It was just moments after I finished an IPA tour at the Great American Beer Festival with Julia Herz, the Craft Beer Program director for the Brewers Association. “Women drinking beer!” one guys said, pointing up to the “womenenjoyingbeer.com” booth. Two of his male friends gave a laughing grunt, and one took out his phone to capture the moment for re-telling.
The idea of women in the beer world is often parodied and, occasionally, openly mocked. But why?
The oldest known record of beer brewing comes from Ancient Egypt, where beer was made and sold almost entirely by women. After the colonization of America, women were the family brewers, crafting rich beers from corn, pumpkins, artichokes, oats, wheat, honey, and molasses. Settlers of the colonies drank large quantities of beer as a nutritional break from a diet based largely of salted, smoked and dried meats. Beer was such a staple that there was even something called “bride-ale,” a beer brewed and sold during weddings with all proceeds going to the bride, and “groaning” beer, which was consumed during and after labor by the midwives and mothers.
But as we shifted from an agricultural-based to an industrial-based economy, beer brewing left the privacy of the home and became another commercial, large-scale product run almost entirely by men. At the same time, the variety of beer available became more limited and actually caused most of the unique regional beers that had been developed over centuries to become extinct.