In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’re taking the opportunity to raise a toast to all the great women in the brewing industry. However, their role within this “manly” industry is not a recent revolution, but actually goes way back.
Let’s start at the beginning of time. Four thousand years ago, in ancient Mesopotamia, women were already brewing beer. There were even several goddesses of beer: the Sumerian Ninkasi and Siris in Mesopotamia and Tenenet in Egypt. Finally, this custom also reached Europe and according to Norse law, for instance, the Viking women were responsible for brewing beer. In Germany as well, the role women played in brewing was deeply ingrained. In fact, it was probably a German nun who first added hop to beer!
Across Europe, brewing used to be one of the domestic duties of a woman but later turned into an opportunity for them to earn money. They started brewing not just for their own family but also for commercial use.
Slowly, however, the brewing duties started to shift towards men as the process became more industrialised. Why? Well, for a start, the rising of monasteries had a big impact. Monks started to brew beer as a profession, becoming quite well known. The Black plague in the 14th and 15th centuries was another turning point. Due to labour shortage after the plague, wages increased and thus the consumption of ales generally increased. Hence, brewing became more commercialised and was taken over by men.
Moreover, the discovery of hops by Sister Hildegard led to an increase of the storability of beer, thereby contributing to the commercialisation of the golden drink and the expansion of breweries.
For a long time, the beer industry was mainly dominated by men. Still today, not only brewing but also drinking beer is often stereotypically considered as a man thing. Nevertheless, women are finding their way back into this fine art, which is becoming a more heterogeneous environment. In the end, it’s all about brewing and enjoying great beer! And it is for this reason that we want to feature some breweries with successful female brewmasters.
Brasserie d’Orval is a Belgian Trappist brewery founded in 1931. In 1992, Anne-Françoise Pypaert joined the brewery as the first female Trappist brewer ever and in 2013 she even became the head master. They only have one beer available for public sale, the Orval, a complex and unique beer, brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, which makes it almost a style in its own. A one-of-a-kind, just like its brew master.
This London based brewery has been around for over 160 years and their London Pride is a real classic. Our absolute favourite, however, is their Honey Dew beer, an organic golden ale with a soft, sweet and slightly bitter taste. Last year, Fuller’s announced that they had a new brew master: Georgina Young. She started at Fuller’s nine years ago as a production brewer and has proven great brewing skills.
Beavertown is another great brewery from London with delicious and very unique beers. They currently have not just one but three female brewers: Lidia De Petris, Charlotte Freeston and Valeria De Petris. Gamma Ray is one of their creations: a very juicy American Pale Ale loaded with mango and grapefruit flavours.
This Dutch brewery, literally called “Brewed by Women”, solely consists of powerful and creative women. Set up in 2013 by the sisters Tessel and Do de Heij from Amsterdam, it all started out as just a hobby. Over the past five years, their team has grown to seven members and their beers have rapidly grown in popularity. We love their Tricky Tripel, a tripel with a sweet appearance and hints of apricot and yellow plum.
From great women to great women, cheers!