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Return of the 'brewsters': New beer drinking 'sisterhood' helping to stimulate thriving real ale market

Women are rising through the ranks at some of Britain's biggest breweries as well as opening new ones

A new beer drinking “sisterhood” is helping women to turn back the clock and re-stake their claim at the helm of the UK's brewing industry for the first time in nearly three centuries.

Female brewers, known historically as “brewsters”, are rising through the ranks at some of Britain's biggest breweries as well as opening new ones of their own in response to a rise in interest in ales by women, research out today shows.

As the head of Marston's supply chain, Emma Gilleland is one of the new breed of women now dominating the industry. Others include Jennings Brewery's Rebecca Adams, and Ffion Jones, who earlier this year became the first woman ever to join Brains Brewery, in Cardiff.

The Campaign for Real Ale, which today publishes its 2014 Good Beer Guide, said female brewers are helping to stimulate the thriving real ale market. Roger Protz, the guide's editor, said women were behind many recent new innovations, such as fruit or chocolate-flavoured beers.

Sara Barton, who runs the Brewster's Brewing Company in Grantham, Lincolnshire, said the phenomenon created a virtuous circle. “If women know that beer, which has been an all-male domain, has been brewed by women then it encourages them to try it.”

Although the trend started with women in their 30s and above, Ms Barton said the new flavours were also attracting younger drinkers. “It's seen as quite stylish,” she added.

Sophie Atherton, who was the first woman to become a fully qualified beer sommelier in the UK, said the “sisterhood element” was attracting more and more female drinkers. “Finding out that a woman has brewed it helps to make beer more acceptable.”

She defended the use of a separate term, brewsters, to describe female brewers, on the grounds that it was a historical term, and therefore “not offensive”. In other professions, such as acting, many women bristle at gender-specific terms.

Ms Atherton said the use of more hops from countries like New Zealand and the US had created a lot of different flavours. “Women want to try those and be part of a new trend.” She said it was “silly” to think that women liked different sorts of flavours from men, however, adding: “It's daft to think we all like chocolatey flavours, for example.”

Recent figures from CAMRA show that women now account for 22 per cent of the organisation's membership, up 20,000 in the last decade alone.