Top female brewers in the UK

From sommeliers, marketeers, writers, retailers and brewery owners, the UK beer industry is home to a large group of passionate women. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’ve rounded up some of the top female brewers, or brewsters, making their mark.

Women’s involvement with beer dates back millennia. Throughout the 9,000-year history of fermented drinks, archaeologists and historians have charted the role of women, both in the production and sale of beer.

In Medieval Britain, it was women that took charge of the production of beer, both for consumption within the home and for commercial sale. Referred to as alewives, brewesses or brewsters, brewing gave women a relatively lucrative financial means of supporting themselves in an age when they enjoyed neither the cultural nor legal standing of men. As brewing gradually became commercialised following the first major outbreak of the plague in 1347–50, the industry started to narrow and women were increasingly marginalised as the guilds took hold.

The presence of women in beer is evident in word etymology. The first written mention of the world ‘alewife’ is recorded in England in 1393, while historian Judith M. Bennett, author of Ale, Beer and Brewsters in England: Women’s Work in a Changing World, 1300–1600 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), notes how the term ‘brewster’ has disappeared from contemporary English when once it was a term that specifically referred to a female brewer.

Fast forward to 2019, with groups such as Women on Tap and Ladies that Beer, and initiatives such as International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, today’s brewsters and female beer drinkers are celebrating women’s involvement in the industry.

Brewhouse and Kitchen marketing manager Gail Bunn said that she’s seen a rise in the number of women entering the industry and believes the changing attitudes in society are key reason for the change.

She said: “Women have greater ability to distinguish between high numbers of aromas and flavours, which is key to success in craft brewing. Along with this, beer companies are more aware of the importance of female beer drinkers and women now feel more comfortable to drink beer, attend pubs and contribute to the growth of the industry. We’re seeing this reflected in both our customers base and growth of women participating in our Brewing Academy, which fosters successful careers in brewing.”

“On International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate women’s contributions to the industry, encourage new ladies to consider the trade by introducing them to the brewing process, but most of all to just make the wonderful world of craft beer more approachable to women, and to encourage women to enjoy the wealth of styles and flavours available.”

Take a look at our round-up of female brewers paving the way in the UK. 

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