"For most of recorded human history, women have been responsible for supplying the world's beer." That's the Oxford Companion to Beer talking, so you know it's legit. Known as brewsters, female brewers of the English Anglo-Saxon period often brewed beer between baking bread and servicing their husbands, while women who brewed in commercial breweries were known as alewives. It wasn't until men wanted a piece of the action in the 14th century that women were deemed unworthy of this noble profession.
While the brewing industry globally still tips the scales in testosterone, women have slowly but surely begun to regain their rightful place in the brewhaus–largely thanks to the growth of craft and microbreweries. And who knows this better than Halifax-based Ladies Beer League, a social club established in summer 2013 that promotes education and encouragement for women (although many events are gender neutral) in the craft beer industry, whose members include brewers, judges and drinkers alike.
When LBL co-founder Tracy Phillippi heard about International Women's Collaboration Brew Day–an annual global event that aims to raise the profile of women in the industry by calling upon female brewers to collaborate on a specific style, brew it on International Women's Day (March 8), and donate partial proceeds to charity–she knew the LBL had to participate.
Brewing alongside LBL is Emily Tipton, beer engineer and partner at Boxing Rock Brewing Co., who has opened up the Shelburne brewery for the collaboration.
"Right away I thought of Emily," says Tracy. "It's just a natural fit...she dove right into preparing the recipe."
"I love women drinking craft beer," says Tipton. "It was kind of a no-brainer."
The chosen style this year is a session ale, a British concoction meant to sustain a full afternoon of drinking without knocking one out. The result is relatively low-alcohol and well-balanced flavour, and a style very open to interpretation. "There are guidelines for the beer recipe, however a lot of wiggle room is allowed for breweries around the world to come up with their own unique take," explains LBL board member Lindsay Dee MacPhee. Tipton claims she'll be taking a "modern approach" to session ale "with a larger mouthfeel and character."
"I really think they chose this beer style because it will hit the widest variety of beer drinkers," adds Phillippi. But this doesn't mean you should expect anything boring, they're going to be "dry-hopping the hell out of it."
The recipe also includes Tipton's favourite hop, the fruity, floral Amarillo, although the guidelines call for Cascade. Another tasty addition is cranberry–which can be sourced locally in Shelburne–and orange peel, as well as wheat, for a light, fresh taste.
With proceeds from all collaboration beer sales being kicked back to the Pink Boots Society, an organization that represents and promotes women in the brewing industry, there is no doubt that the 30 worldwide collaborations will help change dominant perceptions of the industry as a boys' club. Donations from sales of the Boxing Rock/LBL collaboration will also benefit local charity Shelburne County Women's FishNet, a non-profit support network for Shelburne County women of all ages.
"Not only is it a great opportunity for women brewers to raise awareness of their presence in the brewing industry, but more importantly the act of microbreweries joining forces to create something out of the ordinary and donate to charity," says Kellye Robertson, Garrison brewer and LBL board member. It's "a win-win situation across the board."
Revisiting the traditional view of female brewers, the LBL/Boxing Rock collaboration ale will be called Alewife's Revenge.
Alewife will be released on April 17 at Stillwell, and will be available the following Friday, as a cask ale, at the Stubborn Goat Gastropub. Look for it in bottles at private stores, the Seaport Farmers' Market and Boxing Rock's retail store.