Back in March, we women of CQ made a beer together. The Pink Boots Society has an annual tradition of encouraging nationwide women-led brews on International Women’s Day, and given that our team is 50% women (yep, an exactly even split: five women, five men), we thought that joining in and brewing together would be a grand idea.
Of course, women brewing is nothing new. For most of its long history, beer has been brewed by women.
The first recorded beer recipe is found in Hymn to Ninkasi, a 3800-year-old Sumerian prayer to the goddess of brewing that was sung to help brewers memorize the recipe. In Sumeria, only women were allowed to brew.
The Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest sets of written laws, meticulously describes the laws for making and selling beer (and outlines the punishment for breaking these laws) in ancient Babylon. Here, brewers are exclusively referred to as women.
Egypt had Tenenet, the goddess of beer, and the goddess Hathor, who saved humanity from early annihilation by getting our would-be destructor drunk on beer. Statuettes and hieroglyphics discovered in tombs depict women milling and brewing.
In Europe, brewing persisted through the Middle Ages thanks to ale wives--women who brewed and sold beer. This was one of the few ways women were able to support themselves and their families. Many sold beer straight from their kitchens to thirsty patrons. These became Europe’s first taverns and pubs.
Viking women not only did the brewing, but law dictated that all brewhouse equipment remained the property of women. The best tools and kettles were passed from mother to daughter for generations.
In the Andes, noble women were selected to brew, a position that was considered a high honor. This tradition held through the reign of the Incan Empire.
There are so, so many examples of women brewing, often as part of farmhouse life (as with the ale wives) or as part of their duties as spiritual leaders (as with the Sumerians and Incas). This continues today--for example, in Western Africa, women grow sorghum or bananas (specific brewing bananas, which are different from the ones we eat) and brew, selling beer from their homes, just like the Babylonian brewers and ale wives centuries before.
The beer that we brewed at CQ is a nod to the role of women in rustic brewing traditions throughout history. We made a fairly straightforward saison--just Pilsner malt (from Admiral Maltings in Alameda), some flaked oats and acidulated malt, Mosaic hops for bittering, brettanomyces, and a couple of old wine barrels. We originally planned on dry-hopping, but as we tasted it, we decided it was too damn good and that we didn’t want to mess with the absolutely lovely yeast character.
We’ve named this beer Nevertheless, She Fermented, and we’re releasing it on October 13th during our Saturday Social with Building Futures. Stop by, try it, and ask one of the ladies behind the bar about brewing. You might learn something.
The women of CQ