Women's role in brewing

Boundaries between women and beer are steadily coming apart thanks to a few meaningful awareness campaigns to include women in the brewing process.
HelloRF

For a long time, beer and women are poles apart.

Female friends I know seldom drink beer, even when they are in a mood for drinking alcohol, their drink of choice would be wine, whisky or cocktails. Beer is way down the list.

As a beer lover, I always try to defend the good name of my beloved beverage and that quest led me to probe the reason why some women dislike beer.

The answers they gave are basically twofold. First, it’s not as “sophisticated” or “refined” as wine or cognac. Second, beer in the market offers little aroma or aftertaste; it causes people to burp, and yeah, who wants the dreadful beer belly?

These are all falsehoods, to be honest. Beer is not a “masculine” drink reserved for rugged men, as many may think; the way it is often gulped down doesn’t mean it is just a beverage to quench thirst. And one certainly doesn’t get beer belly from drinking beer, as I can attest myself.

What’s more, the explosive growth of the craft beer market over the years has revealed the finer side of beer: It is far from the simple, cheap drink compared to wine or cocktails.

On the contrary, it’s full of mesmerizing complexity as there are over 100 beer varieties in the world, some even unbeknownst to self-styled beer geeks like myself.

Boundaries between women and beer are steadily coming apart thanks to a few meaningful awareness campaigns to include women in the brewing process.

Female brewers like Winnie Hsu are a rare breed in the hall of fame for brewmasters, but they’ve proven they can be every bit as skilled and innovative as their male counterparts. More women, however, are happy to sit in the backseat and offer advice on how beer can be made to satisfy their palates.

Chicago-based Goose Island Brewery recently partnered with an organization of female entrepreneurs in China called Ladies Who Tech and brewed an IPA (India pale ale) infused with a nitrogen gas. The purpose, according to a company statement, is to “introduce women to the different flavors and how versatile beer can be.”

After beer was discovered by accident in Mesopotamia 7,000 years ago, brewing had been primarily a woman’s job. Women well versed in this art were affectionately referred to as beer muses.

As part of the initiative called “Goose Island Sisterhood,” Fraser Kennedy, chief brewer at Goose Island’s brewhouse in Shanghai, surveyed LWT members about their taste preferences, and developed the recipe for an entry-level IPA that he says is easy to drink and has an interesting mouth feel with the Nitro.

IPA, with its hoppy and bitter taste, sounds like a strange beer style for starters. But this could be a good step toward finding the right beer for the female taste buds. And it makes economic sense, too. Breweries the world over are targeting women as potential consumers. “Knowing your customers” is naturally high on their agenda.

Perhaps campaigns like these will provide the opportunity for women to change their stereotypes about beer and better still, prompt them to homebrew. With the delicateness, sensitivity and attention to details for which they are known, they might brew beers that expand the encyclopedic tomes on the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage. To some extent, women’s bigger role in brewing is essential to reviving a centuries-old tradition.

After beer was discovered by accident in Mesopotamia 7,000 years ago, brewing had been primarily a woman’s job. Women well versed in this art were affectionately referred to as beer muses.

Up until the pre-Industrial Revolution era, brewing was one of the many household chores for married British women, and they boosted family income by trading their surplus brew in the market. The emergence of new techniques and mass production equipment changed that, sidelining female brewers. Their contribution has since been largely forgotten.

But with the rise of craft beer, things might be different. The rich beer varieties mean that everyone can find a beer to their taste. My wife, for one, relishes apple-flavored Belgian Lambic, which is fermented using wild yeast in the air and left to age in a barrel.

For Kennedy of Goose Island, the biggest problem facing brewers like him is to find the taste that is liked by most. He chooses to leave it aside, chuckling and saying, “I think it’s truly impossible for a man to ever know exactly what a woman wants, we just get lucky sometimes!”

Well, he may be right; women are fickle. Only they themselves know what they are looking for, and if they cannot find a product in the market that satisfies their taste, they will invent it, as their forebears did long time ago.

Click here to read related story about Winnie Hsu

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