Raising a glass: 10 women in beer

The goddess Ninkasi


An image of Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer

Role: Ancient Sumerian goddess of beer

Ninkasi is the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer, and is mentioned in one of the oldest references to beer production ever recorded. Ninkasi herself is credited with bringing forth our ability to ferment, and therefore our ability to produce beer. Written on an ancient tablet The Hymn to Ninkasi was carved into a tablet in Sumeria around 1800 BC, and offers an insight into how beer was made at that time.

The poem is essentially a recipe for brewing beer, which was also known as kash. The recipe explains that grain was converted into bappir bread before fermentation, with grapes and honey then added to the mix. The resulting gruel was drunk unfiltered using staws.

The Hymn to Ninkasi is the oldest record that links the importance of brewing, and the responsibility that women had with regards to supplying both bread and beer to the household. The production of beer at this time was considered a domestic duty and one that women were bound to uphold.

The Ninkasi Brewing Company in Oregon is named after the goddess Ninkasi.

2 Responses to “Raising a glass: 10 women in beer”

  1. Jaco Hamilton-Attwell says:

    I think you missed an important one: Frieda Dehrmann from SAB/Inbev. She was SAB’s Consumer Science and Sensory Manager, but has since moved up the ladder to a position in SABMiller UK, but I am not sure what her new title is.

  2. “it was a German nun in the early 17th century that was the first to discover that adding hops to beer radically increased its shelf life” Even ignoring “early in the 17th century” when you mean “some time in the 12th century” this is total nonsense: there is no evidence whatsoever that Hildegarde was the first person to discover this. She was the first person known to have written about it: but that’s a very different matter. And in any case, you don’t increase the shelf life of beer merely by adding hops to it: you have to boil the hops in the wort for it to work.

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