A female view on ale

02:39, Mar 03 2014

OPINION: I like beer. I'm sometimes told I shouldn't like beer, or at least told what type of beer I should like, just because I am a woman. We are marketed "girlie beers" but as far as I'm aware, no one has ever made a beer that pairs better with estrogen than it does with testosterone.

Let's have a bit of a history lesson. The oldest reference to beer is 3000BC. The ancient civilisation the Sumerians inscribed on to a tablet the "Hymn to Ninkasi", which was essentially a recipe for beer as Ninkasi was the god of beer. Oh, and she's a woman.

Because back then all the brewers were women - they made the bread and brewed the beer. I'll have you know many scholars say that beer played a big part in the survival of species due to it's rich source of protein and vitamins, not to mention aiding procreation, wink wink.

So lets skip forward a bit to Elizabethan times, where water sanitisation wasn't that great so beer was consumed instead. Not only by men and women, but children too! It really was the peoples' drink!

So when did beer get pried from our smaller, softer hands? Well, during the industrial revolution many Christian institutions expanded and capitalized brewing and pushed out the women out. Some of these breweries are still around today (I'm looking at you Chimay).

Slowly all those regional, seasonal beers, developed over centuries, were wiped out and mass production kicked in. Mass production took brewing out of the home and ale house and into the hands of the advertisers. None better than during the golden age of advertising - the 50s. When, in the age before the sexual revolution, advertising was all about having our gender roles defined for us. Luckily we don't have to deal with that sort of advertising today.


Oh wait we do! In Moa's recent IPO we were subjected to some rather brazen misogyny and taught all about how it was your right, AS A MAN, to own part of a brewery. I don't see it as your right as a man to own a brewery, I see it as your right as a HU-MAN to own a brewery. 

This is what I don't understand about beer advertising. Women are cut out completely, essentially halving their potential consumers or told that the beer we are drinking has to match the flavour of our chapstick. As with the case of Moa, some of this "man" beer isn't even that bad - I would drink it, if only their attitudes would go the way of the moa. Extinct.

In Export Dry's recent ad campaign we are told to never come between a man and his beer. Well, if I ever see the head of marketing for this campaign, someone had better come between me and him. Anyway, it's Export. I feel like I should run an ad campaign encouraging people to actively stand between a man and this beer.

Luckily, craft beer is bringing it back for the ladies, it just tastes better! The female palate will often pick up a wider range and depth of flavours in beer and studies have show we just have better palates in general. 

And after 5000 years even the female brewers are back. There are currently a handful of women brewing for craft breweries and even the big corporations. Including Kylie Harris, the head brewer at the iconic Mangatainoka Tui brewery. I've never met her, but if Tui's marketing is anything to go by, I assume she's a busty blonde who brews in her bikini all day.

So how did I get an appreciation for the liquid gold? Can I say excellent parenting! And by that I mean, there was never a taboo around alcohol but I have never seen my parents drunk. I was always taught to savour the taste and enjoy the experience. So by the time I went off to uni I considered myself an "educated" drinker. While my compadres went for Tui or Double Brown, I would go for a more classy tipple - the Belgian pilsner Stella Atois. By classy, obviously I just mean way more expensive.

But my real love for craft beer came about in 2004 when I tasted Little Creatures IPA straight from the brewery. At one point there was a burst pipe and beer was actually flowing across the floor like an R-rated Charlie and the chocolate factory.

And now, having returned to Wellington, I feel smug that I live in a city where I can walk 100 metres and stumble across another craft beer place. It's a city where those of us who can't grow beards can still drink craft beer and we wear our beards on the inside. A place where we all look at the world through amber-tinted glasses. A world where men and women drink whatever the hell we want. 

Beer is often described as nectar of the gods, but maybe it's just one god we need to be thankful to - Thanks be to Ninkasi.

Beth Brash is the editor of the food blog Eat & Greet. She continues The Beerhive's summer series of guest blogs.

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