How an elephant gave Tusker beer its name

Tusker Bottles
         The famous Tusker beer got its name from an elephant        Photo: Courtesy

By Kenneth Kwama

The first beer to be brewed in a factory in Kenya was produced in 1922 in small copper vessels heated by firewood.

It was bottled by hand and the first order of ten cases personally delivered to the General Manager of the Stanley Hotel.

Although the hotel had just been opened, it was the meeting point for visiting presidents and world-renowned figures. George Hurst, the white settler, who initiated the brewing process, laid the ground for the formation of East African Breweries Ltd (EABL).

Historical accounts indicate that Hurst was a fun loving socialite, who loved hunting. He formed a joint venture with his brother Charles and together they formally registered the company on December 8, 1922.

Unfortunately, Hurst was killed by a charging elephant while on a hunting expedition in 1923. In memory of his tragic death, his brother Charles named the famous lager he had created Tusker.

Not much is known about how Hurst got into the elephant’s way or why he didn’t shoot at it the moment he realised it was charging at him, but he was reputed to be a very daring man- perhaps so daring that he forgot the animals he hunted were wild.

30 per cent

Large male elephants are called ‘tuskers’ and the EABL lager (first brewed in 1929) was named in memory of George’s demise. The company now has breweries in Ruaraka and Mombasa and owns other breweries in Uganda and Tanzania.

Since then, Tusker has grown to become EABL’s main brand and commands over 30 per cent of the Kenyan beer market, selling more than 700,000 hectolitres per year. Tusker is also the largest beer brand in the Diageo group of companies.

The brand was first marketed in 1923, shortly after the death of the founder of the company, George Hurst. It was in this year that the elephant logo, that is synonymous with Tusker Lager, was incorporated.

“Today, Tusker- the beer from the shadow of Kilimanjaro - is known throughout the world. And now, you can enjoy this special international favorite, which is made from equatorial barley and pure spring waters in Kenya,” states online beverage magazine,

According to information posted on, Tusker has two main variants - Tusker Lager and Tusker Malt Lager. Tusker Lager is available in a 330ml can, 500ml Euro bottle and a draught format known as Tusker Keg. Tusker Malt Lager is available in a 300ml green bottle.

According to Superbrands, Tusker has a heavy media presence, which underpins the drinking experience in most of the brand’s activities.

“Most initiatives involve appealing to consumers’ sense of patriotism and the belief in the Tusker heritage as the main benefits of consuming it. This has seen the brand maintain its leadership in East Africa as the biggest in volume and value in the last two decades. In Kenya, it is still the number one brand, commanding a 30 per cent market share in the branded/bottled beer segment.”