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An Exciting New Title from The Campaign for Real Ale

1000 years of women in Britain’s beer history

About the author

Dr Christina Wade is a beer historian specialising in the hidden histories of women in the brewing trade. She received her doctorate in History from Trinity College Dublin, and since then has spent much of her time writing about women and beer history on her website braciatrix, plus various other publications including The Medieval Dublin Series, The Journal of Franco-Irish Studies,, and Beoir Magazine. Wade has also presented her research on podcasts, conferences and festivals around the world.  She currently sits on the League of Historians at the Beer Culture Center. Additionally, Wade founded the Ladies Craft Beer Society of Ireland in 2013 and is a co-host and resident beer historian on the Beer Ladies Podcast. She is also a BJCP Certified Beer Judge.

Also available on Kindle!

by Dr Christina Wade

a historian specialising in UK and Irish beer history


As we will see, there are many parallels between historical brewing traditions and the modern industry. As part of our study, alongside the history, there will be interviews with modern women from all aspects of the beer industry and beyond. From this we will be able to look at how certain things may have evolved over the years, while others have remained steadfastly the same. What we will see is that there is no time in the history of brewing in the UK that women are not present.

What follows is in many ways is a conversation between historical and modern women.

We will hear from several beer writers and educators: Laura Hadland, Ruvani de Silva, Natalya Watson and Jane Peyton. Of course, beer communication isn’t just in written form: Joanne Love and Tori Powell of A Women’s Brew, and Emma Inch of Fermentation Beer and Brewing Radio prove that in every episode.  Women’s beer groups are very important to our study, so I talked to Nix Prabhu of Glasladies Beer Society and Amélie Tassin of Women in Beer. I also spoke to Women in Beer members Amy Rankine, Sarah Sinclair and Monica Mendoza, who had much to say about their roles in the beer world. And we can’t forget activists like Ash Eliot of the incredibly important Brave Noise.  I interviewed Doreen Joy Barber, who has worked in several different places in the industry including behind the bar and in brewery marketing. I talked to Annabel Smith of Dea Latis, a women’s beer networking and research group, who got her start working and eventually running pubs. Speaking of drinking spots, we will hear from Jules Gray of Hop Hideout. And, of course we can’t forget the breweries. In this book we will learn from Helena Adedipe of Eko Brewery; Lizzie and Lucy Stevens of Closet Brewing Project; Talia Chain of Sadeh Farm and Lone Goat Brewing Company; Joelle Drummond of Drop Bear Beer; Nidhi Sharma of Meantime Brewing Company; and Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela of Tolokasi Beer Company.


Dr Christina Wade

Dr Christina Wade

The detail

Once our ancient ancestors discovered that by settling and cultivating grains they would have a regular and plentiful food source, it was only a matter of time before beer became a part of everyday life. And that beer was mainly made by women. For centuries, women brewers remained key participants in our beer trade, up to the Industrial Revolution when increased mechanisation, alongside Victorian societal constraints, conspired to push a lot of them out. From then on, commercial brewing was generally considered a male-led profession.

But things are changing. With the increase in new breweries, and a growing enthusiasm for beer, women are back at the helm at an ever-growing number of British brewers, large and small, reasserting their dominance in the industry.

This important book, meticulously researched by beer historian Dr Christina Wade, charts the rise and fall – and rise – of women in Britain’s brewing trade, and includes interviews with women working in today’s beer industries. It tells us the whole story, explaining the real reasons why women brewers became marginalised, while also debunking some tired old myths along the way.

From braggot to beer

If you are, like me, someone who enjoys a nice beverage and a bite to eat while sinking into a new book, go straight to the appendix, where you will find few recipes based on those from the very women we will learn about. So, if you are feeling peckish, you might want to try your hand at making a little something to help fully immerse yourself in the history presented here.

Eliza Smith The Complete Housewife: Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion. Being a Collection of Upwards of Seven Hundred of the Most Approved Receipts, first published London 1727.

“To make strong Beer. To a barrel of beer take two bushels of malt , and half a bushel of wheat just cracked in the mill , and some of the four fisted out of it ; when your water is , scalding hot , put it into your mashing vat ; there let it stand till you can see your face in it ; then put your malt upon it , then put your wheat upon that , and do not stir it ; let it stand two hours and a half ; then let it run into a tub that has two pounds of hops in it , and a handful of rosemary – flowers ; when it is all run , put it in your copper , and boil it two hours ; then strain it off , setting it a cooling very thin , and set it a working very cool ; clear it very well before you put it a working ; put a little yeast to it , when the yeast begins to fall , put it into your vessel , and when it has done working in the vessel , put in a pint of whole wheat , and six eggs ; then stop it up ; let it stand a year , and then bottle it ; then mash again ; stir the malt very well in , and let it stand two hours , and let that run and mash again , and stir it as before ; before you cover your mashing vat well up ; mix the first and second running together , it will make good household beer .”

As you can imagine, it took us a while to digest all that! Some of it (eggs for instance!) is just based on old fashioned methods that have since been replaced with modern ingredients, but we’re trying to stick as closely as possible to the original recipe here. – Chris @ Torrside brewing

A historical perspective

Dispelling myths

More to the point, women’s experiences of brewing differed greatly depending on many other aspects of their identity besides their gender. Class or economic position, race, ethnicity, religion, location, ability, sexuality, time period, and even marital status played a key role in how they would experience the brewing world. Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term ‘intersectionality’ nearly 30 years ago to define the ways that people or groups are affected by multiple experiences and identities which shape them and the way they move through the world. Specifically in the history of women’s brewing, it wasn’t just their gender that impacted their position in the trade, but a confluence of these multiple identities.

Context and historical truth

The book is organised into chapters that are thematic in nature, though the general direction of the narrative is chronological. We start with the medieval period (500-1500), then progress to the early modern (1500-1800) and work our way up to now.

Wild Bunch Brewing Co. - Justin Brummer

"But to make up my tale, She breweth noppy ale, And maketh therof port sale To travellars, to tynkers, To sweters, to swynkers, And all good ale drynkers,"

The Tunning of Elynour Rummyng

"Come who so wyll To Elynour on the hyll, Wyth, "Fyll the cup, fyll," And syt there by styll, Erly and late:"

by John Skelton

"Som bryngeth her husbandes hood, Because the ale is good; Another brought her his cap To offer to the ale-tap, Wyth flaxe and wyth towe;"

c 1550

Order today

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