Skip to main content

Homebrewers getting younger, girlier

Young women have really only stopped brewing for the last
200 years or so.
Homebrewing news stories (most recently, "Not Every Homebrewer Has a Beard") increasingly emphasize the fact that women are brewing, which is funny because it highlights a generational, rather than a gender gap. Stereotypically, the oldsters who assign trend stories in newspapers truly are locked into a perception of gender roles that has only barely been true for the last 200(ish) years, especially when it comes to beer. Women brewed until industrialization made it too profitable a potential business for men to ignore. They ladies returned to homebrewing throughout Prohibition, making beer (and liquor and wine) at home to keep the family wet. The real newsflash is, stories about women crossing gender lines are more about establishment bias than about the real world. 
Women 'Discover' Brewing
Expertise is about knowledge and passion.
 It's not so much that women continue to cross stereotypical gender boundaries, as many "Women discover brewing" articles suggest. It's that older folks (including many women) can't get their minds around it. Women haven't seen the world in terms of gender boundaries in at least a generation. The fact that it continues to be news to old men is what's fascinating and a little depressing. Gender bias (which is totally still alive and well) is the result, not the cause, of this generational ignorance. To that end, stories about breaking the gender barrier are useful and relevant only insomuch as they find their way into the hands of young women who are still trapped, culturally. It's unfortunate that these are the very kids likely to not have ready access to the language or pathways of self-empowerment. 
On a lighter note...
Women brewers at Xtreme Brewing opening
Some of the Delmarva United Homebrewers
at a recent event.
The story linked in the first paragraph also reports Millennials are taking up homebrewing in a big way. It is more than a little encouraging that the homebrew trend among the generation currently coming of age appears sustainable. On one side, even if this is a temporary spike in homebrewing, it probably will support a sustained increase. Even if everyone who is brewing today doesn't stay with it, many will. In addition to supporting the trend, many of these homebrewers have an eye on supporting themselves, or at least making their hobby self-sustaining. It is not too romantic to imagine a hyper-local beer culture emerging. Many homebrewers already have formed small collectives, purchasing equipment together and using it to make beer for everyone in the group. 
It isn't as if the Millennials don't have the time or the incentive to brew and innovate. They are suffering from the joblessness and blurry career paths that were supposed to plague the Gen-Xers. Clearly, we in America have too long been a service economy. We have to start making stuff to sell to ourselves and beer is as promising a prospect as anything else. In a world where working on cars is akin to working on rocket ships, it is nice to be able to build something with your hands. It is even nicer to be able to drink it, to have a product of your own creation that fulfills your vision.

Popular posts from this blog

Your browser does not support the audio element. Download this Podcast

What is in a name?

In this week's Beer with Strangers podcast, Doug Griffith of Xtreme Brewing in Laurel and I discussed the recurring news story that craft beer is running out of names. Among the concerns is that it makes it harder for new brewers to break in and it prevents smaller brewers from having big breakout beers. Craft beers allegedly have kooky names because they are the product of one brewery making many, many beers.
It makes sense, at some level, to have weird names for beers. Brewers like to be distinctive, to set themselves apart. And people who like craft beer get a kick out of kooky names.  Raging Bitch made national news when there was a fight over whether it was an obscene name. Beyond that, as shelves get more crowded with bottles and cans, and as breweries continue to try and push the envelope with tastes and flavors, brewers want a name that is as distinctive as their beers. Plus, in absence of any other knowledge or review, lots of beer drinkers simply judge the beer book by …

Into the past

I went to college as a 30-year-old and, as I made for the graduation finish line, my first marriage came apart. If I ever write that story it will read like the lamest version of the poor man's Fear and Loathing. Come to think of it, Fear and Loathing in Delmar would be an awesome title. Doing primary source, original research was a graduation requirement, so I combined my appreciation for a good tavern with the fact that I had to write about something. While researching taverns in colonial Maryland I discovered that there was such a place a Castle Haven. More than a decade later, that paper became the first chapter in my first book, and the second installment in my blog about writing the book. This is the story of our attempt to breach Castle Haven in search of photos.