Having witnessed the demands feminists have made on a number of male-dominated enterprises, I reckon we’re due for a campaign against the brewing industry. You know the drill…we need more women in the brewhouse and the front office because…well, just because we say so. Not only that but alcohol fuels global violence against women – so the brewers owe us!
Well, World War Beer hasn’t started yet but a skirmish of sorts has occurred in Belgium. For a small country (11.35 million people), Belgium brews an amazing array of palate-caressing beers, and many of them are exported to the USA.
One of the Belgian brews I enjoy is Delirium Tremens, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale from the Huyghe Brewery in Ghent. The brewery has changed hands over the years, but it has an eminently respectable pedigree dating back to 1654.
Given the name Delirium Tremens and the pink elephant on the label, one is immediately clued in that this beer is no lightweight (it registers at 8.5% alcohol by volume, roughly double the strength of a typical mass-produced lager). Also available is Delirium Nocturnum, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, also 8.5% ABV, and the Christmas beer Delirium Noel, weighing in at 10%.
I thought those three brews were the only Huyghe offerings available in the USA, but one day while browsing at a local big box booze store, I happened upon a Huyghe brew called Deliria. I immediately latched onto it. Wondering how it differed from the other three brews, I read the label. A few seconds later I put the bottle back on the shelf.
The label proudly stated that Deliria was brewed by women. In fact, it is brewed annually to commemorate International Women’s Day in March. Guess I didn’t notice the pink elephant in the room.
If you have even a cursory knowledge of the history of beer, you know that women have been brewing beer for centuries. Today an alewife is a fish, but in times past it was literally a housewife who brewed beer. Brewing was an integral part of hearth and home. A woman who brewed beer for commercial purposes was called a brewster (like brewer, it became a widespread surname in England).
Of course, that was then and this is now. Baby, you’ve come a long way, from Ninkasi, the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, to the hatchet-faced suffragettes who moonlighted as Prohibitionists, to the Amy Schumer wannabes throwing up in the restroom at your local pub. Thanks to more and better birth control, women can drink with impunity. After all, if a woman never gets pregnant, she never has to worry about fetal alcohol syndrome. The demographic winter does have its upside!
In recent years, the craft beer explosion has been overwhelmingly male. Many of the most popular beers on tap incorporate hair color into the name of the beer. A good example of this is Twin Peaks (primarily known as a breastaurant, but they brew their own beer), where you can get Dirty Blonde (white ale), Knotty Brunette (brown ale), and Dropdead Redhead (amber IPA).
The Blonde appellation is widespread, as blonde is also the name of a style of ale. Several years ago the Deep Ellum Brewing Company of Dallas came up with the slogan “Goes Down Easy” to accompany their popular Dallas Blonde beer. The reaction from local feminists was predictable. Actually, I’m surprised no one has come up with a play on words pertaining to a bottle blonde and a bottle of blonde.
At some craft breweries, however, the brewsters are making a comeback. One example, also in Dallas, is the Bitter Sisters brewery (the “bitter” refers to hoppiness, not attitude) which includes three sisters and a sister-in-law among the brewery owners. Significantly, their India Pale Ale is called Cat Fight. A cold-weather concoction, Winter Bush, has a logo of an upside-down Christmas tree, which looks like…well, like the before photo of a set of before-and-after photos at a Brazilian waxing salon.
I have visited the Bitter Sisters taproom and order their beer when I see it in pubs. So why did I pass on Deliria? I have no doubt it is an enjoyable brew. I’m not saying it’s inferior because it was brewed by women. On the contrary, this year’s batch was the result of a contest that spawned 65 entries from distaff brewers. Like Delirium Tremens, it is classified as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale (the difference is likely due to the strain or strains of yeast used or the adjuncts).
One could certainly do worse than drink a femme version of Delirium Tremens. But I have to reject a beer that is marketed as being brewed by women, as though it’s my duty to devote part of my beer budget to promote female empowerment. I guess we could call it progressive tithing.
The female empowerment approach is more likely to be found among small businesses and startups than in longstanding companies. For example, a storefront in my neighborhood had a grand opening and a sign in the window proudly proclaimed it was “a woman-owned business.” I’ve seen similar proclamations in advertisements in local publications.
Did you know there is a Women’s Yellow Pages? At least in Philadelphia, Memphis, and St. Louis. Possibly more cities. That’s right, you can empower women simply by publishing a woman-only directory. Sounds discriminatory to me, but I guess if you frame at it as a freedom of speech issue, it’ll fly.
For the progressives, all’s fair in love, war, and social justice. Unfortunately, when I get a whiff of eau de guerrier de la justice sociale, (Liberté! Égalité! Sororité!), I smell a rat. I reflexively do an about-face and retreat. Call it a one-man boycott.
Now if a brewery wants to brew and sell a beer made by women, there is a way to do it properly. As evidence, let me introduce another brewer that, like Hughye, goes back to the 17th Century. That would be Fuller Smith & Turner (popularly known as Fuller’s) based in the Chiswick section of London. It is the largest and oldest brewery (the building was erected in 1816) in London. A lot of their ales are not available in the USA but London Pride, ESB (the progenitor of the Extra Special Bitter style), and 1845 (the year the brewery officially became Fuller, Smith & Turner) are not too hard to find.
Like many longstanding breweries, Fuller’s offers special seasonal brews. Their Vintage Ale (English Strong Ale) dates back to 1997. Each 500 ml limited edition bottle comes with a serial number and is packaged in a gift box. The brew measures 8.5% ABV but the taste varies from year to year thanks to different combinations of malt and hops. Like the Belgian ales, the beer is bottle-conditioned; in other words, it has live yeast cultures so it continues to ferment after it is bottled.
What makes Fuller’s annual Vintage Ale unusual is that it has an even longer shelf life. Most Belgian ales can be kept in the fridge for a year or two before drinking. Fuller’s Vintage Ale recommends putting the bottle aside for three or four years before opening but claims it will still be quite enjoyable even if you keep it around for another couple of years.
Obviously, Fuller’s has a lot riding on this prestigious brew. They would never entrust their reputation to a anyone less than a master brewer. So I must admit I was surprised to find out that there was a new Head Brewer in town and her name was Georgina Young. Apparently, she has been with Fuller’s for eight years and impressed top management enough to earn a promotion.
I suppose Fuller’s could have put a starburst on the box saying “The beer not brewed by a bloke!” or something to that effect. No, Fuller’s packaged their Vintage Ale the same as in years past. The difference was that this was the first time the brewmaster’s annual memo inside the package was signed by Georgina Young.
So there you have it. No virtue signaling, no grandstanding, no preaching, no self-congratulating. Every year at Fuller’s we make this special brew and, oh, by the way, this year we have a new brewmaster. FYI it’s a she. Moving right along…
It is somewhat surprising that Fuller’s hasn’t received more publicity. I suspect it’s because they haven’t sought it. Even so, you might think the usual suspects would be out there exhorting women to buy Fuller’s Vintage Ale. Even if you don’t like beer, even if you don’t drink, you have to buy this beer to support the sisterhood!
Well, the proof is in the brewing. Beer lovers have their favorite styles and brands, but they are also open to new concoctions. Many will go to great lengths to track down legendary beers and they will pay a pretty penny for them when they find them. I don’t think an overtly feminist beer would qualify.
On the other hand, the craft beer industry revels in quirky beer names and anti-feminism offers any number of possibilities.
Anyone for a Slut Walker, a Hoppy Harpy, an Old Termagant, a Toxic Vixen, or a Sloppy Trollop?