For International Women's Day (March 8) this year, we decided to toast all the great women of the beer industry. But their role in brewing is far from recent: in fact, it started many centuries ago...
The History of Women in Brewing
Let's start at the beginning. Four thousand years ago, in ancient Mesopotamia, women were already brewing beer. As legend has it, it all begins when, in a village in modern-day Iraq, a woman abandons a bowl full of barley as a propitiatory gift for the gods. The barley resists the pouring rain and is then heated by the sun and begins to ferment - and the first beer was born! There were also several beer goddesses: the Sumerian Ninkasi, Siris in Mesopotamia and Tenenet in Egypt. This tradition eventually reached Europe where, for example, under Norwegian law, women were responsible for brewing beer. In Germany, women also played an important role in the brewing process - a nun was the first to add hops to beer!
Women were not only producers, but also consumers. Since ancient times, beer has been considered a useful drink during pregnancy. It is no coincidence that among American colonists it was customary, when a woman became pregnant, to produce groaning beer: the "beer of lament", which would be ready for the birth nine months later.
But, as the process of making beer became more industrialized, men started dominating the industry. This can be attributed in part to the growth of abbeys - the monks (who were, of course, all male) started brewing professionally and became quite famous. Due to the shortage of manpower after the plague, which on average halved the European population, wages went up and beer consumption increased dramatically - and naturally, men followed into the profitable industry.
Remember that german nun? Her name was Sister Hildegard, and her discovery of hops led to longer storage times for the beer, which further contributed to the commercialization of the golden drink and the expansion of breweries. What a hero!
For a long time, brewing was dominated by men. Even today, not only producing but also drinking beer is often considered something masculine. But women are finding their way into this noble art form, following in Sister Hildegard's footsteps. That's why we wanted to list some successful breweries below, with women as master brewers, who make some of our favourite beers.