French brewers return beer to its feminine roots

When Vero and Vero started making beer, they thought they were part of a new trend of women asserting themselves in an industry traditionally dominated by men, only to discover that beer actually had ancient roots. feminine.

“We were just two women who loved beer and wanted to do something on their own,” says Véro Lanceron, 44, co-founder of Y’a Une Sorcière Dans Ma Bière (“There’s a Witch dans ma Bière”), a small brewery in the town of La Reole in southwestern France.

From the start, their company was staunchly feminist – the word is on their business cards.

But it wasn’t until they started researching the beer industry that they realized they were part of a much older tradition.

“In the collective imagination, there’s this idea that beer is mostly for men,” Lanceron’s partner Vero Verisson, 49, said, adding with a chuckle: “Unsurprisingly, it’s something which we strongly refute.”

The first recorded beer recipe was written on a piece of clay in 1800 BC as an ode to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer.

Around the same time in Mesopotamia, the earliest known laws, the Code of Hammurabi, included several rules for brewers and tavern owners – always referred to as “she”.

Beer-making remained primarily a women’s affair until the Middle Ages, when low-alcohol fermented beer was a nutritious drink for the whole family.

Since it did not keep, women often sold the excess to neighbors, giving them some financial independence and prompting many to open taverns in their homes.

It wasn’t until brewing became a more profitable hobby that it was increasingly taken up by men.

– ‘Completely stupid’ –

The Catholic Church declared “alewives” to be immoral and impure temptresses – a practical argument for its monks when they resumed brewing in their abbeys.

“As soon as it started making serious money, men got interested,” said journalist Anaïs LeCoq, who traces the story in a new book “Maltriarcat”.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back was the industrial revolution when brewing was industrialized. Women were not allowed to have capital, property or higher education, so naturally they have disappeared from the profession.

Things have changed drastically with the recent trend of craft beers and small-scale breweries, many of which are run by women.

There are dozens of female-run breweries in Britain and the US, for example, that have set up networks such as Project Venus in the UK.

“You see it with young people who are very interested in our beer, and who don’t find it strange that we are female brewers,” Verisson said.

“With the older generation, on the other hand, sometimes we have to explain ourselves.”

They shake their heads at some of the big beer company ads, still sticking to half-naked girls and football as their main marketing ploys.

“It’s the same with spirits. I love whiskey, but it’s still classified as a drink for men,” Verisson said.

“There are no masculine or feminine drinks – there are just different tastes. Unfortunately, some men feel emasculated by the idea that they are drinking the same thing as women, which is complete nonsense.”