Cheers to Women, the Original Beer Brewers

·2 min read

These days, the world of beer is almost entirely dominated by men. But for the majority of the time that humans have been partaking in the drink, it's actually been made by women.

And we've been drinking beer for a long time—almost 7,000 years in fact.

According to the National Women's History Museum, documentation of women's involvement in brewing beer exists from as far back as 4,000 years ago. That's because until the 1500s, brewing was seen as just another domestic task, A.K.A. women's work.

A fascinating article in The Conversation explains how that changed when the Reformation took hold in Europe, launching what writer Laken Brooks describes as "smear campaign" against female brewers who had the audacity to use their skills as a way to earn money.

Amidst a religious movement that encouraged stricter gender norms and was fixated on witchcraft, the women selling beer at the market were no longer craftspeople, they were witches.

The parallels between these female brewers and modern witches are uncanny.

"Much of the iconography we associate with witches today, from the pointy hat to the broom, may have emerged from their connection to female brewers," explains Brooks.

The women wore tall, pointy hats so they were easy to spot in crowded marketplaces and transported their product in cauldrons. They even kept cats around to protect the grain from mice.

At a time when accusations of witchcraft were often punished with death, brewing beer simply became too dangerous for women. By the turn of the 20th century, men dominated the beer industry.

"Beer became known as a man's beverage because it was made by men," Teri Fahrendorf, a brewmaster and founder of the Pink Boots Society, an organization for women in the beer industry, told HuffPost. "The teamwork that had existed earlier in beer [production] went away, and women had a new image: demure, virginal, married. Suddenly it was maybe not so ladylike to have a beer."

Fortunately, thanks in large part to the work of people like Fahrendorf, women are returning to brewing.

"Minds are changing, like in any industry," Ann V. Reilly, events and promotions coordinator at Five Boroughs Brewing Co, told HuffPost. "We had a taproom employee who is a woman, 5 feet tall and very slight but can easily lift a bag of grain like anyone else. Beer is for everyone; it doesn't matter your background. We need to let go of stereotypes."