Women turned onto beer!
Some people think that beer is a man’s drink, and that women prefer wine or sip at light, fruity beers. Well, it’s about time this myth was dispelled! In ancient Babylonia, priestesses drank in honour of Ninkasi, the goddess of beer. In the middle ages, the brewing of beer was a female occupation. But, in Belgium, beer seems to have become something of a men’s club. Flemish women let all our delicious Belgian beers pass them by. Or do they?
Women at the helm
The old myth about women and beer is slowly being debunked. Women are increasingly adopting the yeasty nectar as their own. What’s more, quite a few breweries in Flanders are now helmed by female brewers. A good example is Brouwerij Dilewyns in Dendermonde. The patriarch of this family brewery has handed the reins of the company over to his two oldest daughters. Under their management, the brewery is now booming like never before.
In Herzele, at Brouwerij De Ryck, women have been in charge for almost 10 years. An De Dyck, for years one of the few female brewers in Belgium, is now teaching her son and daughter the tricks of the trade. With daughter Mieke in training, the female succession is secured! Is it mere coincidence that in Herzele, the scope of their vision extends beyond the brewing process, also encompassing the combination of beer and gastronomy? Or is it perhaps the female touch at work?
Tasting at the top
Sophistication is creeping into the beer world, and it’s a growing trend. After all, beer needn’t always be served in a bulky glass. There are a lot of beers on the market these days that are served in a smaller and more elegant glass. Top chefs have no qualms about serving a tasty beer in their restaurants, and dishes that feature a dash of beer among their ingredients appear on many a fine-dining menu. Young talent Julie Baekelandt, chef at C-Jules restaurant, dares to create beer-based dishes in her pure and contemporary kitchen—no coincidence, perhaps, with Brouwerij De Ryck on her doorstep. Today, beer is a fixture of sophisticated gastronomy and is considered a drink to be savoured.
Let’s talk taste
And who better to taste these beers than women? Research shows that women have a better nose and, on average, more taste buds than men. Which should put them in a better position to discover more refined tastes in beer. This goes to show that the myth that women only appreciate fruity beers is pure nonsense. Of course, there are women (and men, for that matter) who will prefer a fruity beer, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s clear that there’s no such thing as ‘women’s beer’. Women like bitter, sweet, tart and herbal beers alike.
Why would women pass on beer? Because it’s inelegant? A woman with a glass of beer in her hand may risk being lumped with construction workers and unsophisticated people. Don’t make us laugh, responds Sofie Vanrafelghem! In her book, Bier? Vrouwen Weten Waarom (‘Beer? Women Understand’), she introduces women to Belgium’s rich beer culture. The passionate zythologist effortlessly dispels all the tall stories about women and beer.
Stay the night in a brewery
Top tip: this autumn, stay the night at castle-brewery Ter Dolen in Houthalen-Helchteren. Or how about a hop massage? There’s plenty to see and do this autumn! And yes, men are allowed to join in, too. Something to think about: did you know that wine contains more calories than beer, and that hops have excellent antioxidant properties?
Want to know more about women experiencing beer?’ Further lecture:
Belgian Beer and Food. The Women and Beer Issue.
Belgian Beer and Food Magazine Issue Five celebrates some inspirational women in the world of Belgian Beer. With Guest Editor Sofie Vanrafelghem. (Video by Breandán Kearney at Belgian Smaak)
Also in love with beer? Toast with us on international women’s day with your favorite beer and share it on social media. More info www.sofiesworld.be