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: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10778407
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
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.”