Sheffield Beer Week: Women in Beer

In 2019, on top of the core beer, food, community and heritage strands, there will be a continued celebration of women working in the beer industry with International Women’s Day preceding the week on 8 March, highlighting the historical importance of women’s role in the roots of brewing. We caught up with two prominent figures in the beer industry to get their thoughts on this year’s festival.

First up: Jane Peyton. This award-winning writer, founder of School of Booze and author of ‘Drink: A Tippler’s Miscellany’ and ‘Beer o’ Clock’ will make you think whilst you drink…

I worship at the altar of Ninkasi and water + malt + hops + yeast = beer is my favourite mathematical equation. When I started writing about beer in 2008 I could count on one hand the number of women who were head brewers, never mind owning their own brewery. Sara Barton of Brewster’s was the pioneer and has been an inspiration to countless women in considering a career in something that females have been instrumental in since humans first drank beer.

It still surprises many people to hear that women were the original brewers. In some parts of the world (the Amazon and rural African countries) where beer is made at home, the brewing is still performed by females and is seen as women’s work. That’s because beer is food and brewing is like cooking but with bigger vessels and more washing up!

‘I know of two pre-teen girls who are so inspired by their mother’s role as a professional brewer they want to do the same.’

Compared to a decade ago women are now represented in all roles in UK brewing. Sara Barton is the current Institute of Brewing and Distilling Brewer of the Year and Jaega Wise of Wild Card Brewery was awarded the accolade of Brewer of the Year 2018 by the British Guild of Beer Writers. Sara Barton also received that award in 2012. Sophie de Ronde helms Burnt Mill and brews such impressive beers that the brewery won Rate Beer’s Best New Brewery within a year of opening. Sophie also instigated the annual International Collaboration Women’s Brew Day in March which is a global success. Even long-established breweries such as Fuller’s have a woman in charge of brewing with Georgina Young in that role. Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are flying the flag for women with Claire Monk at Welbeck Abbey Brewery and Janine Shorrock at Ashover Brewery respectively.

As the saying goes, if you cannot see it, you cannot be it, so the increase in female brewers will inspire other women to brew beer too. I know of two pre-teen girls who are so inspired by their mother’s role as a professional brewer they want to do the same. So watch out for them in 15 years’ time when the Fem.Ale Festival will have even more choices of delicious beer.

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