The Best of the Wurst!

27 09 2010
Bavarian Weißwurst

Photo Credti: *Noema* CC

It’s that time again! That time of year that rings in the hearts of all beer drinkers everywhere. Oktoberfest! Not only that, but it is the 200th celebration of the first Oktoberfest. Originally it was a celebration of the Prince of Baveria’s wedding, it soon became a celebration of the harvest and the beginning of the brewing season. Now it is just a celebration of all things beer. And unlike St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo, it is a holiday actually celbrated by Germans.

We have covered Oktoberfest beers in our section on European Amber Lagers. So today, we will focus on that other staple of Oktoberfest, the sausages. Now sausages are just a small part of the Oktoberfest food. Visitors also eat chicken, ham, noodles, preztels and fish on a stick (because what is a fair without something on a stick?). But sausages are probably the most popular German food in the United States. There are alot of differnt types of sausages. And each comes from a different region with different variations. So let’s break it down for you so that you don’t look like “Eine komplette Idot”

There are two main types of sausages: fresh (served hot) and spreadable (served cold and spread on bread).

The fresh, hot sausage is what you will probably see most at and Oktoberfest celebration.

You are probably familiar with Bratwurst already. You see those at baseball games and at cook outs. It is a pale sausage made priamarily with veal and pork. It is spiced with nutmeg and other spices.

And you may be familiar with frankfurter. Although what Americans consider “frankfurter” is more like Weinerwurst. Frankfurter is made out pork and bacon fat and then smoked. Weinerfurter is more like American hot dogs. It is made out of pork and beef and then covered with garlic.

However, at the real deal, you will most likely see Weisswurst. Weisswurst is German for “White sausage” and is, as the name suggests, very pale. It is made from veal, cream and eggs. And is very delicately flavored. Traditionally, it is served with rye bread, saurkraut (pickled cabbage) and beer.

At your American celebrations, you may also see  Knockwurst. Knockwurst is a short, plump sausage made from veal and corriander and is often grilled.

There are loads of other sausages you probably won’t see very often at your Oktoberfest celebrations. But they include:

  • Bierschinken—with chunks of ham and pistachios
  • Bierwurst—coarse-textured sausage flavored with juniper berries
  • Blutwurst—”blood sausage” fried like English black pudding

As for the spreadable sausages, you probably are not going to find a whole lot of those at your Oktoberfest, unless your host is very adventurous. Americans generally don’t care for their sausages in a spreadable form.

Liverwurst is the most well known of the spreadable kinds. All liverwurst must have at least 30% liver in them. And there are many varieties depending on region. Although the most popular kind is Braunschweiger which is made with milk and eggs.

Cervelat similar to Italian salami, a slicing sausage of pork and beef with spices and often mustard or garlic. It is most often eaten on pieces of dark rye bread.

There you have it! You can now identify your sausages and party with the “wurst” of them! Prost!


Best Wheats 2010: #1 Schneider Aventinus

14 05 2010

This is not the first time Schneider Aventinus has made a Best Beer list here before. In December, we named it the Eighth Best Beer of 2009. Since then, Aventinus has gained a point to round out a perfect 100. it is not surprising to see that. This beer truly is perfect.

Earthy and rich, this beer defies expectations. There are not many weizenbocks our there, let alone Doppleweizenbocks. The result is a dark, bold, and mysterious beer. A wheat that is simultaneously smooth and spicy. All citrus and banana notes have been stripped out and replaced with purple fruit, chocolate, clove and all spice.

This is a beautiful beer and should be respected as such. This beer was almost given an “Honorable Mention” rather than the top spot because it may be too good. Leave all your expectations of what a wheat should be and just accept it for what it is.

Photo Credit: Bernt Rostad CC

Schneider Aventinus-
Rate Beer Score: 100 Points (100 for Style)

Aroma: Clove, raisins, and pepper dominate the nose. A slight bready, doughy malt nose helps balance the spice of the yeast. No hops present.

