Raise a glass to Belgium’s crafty brewsters
Women played an integral role in the history of beer-making – and drinking – and now they’re back in charge
‘Brewsters’ was the name for women making beer in the Middle Ages – it was only later, the story goes, that the word ‘brewer’ came into existence
Sofie Vanrafelghem, author and master beer sommelier
Brewing beer was a woman’s job back in the Middle Ages. It was just another household chore that you had to learn – and get right – or you could be in trouble. If someone didn’t like your beer or had a bit of hangover and started giving out about it, there were harsh consequences – you could be publicly tortured, maybe even burnt alive and forever branded a “beer witch”.
“Women’s role in the history of beer is often forgotten,” says Sofie Vanrafelghem, author and master beer sommelier. “One of the very first written documents to refer to beer,” she says, “was an ode written 3,800 years ago to the Sumerian goddess Ninkasi, whose priestesses brewed beer in her honour.”