Women, the Earliest Beer Brewers

Beer, one of the world’s oldest and most beloved beverages, has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. While today’s brewing industry is often dominated by men, women actually played a significant role as the earliest beer brewers. In this article, we will dive into the fascinating history of women and their vital contributions to the ancient art of brewing beer.

The Origins of Beer

To understand the prominent role women played in brewing, we must delve into the origins of beer itself. The earliest evidence of beer production can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, around 7000 to 6000 BCE. In these early civilizations, beer brewing was primarily a domestic task performed by women.

Mesopotamian Goddesses of Beer

In Mesopotamia, the goddess Ninkasi was revered as the patroness of beer. She held a prominent position in society and was responsible for the well-being and nourishment of the people. Ninkasi was associated with the brewing process and her hymns detailed the art of brewing, highlighting the vital role women played in ancient beer production.

The Sumerian Brewsters

In Sumerian society, women called “brewsters” were responsible for brewing beer in temples, palaces, and households. They possessed extensive knowledge of ingredients, fermentation, and brewing techniques. These brewsters were highly skilled and their expertise was passed down from generation to generation.

Egyptian Beer Priestesses

Moving to ancient Egypt, beer brewing was also intertwined with religious and cultural practices. Female beer priestesses played a significant role in brewing beer for temple rituals and celebrations. These women brewed beer on a large scale and had access to specialized brewing facilities.

Nordic Tradition: The Alewives

In medieval Europe, the brewing tradition continued, and women known as “alewives” were the primary brewers. They brewed ale, a type of beer made from malted barley. They also operated taverns where their beer was served. These alewives were respected members of their communities and held an esteemed position in society.

The Brewing Guilds

As brewing transitioned into a more commercialized industry, women continued to contribute to beer production. In medieval Europe, brewing guilds were established to regulate the trade. Woman were an integral part of these organizations. From recipe formulation to quality control, women were involved in all aspects of brewing.

The Witch Trials and the Decline of Women Brewers

Sadly, the rise of the witch trials in the 16th and 17th centuries saw a significant decline in women’s involvement in brewing. Many women accused of witchcraft were also brewers, and this association led to a stigmatization of women in the brewing profession. Male-dominated brewing institutions emerged, pushing women out of the industry.

The Brewing Renaissance

Fortunately, the brewing industry has seen a resurgence in recent years, with more women reclaiming their place as brewers. Female-led breweries, brewmasters, and beer educators are reestablishing the important role women played in the ancient art of brewing. Organizations such as the Pink Boots Society are actively supporting and empowering women in the brewing industry.


As we raise our glasses to enjoy a pint of beer, let us not forget the forgotten art of women as the earliest beer brewers. Their expertise and dedication to this ancient craft shaped the foundations of brewing, providing nourishment, celebration, and community for generations. It is time we recognize and celebrate the historical contributions of women to the world of beer, and support their continued growth and presence in the modern brewing industry. Cheers to the brewsters, alewives, and all the women who brewed the way for our favorite beverage!

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