Appearance: A ruby/russet body with no highlights and a light, fluffy head. Hazy body from not being filtered. Head has excellent persistence and lacing.

Taste: Yeast forward with spice–clove, all spice, pepper, anise– with dried purple fruit, chocolate and a dash of caramel. Super sweet but well balanced, not at all cloying.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, creamy, with pinprick carbonation. Medium to heavy bodied with a rich roundness to it.

Serve with red meat–pork chops, lamb, venison or steak. Or with dessert–cherries jubliee, carrot cake, mince pie.

Honorable Mention:

Schneider Hefeweizen Original
Rate Beer Score: 95 Points (99 for Style)

It seems every one is in agreement: this is the original hefeweizen, let’s have that speak for itself. This is the beer that set the style in the public’s view. And you just don’t get much better than that. We believe the only reason why the Schneider does not have a perfect 100 for style is because the style has changed to a more lighter color over the years.

Still, smooth, creamy, velvety with banana, clove, and citrus with a hint of smoke: this beer practically defines hefeweizen. The deep mahogany can be a bit off putting. But just enjoy it and this beer will pay off. We love this beer so much, we featured it in our How to Pour a Hefeweizen video last month.

Better Know Your Beer Style: Category 15- German Wheat and Rye

11 05 2010

We recently covered wheat a few weeks ago in ‘Tis the Season: Wheats. So, I will spare us all the time and effort to rehash the history behind wheats. But whereas, that post covers Germany, Belgium and the United States, the BJCP style guidelines categorize them separately. American Wheats are part of the Light Hybrid Varieties (Category 06). And Belgian Witts are in Category 16- Belgian and French Ales.

There are a few things that differentiate German Weiss beers from their Belgian and American counterparts. They are (in no particular order):

  • Reinheitsgabot: The medieval German purity law that decreed no ingredients other than malted grain, yeast, hops or water could be used in beer. While no longer an official law, many German brewers hold true to it for sake of tradition and cultural understanding. All those banana, clove, pineapple notes in the aroma are byproducts of the yeast rather than spices added to the beer.
  • German ingredients: Brewers tend to use the ingredients nearby for sake of freshness and convenience. So German beers should be made from German malts and Noble Hops.
  • German Brewing Techniques: German brewers have innovated and developed many techniques specifically recognized as German. The Germans were the first to make lager and bocks. Germans are the only brewers to consistently make wheat based bocks (weizenbocks).

And, in case you missed it before, below is our video on how to pour a hefeweizen.

Category 15: German Wheat and Rye:

Photo Credit: Bernt Rostad CC

Subcategories: Weizen/Weissbier, Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, Roggenbier (German Rye)

Appearance: Ranging in very light to russet brown with garnet highlights. Creamy, frothy white to tan head that is sustaining and persistent. Hazy due to lack of filtering. Some hefeweizens are filtered and are called Krystalweiss. Roggenbier is often orange marmalade to copper in color.

Aroma: Notes of banana, clove and pineapple are all present and apparent. Dunkelweiss may even have a bit of a vanilla or oak note with hints of allspice. Weizenbock will have a rocky, mineral quality and hints of bread crust. One may even find a bit of smoke present in all of all of them. Hops should not be present. Neither should diacytl or DMS (a cooked corn smell).

Taste: Low to moderately strong banana and clove flavors. A light vanilla or bubble gum is optional but pleasant. There should be a soft, and round bready sweetness that helps lift the yeast esters and accentuate them but never overpower them. The star of the show should be the yeast, which gives those fruity esters as well as a certain spritzy brightness to the beer. It should be apparent and bold. Weizenbocks will tend to show more dark fruit character of plums, grapes, raisins and prunes. The spice should be earthier; showing more allspice, cinnamon and clove. Roggebier should have a spicy rye quality to it, similar to good rye bread. In none of these beers should diacytl or DMS be present. A slight noble hop bitterness helps balance the beer. