How Victorian female brewers broke the (pint) glass ceiling | Life and style

It’s an business lengthy related to males, from the whiskered industrialists of the 19th century to the hipster craft brewers of the current. However girls have performed a big function in brewing beer in Britain, and are more and more working breweries and creating new beers.

A brand new e-book, printed this week, finds the pivotal function of girls in household breweries. “Beer is usually portrayed as a male area, regardless that many iconic breweries wouldn’t be what they’re in the present day in the event that they didn’t have robust girls on the helm,” says its creator, the veteran beer professional and real-ale advocate Roger Protz.

The Household Brewers of Britain: A Celebration of British Brewing Heritage tells the story of about 30 household companies that, in line with Protz, have been missed within the present concentrate on new, small craft breweries which have sprung up in recent times. The household ventures have “survived wars, recessions and all method of dramas, and are nonetheless brewing fantastic beer”, Protz informed the Observer.

As he researched the e-book, he found that girls have occupied key positions in breweries way back to the late 19th century. “It was such a male-dominated business that it was fairly a shock to search out girls working these very substantial corporations so a few years in the past.”

Screwing down the yeast in a Burton upon Trent brewery in 1916. Photograph: Print Collector/Getty Photos

One was Hester Parnall, chairman of the St Austell brewery in Cornwall from 1916 to 1939, a “matriarchal determine”, who invited the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson, and prime minister Stanley Baldwin to her nation mansion.

“Her presence within the brewery by no means went unnoticed,” Protz writes. “Clifford Hockin, who rose from workplace boy to firm secretary, described her as ‘ruling the corporate with the grace of a duchess mixed with the aplomb of the profitable businessman. All who got here into contact along with her, and certainly those that didn’t, have been on their finest behaviour’. ”

One in every of her brewery staff recalled: “The primary man to identify her chauffeur-driven Daimler arriving within the yard would faucet out a message of warning on the water pipes, which could possibly be heard all through the brewery. She as soon as sacked a chap she caught portray with a fag in his mouth, and she or he sacked one of many drivers for choosing up a passenger. She was a correct dragon.”

However the historical past of girls brewers reaches far past the aristocratic Parnall. In Anglo-Saxon occasions girls made beer at dwelling similtaneously baking bread. They have been generally known as brewsters, and one of the best within the village turned their properties into an early model of a pub.

Hester Parnall, head of the St Austell Brewery in Cornwall from 1916 to 1939.

Hester Parnall, head of the St Austell Brewery in Cornwall from 1916 to 1939. Photograph: St Austell Brewery

“Solely within the 18th and 19th centuries did we see large business brewers dominated by males to fulfill demand for a brand new beer referred to as porter,” stated Protz. However then [the first world] battle got here, and the boys who managed and labored within the breweries went off to battle, leaving girls to step into the breach.

“I’ve seen many pictures displaying girls doing all of the brewing processes within the first and second world wars whereas the boys have been away. It was bodily very onerous work – filling barrels with beer and transferring them round takes energy,” stated Protz.

Over the course of the 20th century, there was additionally a shift within the beer-drinking tradition. “I bear in mind going right into a pub in Middlesbrough within the 1960s with a girl good friend, and as we walked within the dialog stopped. Nobody stated a phrase till we’d completed our beer and left.

“Now pubs are open to everybody, feminine pleasant, household pleasant. After I began writing about beer [in the mid-1970s], the one two sorts you can get on this nation have been delicate and bitter. Take a look at the selection now. And golden ales and lighter beers are very fashionable with girls.”

Among the many girls that function in Protz’s e-book, printed by Camra Books, are Jane Kershaw, a director of the Manchester brewery Joseph Holt, who was named Brewer of the 12 months in 2019. “This can be a agency that’s famously conservative – if they’ll make an enormous leap, then others can,” stated Protz.

One other is Belinda Sutton, who runs Elgood’s brewery in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, along with her sister Jennifer Everall. When she began working on the brewery in 1984, Sutton attended a gathering of the Brewers’ Society – now generally known as the British Beer and Pub Affiliation – the place she was the one lady within the room.

“Two of the boys requested me to fetch them a drink, and one other requested me the place the loos have been,” she informed the Observer. “Now I cope with extra girls within the business than males. There’s been an enormous cultural change.”

Household and craft brewers are going through difficult occasions, stated Protz. “The massive international breweries are on the march. Gross sales of bog-standard lager are in decline so that they’re in search of extra attention-grabbing beers, and working the rule over smaller brewers to see if they’ll take them over.”

The pandemic has piled on further stress. “It’s been so onerous, however I’m so filled with admiration for the way in which small brewers have been artistic, switching to bottled beer and direct deliveries whereas the pubs have been shut,” stated Protz, 81, who edited 24 annual editions of the Marketing campaign for Actual Ale’s Good Beer Information and wrote a beer column for the Guardian till 2006.

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