apt it would be if they did a remix with Drake. He he.
Okay now I am back on track. Empty spaces. Means faster service. The moment I take my seat next to this gorgeous bamboo shoot (again not sure if that’s what they are) there’s a wait staff next to me. I fight the urge to ask for a cold white cap cause after all, The Kraft is an artisan brewery. You want to try something different. I ask for their craft menu and I’m disappointed because they don’t have one. But the guys serving me knows his shit and rattles off what they have. I don’t pay much attention, but one thing catches my ear – the sand trap. What drink could accurately capture the current mood of hot weather, dry coffers, and dusty streets like this would? I jump on it. I ask for a glass, intentionally forget asking about the price because it’s not the kind of place you ask about price. You just let it shock you like second semester exam results.
The drink comes. The glass is clean with no streak marks. Carries a healthy mouth of head. With beer bubbles serenading their way to the top. It’s a gorgeous serve. I later learn after posting it that’s it’s a fan’s favorite from 254 Brewery and their best seller. So, hello 254 I am coming soon wink wink. Now, any seasoned beer drinker will tell you it’s either love at first slip or nothing at all. For first timers there’s the whole acquiring taste hullabaloo but once you’re over that hump you’ll always know with the first sip. My first sip was, well, love. I loved it. It strikes the perfect balance as it’s not too bitter and doesn’t boast of any sweetness. Sweet beer is a no. It’s full bodied (don’t know what that means but it is) and goes down easy. However, it’s flavor profile is not the kind that you’d pair with a meal. My advice would be come on a full stomach or eat first while you tango with something sweeter like a daiquiri before jumping onto the beer.
But for some reason I felt cheated. There were six other options I would have loved to try. I ask the wait staff if there was a way I could do it without getting too wasted and breaking bank. To my pleasant surprise I got samples.
Here they are:
Bold an Indian Premium ale. A bit feisty but worth it if you’re looking to experiment.
Muratatu all I can say it is high in ABV and is defined as Muratina that went to private school.
Power Out an Indian Premium Ale as well that leans more into stout flavor and is a draft Guinness. In my opinion.
Power Out as the name suggests might have shares at KPLC.
Golden Rump is close to the Sand Trap. Easily substitutable but way lighter in terms of flavor.
‘ Ni how’ If I got the spelling correct is just that beer that wants to be your friend and start a random conversation. P.S. It’s a lager.
Now I will not tell you what my favorite was but hang in there maybe one day I will write about it. For now, why don’t you try them out yourself.