It's unknown whether these homebrewers went for insanely hoppy IPAs too
March 13, 2014 12:12 PM   Subscribe

"As an important part of daily nourishment, women had always produced beer at home and for their own household. However, in Holland from the beginning of the thirteenth century beer production for the general market commenced. In the developing cities more and more labour was divided among specialised craftsmen. Professional breweries were established and the beer industry became a serious trade." -- female brewers in Holland and England, a paper by Marjolien van Dekken looking at how the brewery industry changed in Early Modern Times from largely homebrewed and controlled by women to a more large scale and male dominated industry.

The full article is available as a Word document. It’s part of a project that looks at women’s work in the early modern period:
Foreign travellers who visited the Dutch Republic in the early modern period were impressed by the remarkable prominence of Dutch women in public places. Dutch women were reportedly independent and capable entrepreneurs, conducting business either in their own name, or that of their absent spouses. To what extent these frequently repeated observations reflect historical reality is still not clear. There is evidence that the economic success of the Dutch Republic is reflected in the position of women on the labour market. Two opposite hypotheses can be formulated. According to some historians female labour market participation in the Dutch Republic was lower than in neighboring countries. The economic prosperity and the high standard of living enabled the practical realization of the ideal of domesticity. Many women could afford not to work, and withdrew from the labour market as early as in the seventeenth century. According to the second, opposite hypothesis female labour market participation in the Dutch Republic was higher than elsewhere. Dutch gender norms were not very strict, women performed paid work on a large scale, and thus contributed to the increase of income and the standard of living and to the economic success of the Dutch Republic.
posted by MartinWisse (10 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
It's unknown whether these homebrewers went for insanely hoppy IPAs too

Most likely the would have flavored their beer with what is called gruit. That is, a mixture of various herbs, often local, and usually particular to the taste of the individual brewer.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:57 PM on March 13, 2014

After learning about this general phenomenon in college, I started describing it as, "After learning their brewing trade from women, some guys got together and stated a brewing trade union, and the first rule of brewing trade union was no ladies in brewing trade unions."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:00 PM on March 13, 2014 [13 favorites]

Most likely the would have flavored their beer with what is called gruit.

Good point. There's actually been a mini revival of this style of beer, showcased at the Borefts beer festival last year. Quite interesting to drink.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:16 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you for posting this!

I learned about the history of women in brewing when a friend (I think someone from our local homebrew club?) shared this book: Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England.

Interesting that homebrew culture in the US today appears to be male dominated, sort of the way grilling is "man cooking" and kitchen-based cooking (and especially baking) is still predominantly "woman cooking."

see also:
A very brief history of women in beer...
posted by turtlegirl at 1:21 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

[Work in progress, please do not quote]

With the exception of one of the team froods around here, all the brewers I know are women.
posted by tilde at 1:22 PM on March 13, 2014

Makes me want to look into the historical documentation of how many *Jewish* women were in the beverage production and distribution trades. I do know that distilling was close to a Jewish monopoly in Partition Poland, Hungary, and Western Russia from about the 17th through mid-19th centuries. For that matter, Jews were involved in the 18th and 19th century distilling trades in the US (including many famous southeastern whiskies and bourbons).
And I'm a winemaker and distiller myself; IME winemaking is about 50/50 genderwise, but beverage distilling seems a boy's game. I'm the only female booze distiller I know.
posted by Dreidl at 1:43 PM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

It is very strange how "male" the modern hobby/profession is. I'm a member of the AHA Governing Committee and it's been a tough nut to crack. We're pursuing various angles of promotion and involvement because it's a better hobby if the diversity is increased. The hard part for me as a dude with a beard is how to approach it without pulling the classic "pink"-washing that annoys everyone.

Besides, we need to make the dude's without beards feel more comfortable in the hobby! :)
posted by drewbage1847 at 2:05 PM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Last time I was in Amsterdam, I stepped into a museum space to get out of the rain and saw a fascinating little exhibition on the role that beer brewing had played on the development of the city. I was really surprised at how big the role of women was.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:39 PM on March 13, 2014

As a woman who homebrews, I'm surprised it hasn't caught on among women like baking. I feel like they are fairly similar - the pride in making for yourself something that is commonly bought, learning new skills, lots of options in terms of difficulty, intricacy and dollar investment.
posted by jeoc at 7:52 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not a super-beer person, but my husband has taken up homebrewing and I've given him a little help in the cooking/chemistry part of it. Honestly, the realization that homebrewing beer was a traditional woman's job makes me want to take a larger part in it, even though I'm not the primary customer for the product. I bet I'd be really good at putting together interesting flavor profiles--he's been sticking mostly to known recipes or kits up to now, but I'm a very good scratch cook/baker with a good sense of flavor.
posted by padraigin at 8:34 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older In war, not everyone is a soldier.   |   "In a world..." Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments