WTF with men getting to run the beer industry? Why should we women have to explain ourselves to surprised onlookers when we drop some knowledge on craft brewing?
Well, Erin and her team at Boulevard Brewery joined in the female revolution of taking back brewing. It’s a slow process, Erin admits. She works on weekends giving tours of Boulevard Brewing Company’s impressive brewery infrastructure and can easily school any male advocate. In fact, she does it regularly. Though she says she doesn’t have that many issues, there are occasions when people write her off. She’s giving the tour, guys… she obviously knows her shit. Well, not surprising, she always outdoes the doubter.
And though we’re not hating on men (Erin works with a lot of great men at Boulevard), I’m really wondering why they get to do all the good stuff. An often cited 2014 report from Auburn University showed that just 29% of brewery workers were female, and far less were in leadership or CEO positions.
But, women have been the primary brewers (and goddesses) of beer until just the past hundred or so years. While men were hunting, women gathered ingredients for the brews and handled fermentation. And I don’t mean sometimes. Check out these historical highlights:
1. History’s oldest written beer recipe is rooted in ancient Sumeria, where women brewed low alcohol beer for religious ceremonies and daily consumption. These women received a great deal of respect because they “served as priestesses of the revered beer goddesss, Ninkasi.” Ninkasi was worshipped as head brewer of the gods, and she bestowed beer upon humanity to “preserve peace and promote well-being.” Check out the hymn-recipe.
2. Some historians credit Babylonian women as participating in the world’s earliest commerce by selling beer and keeping written records of their sales (at around the beginning of the common era).
3. The Egyptians (learning to brew beer from their Sumerian and Babylonian neighbors) worshipped Tenenit, the goddess of childbirth and beer. Yet another goddess, Hathor/Sekhmet, was credited with saving humanity from destruction(!) after a night of heavy drinking. Even the hieroglyphics show women brewing and drinking.
4. In Europe, Baltic & Slavic mythology credits the goddess Raugutiene with providing divine protection over beer. Finnish legends tell of Kalevator, a woman who brought beer to earth by “mixing honey and bear saliva.”
Ok, one more:
5. German nunneries (I’m not making this up!) provided “rare shelter for single women to blossom as brewsters and botanists.” St. Hildegard of Bingen was the first person to recommend hops as a healing, bittering, and preserving agent. Fantastically, this was 500 years before this became the general practice.
Well, I can’t count how many times some bro at a party (enter here any year of my drinking-aged life) gave me some disgusting fruit juice concoction instead of letting me get the beer I was after. They need some fact checking.
Is Erin a goddess of beer? Yes. Well, she is if I get to decide. Last March 2018, Boulevard put forward a call to their women employees to send ideas for a beer created by and for women in honor of National Women’s Day. Erin sent in nine different beer submissions celebrating heroic KC women. The winner was the fantastic Dorothy Vaughan, one of the first African American women to work for NASA.
With this winning idea, Erin worked with Boulevard’s female brewer and a few other badass brewery coworkers to create “Test Salted Caramel Stout on Nitro,”… (I’ll have three of those, thanks.) The special recipe wasn’t ready quite in time for International Women’s Day, but a Mother’s Day release is just as good.
“The release party was one of the coolest things in the world,” Erin recollects. There were specially-designed keepsake glasses for the event, and Erin and her colleagues spent the next few hours filling them up and talking about the brewing process until the kegs were empty.
“I’ve never seen a beer release like this before,” Erin recalls, “The line was out of control. It was such a hit!”
That’s when we both asked – why aren’t there others?
So… bottoms up, ladies.
Written by: Kelly Flanagan
ERIN'S 3 FAVORITE BEERS
“This is one of my absolute favorites,” Erin tells me. This is not your average beer. Described by Boulevard as “an exhilarating initiation into a mind-bending alternate universe of India Pale Ales.” … Sounds like a fun night!
This Missouri brewery boasts a unique combination of KC’s own Hugo Berry Rooibos Tea with a “spritzy, sour wheat beer to exceedingly refreshing effect.”
This is a Belgian brew matured for one to three years in oak vessels called "foeders" and shipped across the Atlantic for our sipping pleasure. It is highlighted by a hint of cherry and a sour flash.
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