History of Women and Brewing

By Get Tripsy Travel

The history of women and brewing beer spans back thousands of years, with evidence suggesting that women were the original brewers in many early civilizations. Brewing was often considered a domestic task, and women were primarily responsible for preparing food and beverages, including beer.

One of the earliest known civilizations to have a strong association between women and beer brewing is ancient Sumeria, which existed around 1800 BCE in what is now modern-day Iraq. Sumerian women, known as “brewsters” or “alewives,” played a crucial role in brewing beer for their households and local communities. Brewing was seen as a sacred act, closely tied to religious practices, and even had a goddess of beer named Ninkasi.

Moving forward to medieval Europe, brewing beer remained a part of a woman’s household duties. Alewives, as they were called, were common figures in villages and towns. They brewed beer for their families and also sold the surplus to earn income. In fact, the beer brewed by these women was known as “ale,” and it held a vital position in social and economic life during that time.

However, as the commercial brewing industry developed in the 14th and 15th centuries, brewing became more regulated and professionalized. Guilds and regulations emerged, which resulted in the exclusion of women from commercial brewing. The industry became male-dominated, and women were gradually marginalized to the roles of serving and consuming the beverage.

This exclusion persisted through the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent growth of large-scale brewing operations. Brewing became increasingly mechanized and centralized, making it difficult for women to participate in the professional brewing world. However, it’s important to note that women’s involvement in brewing continued on a smaller scale, particularly in rural areas and within homebrewing traditions.

In recent decades, there has been a notable resurgence of women in the brewing industry, largely driven by the craft beer movement. This movement, which gained momentum in the late 20th century, opened up opportunities for women to reclaim their historical connection to brewing. Women have emerged as brewers, brewery owners, beer judges, and industry leaders, challenging gender stereotypes and making significant contributions to the brewing landscape.

Today, there are numerous organizations and initiatives dedicated to supporting and empowering women in brewing. The Pink Boots Society, for example, is an international association of women beer professionals that provides education, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Collaboration brews, beer festivals, and women-focused events further celebrate women’s contributions to the industry and highlight their skills and expertise.

The history of women and brewing beer showcases their integral role in the development of brewing traditions and their ongoing impact on the world of beer. While women have faced exclusion and marginalization at certain points in history, their influence has endured. Today, women continue to shape and redefine the brewing industry, bringing diverse perspectives and flavors to the forefront.

This article was written with research from the following sources, if you want more information check out A Mighty Girl Staff Article: Women Used to Dominate the Beer Industry: Until the Accusations Started Pouring In and Women and Beer: A Forgotten Pairing published by the National Women’s History Museum.

Thats all folks. Thanks for reading.  

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