Raising a glass: 10 women in beer

Gone are the days when ordering a beer might be deemed unfeminine. Today, women are working on the frontline of beer, helping to broaden its appeal and fight unwanted and outdated stereotypes that beer is a “man’s drink”.

for_the_love_of_beerFor many, simply having to point that fact out is frustrating in itself. Of course it’s not only a man’s drink. However the fact is that the industry, at least in modern memory, has been dominated by men, particularly within larger brewing operations. Today, women are becoming increasingly present within the industry, having long played a key, albeit discreet, role in the development of the industry.

In fact it was women who were at the very heart of the beginning of beer, with stone tablets excavated from Mesopotamia suggesting that the majority of ancient brewers were women. The Code of Hammurabi (c.1700 BCE) indicates that “tavern-keepers”, who were likely producing the beer they sold, were women, with the task considered to be a domestic chore.

Egyptian art also depicts women brewing. The Greeks typically viewed wine as a man’s beverage while beer was viewed as effeminate with the Romans inheriting this prejudice. During the Medieval period, women were the primary producers of beer across much of Europe; their roles detailed in literature and civic documents and it was during this period that female brewers picked up the title tag names “brewster”, “alewife” or “brewess”. An alewife, a term used throughout England in the 15th century, is typically “a woman who keeps an alehouse”, but the term “brewster” was interchangeable and commonly referred to any woman who brewed and sold ale. As brewing became an increasingly professional and less domestic duty, brewsters began to disappear through the 17th and into the 18th century.

Today that trend is, thankfully, once again in reverse with women taking the helm of a number of breweries and top positions within the industry. While the following list is not extensive, it serves to give an insight into the growing number of women working within the beer industry, and those that shaped its beginnings.
Click through for a look at some of the women in history that have helped shaped the world of beer, as well as a selection of the women working on the front line of beer brewing and branding today. 
Women turn out in large numbers, some carrying placards reading "We want beer," for the anti prohibition parade and demonstration in Newark, N.J., Oct. 28, 1932. More than 20,000 people took part in the mass demad for the repeal of the 18th Ammendment. (AP Photo)

Women taking part in the anti prohibition parade in Newark, New Jersey, in 1932.

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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