Beer festival in Norwich promotes women’s growing role as brewers and beer drinkers

A taste for beer, ladies at the Fem Ale event in the Plasterers Arms, Cowgate, Norwich. Photo : Stev

A taste for beer, ladies at the Fem Ale event in the Plasterers Arms, Cowgate, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

It is an industry often associated with men.

A taste for beer, ladies at the Fem Ale event in the Plasterers Arms, Cowgate, Norwich. Photo : Stev

A taste for beer, ladies at the Fem Ale event in the Plasterers Arms, Cowgate, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

But, over the weekend, a festival in Norwich reminded pub-goers of women's important role - present and past - as brewers and craft beer lovers.

Fem.ale, part of the City of Ale events, put the spotlight on the women behind the barrels, with talks and tastings organised from Friday until yesterday evening.

Held at The Plasterers Arms, on Cowgate, the busy weekend included a talk and question and answer session with Belinda Jennings, of Woodforde's Brewery, and live music in collaboration with Norwich Arts Centre.

Meanwhile, all 15 of the pub's pumps were reserved for female brewed ales, stouts, porters, pales, ambers and golds.

A taste for beer, ladies at the Fem Ale event in the Plasterers Arms, Cowgate, Norwich. Photo : Stev

A taste for beer, ladies at the Fem Ale event in the Plasterers Arms, Cowgate, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams


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Erica Horton, festival director, said it was especially important to do so when considering that 'among the 30 of so breweries we have here in Norfolk, only one is headed up by a female master brewer'.

Fem.ale has been part of City of Ale, a 10-day celebration of Norwich's pubs, breweries and real ale, for three years.

For more information on events organised in the wider event, visit http://cityofale.org.uk/2016/

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Do you have an event we should be writing about? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

The history of beer and women

The oldest records of beer brewing are thought to come from Ancient Egypt, where ale was made and sold entirely by female brewers, then called brewsters.

The Greeks are said to have viewed wine as a man's drink, and beer as effeminate.

During the medieval period, both civic documents and literature show women as the primary makers of ale.

But by the 15th century, as the production of beer industrialised and moved out of the home, the number of brewsters began to drop, with many disappeared by the 18th century.

The portrayal of women in beer adverts over the 19th and 20th centuries shifted dramatically.

Initially, commercial breweries focused on beer's wholesome image, showing women as mothers giving drinks to husbands or brothers.

Later, adverts portrayed women in an increasingly provocative way.

At the same time, during the late 20th century, the number of women working in the industry began to rise.

In 2007, Emma Gilleland became the first female brewer at Marston's, while in 2013, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said women then accounted for 22pc of its 150,000-strong membership.

In the same year, Sara Barton became the first woman to win the British Guild of Beer Writers' Brewer of the Year award.

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