Strong Women & Strong Beer
Women were the first brewers – they were the first to harness the power of fermentation… during our species’ cultural transition from hunters and gatherers to a more agrarian model, brewing was considered “women’s work”. In the anthropological context, it is important to note that fermented grains steeped in water were a consistent and safe source of water… something that helped in our cultural evolution to more “civilized” societies. In fact, the Sumerian goddess – Ninkasi – is credited with the creation of beer and the oldest known beer recipe is inscribed on a stone tablet in the poem “A Hymn to Ninkasi” dating back to 1800 BC!
In the fascinating story of beer’s first beginnings, “Fermenting Revolution” author Christopher O’Brien, delves into the origins of brewing and describes the mastery that women had in the creation of beer for early civilizations. According to O’Brien, men were not even permitted to brew and, in some cultures, women ran the beer halls and taverns almost exclusively. Brewing accorded women a substantial amount of influence in those societies and beer was an important source of sustenance for the family. It’s a fascinating story – one of the empowerment of women through the power of brewing and the appreciation of locally crafted beer that was safe and nutritious.
Later, when the economic profitability of fermentation became more prominent, brewing became more of a male-dominated craft with monasteries becoming focal points of beer production. For many people in today’s culture, brewing is still considered a male-dominated industry. But we know better…
There are many women in leadership roles in the brewing world and the North Shore Craft Beer Scene is a glowing example of this resurgence. Social clubs focused on the art and business of craft beer have sprung up across the United States… the Twin Ports, for example, has Chapter of Barley’s Angels which organizes social and educational events on the local craft beer scene.
On the brewery tour side of things, we’ve seen a nearly 50/50 split in women and men and there are many in the craft beer industry looking at women as a new market… but there’s more to it than that. There is a deep historical connection between women and beer and women are an important part of today’s craft beer community – especially here in Northern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin. We are blessed with a vibrant and innovative craft beer culture – a culture that doesn’t discriminate based on sex. It’s an inclusive community with members judged only by their passion to create delicious beer and run great local businesses. We’ve got great people making great beer and yeah… some of them happen to be women.