Ditch the idea of brewing being a bearded-boys’ club; women are rejoining the industry that was originally birthed by them, says Lou Treseder of Driftwood Spars in St Agnes
Women brewing (and drinking) beer may seem like a modern phenomenon, but brewsters, brewesses and alewives (all medieval terms for female brewers) were, apparently, killing it decades ago.
‘The Brontë sisters were said to have brewed beer for their household,’ cites Lou. ‘And in Cornwall, widowed women, whose front rooms became known as kiddlywinks, made beer to sell to miners who would pop in for a pint on their way home.’
Ale, for both domestic and commercial use, was mostly brewed by women right up until the industrial revolution. It was only when production moved from the home to the factory that men, with their financial and cultural resources, became involved in the expanding market.
‘Interestingly, today we’re back full circle with increasing numbers of women spearheading the beer trade as brewers, managing directors, beer promoters, writers, sommeliers, lab workers and brewery owners,’ says Lou.
‘Women are represented throughout the industry but it’s still dominated by men, which is why events like International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day (IWCBD), held on March 8 (to coincide with International Women’s Day), are so important. The event started in 2014 when 60 female brewmasters around the world simultaneously brewed the same recipe.
‘Similarly, Project Venue was set up in 2011 by Sara Barton from Brewmasters Brewery to encourage women to collaborate in brewing.’
And it’s not just in the workplace that women are making a comeback:
‘In 2019 there were 1.3 million British women routinely drinking ale, compared to just 600,000 a few years ago,’ adds Lou. ‘I’d like to encourage women to give beer a chance and even consider joining this delicious and dynamic industry.’