What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day this year than by joining in on the International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day on March 8th. We’ve always celebrated IWD in some way over the past few years, but this will be our first ever women’s brew day featuring all our women staff. In preparation for the day, we wanted to recognize women's long history in brewing and the state of affairs today with the craft beer explosion.
History of Women in Beer
Women were the original brewers. From ancient Egyptian times until medieval Europe, women brewed beer for their families for sustenance, as well as for their businesses. Alewives as they were called in England, brewed beer to sell in their own taverns and at the markets.
Painting of an Alewife – 'Mother Louise' by David Loggan (1634-1692).
However, when beer became bigger business, and was more of an industry, men decided to take over. They didn’t like to see women with a prominent role in society or making their own money. As early as the 13th century, some authorities limited how much women could sell their beer for, as well as how many bushels of ‘oats’ they could buy to brew beer. Good ol’ patriarchy at work.
They even vilified alewives as witches, with their steaming cauldrons, use of mysterious herbs and spices, and cats to keep mice and rats out of their grain. Much of the imagery on witches in modern society comes from women’s role in brewing. Alewives even used to wear tall pointed hats so they could be easily found in the marketplace and kept a broom stick above their door to indicate they had beer for sale.
Witch hunts and the industrialization of beer led to women getting pushed out. The rest is history. Today there are still societal perceptions that beer and brewing is a man’s domain.
Hurray for Craft
Thankfully, the craft beer industry has always been very open and collaborative. The industry has welcomed women, but we still have work to do as a society. Many people don’t realize they have a bias, that they are shocked to hear a women can brew, own a brewery, or enjoy the hoppy-iest IPA or strongest of stouts. Don’t skip over someone on either side of the counter, because they are a woman, they may just happen to know more about beer than you do. Women have become a bigger and bigger part of craft beer - not only as craft beer drinkers, but as bar staff, bar owners, brewery owners, and brewers. Until it becomes even more commonplace to see women in the industry, the societal bias will remain.
Pro-feminist beer ads from our 2018 International Women's Day event.
The numbers still leave something to be desired. Across Canadian brewing schools, women still only make up 15-25% of the enrollment. As for ownership, a US Brewers Association survey from last summer, found that 96% of craft breweries were owned by men. We are lucky at Winterlong to have not only a female co-owner, but also a record number of women working at Winterlong.
Events like International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day help to increase awareness and education so that more women feel welcome in the industry.
About the Beer
The crafty women of Winterlong will be brewing an IPA this Sunday, led by co-owner Meghan. This will be the first time brewing for many of our staff aside from some who have homebrewed, and a great opportunity to get behind the scenes of Winterlong.
The recipe will use the 2020 Pink Boots Hop Blend. The Pink Boots Society is a global non-profit which supports women in the brewing industry. In recent years, the society has partnered with Yakima Chief Hops to put together a hop blend each year. Members from the society select the hops themselves each year and Yakima Chief donates $3 from every pound of the hop blend back to the Pink Boots Society for their scholarships.
Our Witch Craft IPA will be available at the end of the month on tap and in 4-pack cans at the brewery. A portion of proceeds from the beer will be donated to charity. Stay tuned for details and watch our social media channels for photos from the brew day.