Most beer drinkers are not aware that in the early years most of the brewing was done by women. While researching the history of beer on the internet, I stumbled across some interesting reading about Ninkasi. Long before founders Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge agreed to name their Eugene, Oregon based brewery Ninkasi, there was a beer goddess that the ancient Sumerians were said to worship.
The Sumerian written language is considered one of the earliest recorded amongst humans. Some of these early writings include a poem that was translated in English to be titled, ‘A hymn to Ninkasi’. The poem is basically a recipe for brewing beer. The importance of this piece of history shows that women have long been intricate in the beer brewing process.
I came across the following quote on a website called Ancient History Encyclopedia; “The priestesses of Ninkasi were the first brewers and women, generally, brewed beer in the home until commercial production of the beverage began and men started taking over (even so, most ancient depictions of brewers show them as women). Ninkasi was said to make the beer fresh every day from the best ingredients and her priestesses would have followed suit as the Hymn is, again, not only a praise song but also instructions on how to brew beer.”
Fast forward to present time and people seem surprised at the notion of a woman owning, operating and brewing beer, although some of the best brewers around just happen to be women. Teri Fahrendorf spent 19 years as a Brewmaster, most of them at Steelhead Brewing Company. Alexandra Nowell spent time as the lead brewer for Drake’s Brewing Company in San Leandro before accepting the Head Brewer position for Kinetic Brewing in Lancaster.
In 1990 Barbara Groom and Wendy Pound started Lost Coast Brewing Company, where Barbara became the Brewmaster. In 2009, Lost Coast eclipsed the 55,000 barrel mark making it the 33rd largest brewery in the United States. Plans are in the works to move to a new location so that the company may increase production.
Listed are just a few examples of women leading the way for a generation full of Millennials that show a lot of enthusiasm about the craft beer industry and the direction that it’s headed. I’ve noticed the amount of women attending beer festivals and seminars increase from one event to the next.
I’m aware that there are many great women brewers that I didn’t mention in this blog and encourage you to share the name and position of your favorites in the comments section below. I believe that the men and women brewing today honor the ‘Hymn to Ninkasi’ by brewing craft beer at the highest level.
-Peter Lopez Jr.