Beer: Women Brewers & Aspirations

beer and women brewersJane Austen brewed beer when she wasn’t busy writing novels.

Men dominate brewing now and the industry has had something of a beard-and-cardigan image, but in Austen’s day it was part of her household duties and had been women’s work for thousands of years.

But female brewers, or brewsters as they are traditionally known, are said to be on the rise again and are being credited with helping reinvigorate the beer industry.

There is no official figure for how many women currently brew professionally but you don’t have to look hard to find them.

Brewer of the Year in 2013, awarded by the British Guild of Beer Writers. Sara Barton, who owns and runs Brewster’s Brewery in Lincolnshire, was the first woman to win the award in its 20-year history.

Women brewers opening their own businesses are also helping to drive a boom in the number of breweries in the UK, says Roger Protz, editor of the 2014 Good Beer Guide. A record-breaking 197 breweries opened last year, according to its figures. The total number in the UK has hit a 70-year high of 1,147.

More and more women are setting up their own breweries and becoming head brewers at well-established ones,” he says. “Their influence is really growing in the industry, just look at Emma Gilleland. It’s exciting to see.”

Brewing is coming full circle, say historians. The earliest evidence of beer in Britain dates back roughly 4,000 years and women were the primary brewers from the start, says Jane Peyton, alcohol historian and author of Beer O’Clock: Craft, Cask and Culture.

Beer was food and food preparation was the domain of females. Ale was traditionally made in the home and brewed for the family. It was part of the daily diet for everyone – children included. It provided nutrition and was a safe source of drinking water. Anything left over was usually sold, often providing a valuable income for households.”

Jane Austen the brewer

Women BrewersIt is a truth that should be universally acknowledged – Jane Austen not only drank beer but brewed it too.

As a teenager she would have learned how to make beer by helping her mother in the Hampshire vicarage where she grew up.

Brewing was part of household duties and even the women of genteel 18th Century families such as the Austens would know how to do it, even if the chores were sometimes delegated to domestic staff.

In a letter to her sister Cassandra, Jane wrote ‘…. and I that have the great cask, for we are brewing spruce beer again…. ‘

As in most houses small beer (low alcohol) was served at the Austen dining table as a safe source of drinking water for all members of the family – children too – so Jane would certainly have tasted the results of her labour.

Read More…

Read more of this excellent article on the BBC News Magazine: