The History of Men, Women, and Beer

I recently ran across an article from the New Zealand Herold reporting that a woman, Rachel Beer (yes, that’s her real name), was barred from a beer brewing competition in Queenstown, New Zealand.  Here is a link to the article:

Why was she barred from the competition?  Because the competition was a “blokes only” contest.  It was actually against the rules for women to compete in the competition.  This of course had me all steamed up because my household is a very beer brewing friendly home.  We love to try new beers and we watch every beer brewing show on the History channel.  Now what’s funny about this woman being banned from the competition is the fact that when the beer fermentation process was originally found, it was found and shared by women.  Historians speculate that oats (most likely some sort of barley) that had been more than likely gathered by women, had been left in a basket and it rained.  When the basket was opened, the oats had begun to ferment and they realized that the liquid that came from the basket had mind altering qualities.  Of course the alcohol content in these early stages was very low, but in a society that had never had this substance before, it was fairly profound.

Slideshow photos: 1. Babylonian tablet depicting grains and beer vessels 2. Sumerian tablet accounting for beer consumption 3. Painting of Egyptian women brewing 4. Egyptian statue of woman brewing beer 5. Mexican painting of women brewing near the home 6. Brewing pots outside a Mexican home 7. European woman brewing in the home 8. Rendering of women brewing 9. Photo of women brewing and tasting the beer 10. Monks enjoying several brews 11. Grumpy Monk label 12. Poor Richard’s Ale label 13. Samuel Adams label 14. Owner and master brewer of Dogfish Head brewing company 15. Picture of a German beer girl 16. What women are seen as in the brewing world today

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This practice was found in Egyptian culture and can be found on Sumerian and Babylonian tablets, accounting for the number of pots of beer they had given to workers or sold.  Historians speculate that Egyptians had actually given beer as compensation to the workers building the great palaces, monuments, and pyramids.

Beer was made in the home by women more often than not.  There are many depictions on women leaned over pots, straining the oats and gathering the fermented liquid.  It was also found in Mayan and Aztec cultures as well.  In later years, paintings show Mexican women engaged in the brewing process as well.  On the history channel, they talked about how women in one Mexican village would hang flowers outside the door of their home when the beer was ready for consumption.  And depending on how fresh the flowers were outside, that would basically tell a person how fresh the beer was.

But as with many other things, the brewing process over time was taken over by men.  Monks were said to have made very good beer, most famous in Germany for the hops that they used for flavor.  It became unthinkable for a woman to have anything to do with brewing alcohol.  I think that stigma still exists.  Especially after reading the article in New Zealand.  Today, women have basically been reduced to “beer girls”- the one’s serving the beer rather than making it.  One of the women in the article has a great quote that I whole heartedly agree with.

“Ms Sheen, who has been brewing professionally for almost five years, said if a woman could lift a bag of malt, there was nothing stopping her making her own brew.”


About jenahmoody

I am a wife and mother. I am a former Fire Controlman in the US Navy. I am a Criminal Justice major at Old Dominion University. I love to cook and watch movies with my family.
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3 Responses to The History of Men, Women, and Beer

  1. Jenah, is Rachel Beer the first woman in history to try to join this competition because it sounds like they never really considered that a woman would want to compete so the “Blokes Only” rule just kind of lived on. I suppose the rule itself is intimidating and may seem unwavering to those who may have been interested in the past. In today’s world the rule should be changed to “Blokes and Birds” since “Blokes Only” is blatantly sexist. I hope that Rachel gets to compete in the near future to see if she will give those guys a run for their money. (or beer in this case) Your slideshow has inspired me to research brewing my own beer. Until then though, bottoms up!

    • jenahmoody says:

      Well according to the article, the owner didn’t comment much but what he did say was that the rule would not be changed unless there was a formal complaint filed and Rachel reported said that she had no intention of filing a complaint. It was the principle of the thing apparently. But I was a little disapointed that she chose not to challenge them. The owner said that they might consider having a seperate competition for females or one for men and women but I got the impression that it would be a seperate competition. Which again, kinda defeats the point… I don’t know if you read the article but I liked the part where she pointed out that men were allowed to compete in the baking competition. How is that fair?

  2. myykallbee says:

    I agree with Jenah on the baking part, thats so not fair. Its a bit ridiculous how sexist the world really is, and its even more ridiculous how so many men are in denial to the fact of it. There have been too many times that i’ve had a conversation about sexism with my guy friends and pointed out examples in the world today that support how real it actually is, and received the response ” thats just how it is!” Men are always trying to speak for us…like saying that women wouldn’t be interested in an alcohol brewing contest when as you pointed out in your post, they’ve been doing it for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Its so frustrating. It will really be the day when men ( and I dont speak for all of you) start asking us how we feel about things rather than coming to their own conclusions based on stereotypes and gendered ideas of whats considered “masculine” and “feminine”. Not fair.

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