There is no such thing as “girly beer.” When it comes to the history of beer, it’s high time we give women credit where credit is due.
As for how we came to a point where some beers have been falsely labeled girly beer, I believe it all comes down to a false sense of machismo. Like men, women begin experimenting with beer in much the same way. Typically speaking, they take their first sips when they’re below the legal age, and they drink whatever cheap swill that can be procured.
We all remember our first beer, and how we were told that we’d have to get used to the flavor. But while many women wisely reject the taste and smell of these beers immediately, men — out of an ad-campaign call to be macho — keep on drinking cheap, bitter, watered-down swill. Wine and spirits seem to call the ladies away, which is a shame, because women and beer have a long history together. The earliest brewers, in fact, were women.
Already held in a high regard for producing and nurturing life, women would have performed most skilled labor while the men-folk plowed or spent time in the wilderness attempting to stab food to death. In fact, one of the oldest examples of the written word is the “Hymn to Ninkasi,” which is essentially a beer recipe offered up to the Sumerian goddess of brewing.
In Medieval Europe, advancements, such as using hops, began to develop. Abbess Hildegard of Bingen is credited with the first written endorsement of using hops to preserve drinks. Her writings also detail the female orgasm, fairly forward thinking for the Middle Ages — or the 1950s, for that matter. During those days, women still had the duty of brewing beer. In fact, it would have accompanied everything else deemed “women’s work.”
Beer was an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Since it was boiled, it was much safer than water and was consumed daily. Ale-wives were permitted to brew a little extra for sale. They even planted ale-stakes outside of their homes to announce that business was open. Realizing there was a lot of money to be made brewing beer, the menfolk took over, and the commercialization of brewing began.
These days, perhaps no brew in the beer world is considered more manly than a good stout. Historically, stout has been used as an adjective for beer of all color, but today it refers to a hearty, black beer full in character and flavor — all words that you never associate with “girly beer.” Imperial stouts are some of the largest and most luxurious offerings in any brewers’ portfolio. However, shipments of the most luxurious and potent stouts were first sent to the imperial courts of Empress Catherine the Great. Today, Catherine’s likeness and name are still used to market imperial stout.
But enough with the history lesson. I believe I’ve made my point. Women and beer have a long history together, and very little of it has anything to do with so-called girly beers. So next time you’re at the store, take notice of who is walking away with that 12-pack of lime-infused rice lager or the sixer of fruited wheat beer. Chances are it’s a guy. And then ask yourself these two questions: What if he isn’t seeing anyone? What if it’s all for him?
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