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BW Exclusive: Women And Beer, Not A Stereotype Any More

Women and Beer, a stereotype was always attached, but not any more. The idea of Women drinking beer or rather alcohol was always a point of discussion in India. Little did we know that beer was invented by women.

In England and other parts of Europe, ale – and, eventually, beer – was a staple in most households from the Stone Age through the 1700s. Grain could then be consumed at a much cheaper price while being preserved. As a source of carbohydrates and proteins, beer served as a nutritious beverage and was a valuable nutrient for the working class. Fermenting was a normal household task for many women because the beverage was such an essential part of a person’s diet.

Women serving beer in the European Colonies.

Also, since the beginning of recorded history, humans have been drinking beer, and the original brewers were women. From the Vikings to the Egyptians, women brewed beer both for religious ceremonies and to make a practical, calorie-rich beverage for the home. The German nun Hildegard von Bingen wrote about hops in the 12th century and used this ingredient in her beer recipe.

Some enterprising women decided to sell beer by taking this household skill to market. Married women often partnered with their husbands to run their beer businesses, while widows or unmarried women used their fermenting skills to make some extra money.

Women had just begun to take over the beer markets in England, Ireland, and Europe and just then Reformation began. Fundamentalists, who emerged in the early 16th century, advocated stricter gender norms and condemned witchcraft (women brewers were called witches because they wore pointy hats and shoes and brewed using cauldrons). Brewing became increasingly dangerous for women in the long run because it could result in prosecution and even death. However, men noticed an opportunity. Many people, however, believed that women should not make beer as the process needed time and dedication. The more time they could spend at home raising their children would be significant if women weren’t able to brew ale. It was actually made illegal in some towns during the 1500s for women to sell beer, including Chester, England, for fear that young alewives would grow up to become old spinsters. Since then men have dominated the beer industry.

Portrait of an innkeeper known as ‘Mother Louse’; an old woman with pointed chin, smiling serving beer.

If you have observed, you’ll also discover that major beer companies have a tendency to portray beer as a drink for men, until recent times. In the last few years, the world is seeing women get back to the business of beer breaking the gender bias.

India, a country where Alcohol consumption is a social taboo let alone brewing, some men don’t disclose their drinking habits even now, is witnessing the rise of women brewers and drinkers. As a fact they have been drinking strong beers like Stouts, Porters and Belgian Dark Strong Ales. It clearly states that we are moving towards breaking stereotypes, and that could be the best gift for the next generations.

During a recent conversation with Satyam Awasthi, Brewer at The Pumphouse, Bangalore, he happened to mention that per day more than 35 percent of the daily crowd is women and they like to drink IPAs and Biere De Garde. “I love the fact that women love our Stout,” he added.

Cheryl Braggs, Program Manager when asked about her experience with beer said, “When I was younger I would sneak a few quick sips from my father’s/uncle’s mug when they weren’t looking. I distinctly remember not liking the tinge of bitterness that came with every sip. Vowed to myself to never drink beer again. I mean I’m sure everyone would agree that it takes a little while to get accustomed to the taste. Fast forward to my college days and young adulthood, beer became the go-to for social setting and to an extent also the symbol of my rebellious age – To hang out, to kill time when we had free hours in between classes, after watching a football match, after a meal, after an exam, after a tough day at work, after a movie, literally any time of the day – it was beer time!”

“I don’t remember when I started “liking” beer but it’s definitely a drink for all occasions – to beat the heat, for a quick hangout with a friend, makes for a nice conversation starter on a date, is a good peace offering to the dad when he’s mad, a quick work meeting with the boss, you get my drift. I find it makes me feel lighter and leaves me more aware of myself and my surroundings than what I feel when I drink other alcoholic beverages. I enjoy lagers and pilsners, but will chug a stout provided it’s from the breweries I love,” she added.

“Who doesn’t love beer? I suppose I got hooked on this acquired taste roughly about a decade ago. To me beer equates to joy. There need not be a specific occasion or a situation to drink beer. From seasonal beers like mango and fruity to Weise and IPA, I have tried it all.

Personally the stereotype I see is that people frame it with ‘gender’. It need not be a man’s drink all the time. I don’t see why gender is associated with drinking beer,” said Amrutha Kashinath, a biker.

“Toit has always been my go to place for beers and my recent favourite is Seven Rivers. All my travels, especially the motorcycle days end with gulping down beer,” she added.

Panjury Shankar, a restaurateur and a publicist said, “I like beer because it’s very refreshing and has less alcohol content. And definitely goes best with the kind of food I usually eat- south indian food! I have had beers in many countries and my favourite is Oatmeal Stout from Coniston brewery in Lake District, UK. I can also say Guinness is one of my favourite beers.”

“I have been having beers for quite some time now, initially for the high but since my introduction to craft beers I am hooked on to the taste of different beer styles out there,” said Divya, a consumer when asked about drinking beers.

Go get your beers, Women!