For decades now beer has been associated with men. Just take a quick glance at advertisements from the 70s, 80s, or even 90s and you’ll have a hard time finding a woman with a pint in her hand. And if a woman was featured, she often was scantily clad, clearly aimed at the – once again – male target audience. This image has however been changing and women have been claiming their stake in the world of beer. And rightfully so I must say!
The original brewers
It’s only fair that beer gets cleared of the “male” stamp that has mainly been put on there by the advertising agencies of the 20th century. If you go back thousands of years, you’ll find that women actually invented and perfected the enticing beverage.
Let’s go back about 7,000 years, to Mesopotamia. Women in this era decided to mix grains with water and herbs, and cook it over an open flame. Their aim was to create a nutritional mixture, in which they succeeded. What they did not foresee was the spontaneous fermentation that took place. The drink that they produced – which we can’t officially label as beer just yet, but as wort – did not only fill bellies, it heightened spirits as well.
When we fast forward to the Middle Ages we find the birth of actual beer. For this we have to thank Hildegarda de Bingen, a German Abbess. She is the one who first added hops to the age old mixture. This extra ingredient added the bitterness we still know and love today, whilst also extending shelf life considerably. This made the brew more widely available, causing consumption to rise.
For ages the brewing process was mastered by women, who perfected the art on a small scale from within their kitchen. Many of them were considered saints or even goddesses, who were worshipped for their brews and the effects they had. It wasn’t until the industrialisation of the brewing process that men stepped in and that women started to lose their prominence in the field.
Nowadays we might not worship beer goddesses anymore – although many of us do thank a certain Lord when taking their first sip on a Friday afternoon – but there are plenty of women making waves in the current beer landscape.In a beer scene as booming as Hamilton’s, it comes as no surprise that you don’t have to look far for an influential circle of beer loving ladies. One such group are the Iron Beer Maidens, the first all ladies beer group of our city, established in 2018. “We wanted to make beer more fun for women by providing a non-judgemental, all ladies environment, fermented with some beer education and dry hopped with rad music and good vibes,” says Tiffany Hayes who with Aimee Belanger co-founded the group.
Jenna Anderson, who joined the team shortly after it came into existence, adds that “Hamilton has so many great spaces and local breweries to highlight, alongside a strong community of powerful women, it only seemed right!” The public seems to agree with them — so far they have organized 8 events, each attended by at least 40 individuals with the same outspoken passion for craft beer.
And the Maidens don’t only care about drinking beer, as supporting the local community plays a big role for them as well. By donating a portion of their event ticket sales, over $1,000 so far has been raised for the FAB Foundation, a not-for-profit that helps Hamilton girls from low-income neighbourhoods develop goal-setting, self-confidence, and fitness skills.
Tickets for the next event – Iron Beer Maidens Beer Fest – are already on sale. It’s taking place at Grain & Grit Beer Co on Saturday, September 21st from 7-11 pm! You can find your tickets online through bruha.com
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It’s a woman’s world
There are plenty more beer-loving women around. Just take the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies for example. In 2013 this sort-of-secret society was started by 5 women working in the Toronto craft beer industry.
The group – now owned and operated by Jaime Dobbs and Erica Campbell – strive to bring together beer fanatics to meet, chat, make friends, and trade beers. They started organizing events called ‘bevies’ in the GTA, which soon attracted 400 women at a time. Now they welcome over 1,000 women to their Lady Beer Fest (check out their next one in Toronto on September 28th). They make collaborative brews with breweries all across Canada and are proud to bolster the title for being the Largest Women Beer Community in North America.
Want to join the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies during an upcoming Hamilton Bevy? Mark October 26th on your calendar and join their mailing list to be the first one to get all the details!
The Queen of Craft is another group of passionate women who focus primarily on transferring their knowledge and talents about beer to others. They offer bold, fun, and informative events that help to make beer education approachable for all. They strive to empower and celebrate women on their beer journeys, whilst creating lasting impressions and friendships. Keep an eye out on their website to find their next event and get schooled.
Go out and explore
All across the Hamilton area – and Canada as a whole – groups of female beer enthusiasts are popping up. Female brewers are taking the reins at craft breweries and the “male” stamp is getting wiped off bottles and cans because of them.
Interested in more? Just go check out some events, volunteer at one, sign-up for mailing lists, or simply go for a refreshing beer at a local craft brewery. Because as Tiffany from the Iron Beer Maidens states, “There are more and more ladies in Hamilton leaping into the craft beer scene. Day after day I can’t get over how many new rad friends I have made due to craft beer”.
The only thing left for me to say at this point? Cheers!
Header photo courtesy of Roxanna Nazarowicz