In fact, there is strong evidence to suggest that women invented beer: admittedly its origins, thousands of years ago, are as hazy as an unfiltered IPA, but women brewed almost exclusively in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, where the Sumerians were so devoted to beer it had its own goddess, Ninkasi. The same was true in Norse society, while in Medieval England women brewers – “brewsters” – and alewives ran the ale trade.
Women’s involvement in brewing largely came to an end with industrialisation, and from that grew modern misconceptions about their taste, brewing skill and ability. But that has changed dramatically in recent years – helped, to an extent, by the rise of microbreweries and their culture of small-batch, artisan brews.
Now women are emerging as leaders in the beer industry: top British brewers like Fuller’s have appointed women as head brewers, and women regularly qualify as a beer sommeliers under the prestigious Cicerone programme. Festivals – like the forthcoming “Women on Tap” festival in Harrogate – celebrate women’s contribution to brewing, and International Women’s Day on 8 March has been marked by events including a “collaboration brew day” that saw brewsters across the world come together to brew a special one-off beer.
Raise a glass to beer’s amazing feminist heritage with one of these fantastic beers brewed by women.
1. Gadd’s Ramsgate I Dream Of Apricots, 5%: £3.50 for 500ml, Eebria
This perfectly balanced and juicy ale started life as a gentle wheat beer, brewed by Sue Fisher of Gadds’ Ramsgate Brewery, which she matured on Kent apricots grown by a local hop farmer, then matured in the bottle for another 18 months to give it a totally unique, mouth-watering depth of flavour. The wild yeast contributes to a sourness that smoothes out the sweetness of the apricots, leaving a clean, floral, refreshing and really skilful beer.
2. Wild Card Queen of Diamonds, 5%: £2.70 per 330ml, Eebria
This award-winning beer, from London’s Wild Card Brewery and its head brewer Jaega Wise, pours a hazy orange amber glass with no head. Hoppy – which makes it bitter – but packed with sweet fruit, it’s topped off with notes of banana and biscuit. Wild Card has been involved with International Women's Collaboration Brew Day since the start, and this year was due to hold a brewparty for women at its HQ in Walthamstow, north London.
3. Joseph Holt Humdinger, 4.1%: £28 per case of 12 x 500ml, Best of British Beer
It’s hard to get much more traditional than Manchester’s Joseph Holt Brewery, which turns out a full complement of British classics like a bitter and a mild. Brewer Jane Kershaw’s favourite Humdinger is a lovely beer with layers of flavour. It’s sweet and floral on the nose, and to taste, with just a bit of aromatic herb from the Mexican aroma honey it’s brewed with – but the overriding taste is classic British, moreish maltiness.
4. Beavertown Gamma Ray, 5.4%: £2.50 for 330ml, Beavertown
A classic of the craft beer renaissance and the quintessential summer beer, Gamma Ray was also one of the first beers Lidia De Petris brewed at north London’s Beavertown Brewery. Juicy but not sticky, it showcases the distinctive American hops that defined the new wave of craft American pale ales – tropical fruit-tasting Amarillo, Citra and Mosaic. Look out for one of her other favourite creations, Pom Pom Phantom, an elusive grapefruit and pink peppercorn Berliner Weisse.
5. St Austell Cornish Tiergarten, 4%: £25 per case of 12 x 330ml, St Austell
A superb small-batch brew inspired by brewster Kim Buckenauer’s German heritage, Cornish Tiergarten gives a British twist to a classic Berliner Weisse. Soured with raspberries, it has a lovely champagne-y fizz and a tart, refreshing finish. Twenty-five-year-old Kim joins a long line of women brewers at Cornwall’s St Austell: Hester Parnell steered the brewery through the difficult post-war years after being thrust into the limelight when her younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1911.
6. Woodforde’s Reedlighter, 4.2%: £2.65 for 330ml, Reedlighter
Former Adnams brewster Belinda Jennings has made the role of head brewer at Norfolk’s famous Woodforde’s her own, developing exciting new beers alongside its core range of real ales. Reedlighter, a crisp and refreshing American pale ale, is a great example of her style: it perfectly showcases classic English hops like Goldings alongside its citrus-y, American counterparts, Centennial and Summit. It’s modern beer that isn’t out of place alongside Woodeforde’s cask stalwarts like Nelson’s Revenge and Wherry.
7. Fuller’s Wild River, 4.5%: £2.10 per 500ml bottle, Fuller’s
Fuller’s head brewer, Georgina (George) Young, honed her skills at its west London base, starting out as a production brewer in 1999. Since February she has been responsible for the company’s range of classics – which include ESB, London Porter, and its flagship London Pride. Wild River is a deliciously bitter, double-hopped pale ale, as zesty as any of the new wave of craft beers, proving that Fuller’s can still compete in a field usually dominated by hop fiends.
The Verdict: Beers brewed by women
I Dream of Apricots is a particularly special one off: an unusual beer with an interesting heritage that blends classic techniques – like adding wild yeast – and modern taste to make a great gift for beer fans of all genders. But women are also at the forefront of brewing some truly classic beers that are worth seeking out – whether that’s old stalwarts like London Pride, or new favourites like Gamma Ray.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testingReuse content