Women in Brewing History

They may say it’s’ a man’s world, but the craft beer industry surely wouldn’t be anything without a woman brewing beer. While you may typically walk into a local brewery and see a sea of bearded, tattooed male brewers and beer fans ( we all know at least that “one” guy – has he mentioned to you yet that he can taste the Mosaic/Saaz/whatever hops he surely recognizes in his IPA?), the history of beer resides in the brains and hands of women as far back as 7000 BC. Not only was brewing beer a household task, but many cultures worshipped female deities to protect the creation of their brewers and fertility of their crops. Beer as we know it today, these hop forward creations and the creativity of styles might possibly have never been if not for the women involved in the culture of beer.

The History Behind the Brew
The History Behind the Brew

As the brewing scene changed throughout time, women in the beer community remained ever vigilant in their position to contribute to its culture. Historical documents of beer being made like baking bread like Sumeria in 1800BC, Mesopotamian hymns to Ninkasi sang of their recipes with chewed rice grain, to the abbess St. Hildegard of Bingen discovered the addition of hops to beer for longer consumption and travel possibilities; all these formed stories of beer production with women.

Even when they were barred from alcohol production completely and some even casted them as witch-like creatures brewing grog to lure men to their over-consumptive deaths, tenacious women pursued brewing through other avenues. They shared their knowledge with monasteries, continued as homebrewers for their towns to supply cleaner, drinkable liquids for everyone and chemists for establishments throughout history and into the mid-20th century. In the 1960’s and 70’s they re-claimed their positions as craft brewers and began to open their own all over the world.

Currently, we reside in a mecha of female craft brewers here in Arizona and are surrounded by a wealth of knowledge in the development of brews. Yes, our male counterparts are equal in their exploration of beer styles, their knowledge and passion for quality craft beer production – but can I get a roaring cheers for these women planting their own flag in the dirt, growing their own proverbial brewer’s beard, saying “Fuck yeah, I taste that hop and I know what to do with it!”

Huss, Greenwood, Historic, Borderlands, Mother Road, THAT Brewery, so many female brewers surround us with an extensive amount of knowledge and experience that makes me want to sing my own hymn to the Ninkasi!

Women’s stories in beer are everywhere – “witch’s brew” and those tall pointy hats you see at Halloween are directly pulled from the history of women selling beer in their markets. Next time I grab my favorite local craft beer, crack it open and pour that cup of gorgeousness, I am certainly going to cheer for the women of brewing history and say a great big thank you! Let’s continue to spread a culture of knowledge and exploration among all craft brewers while we nod to history and how far we’ve come…cheers ladies!

Kirby Kemp

“The Crushable Chronicles”

More Posts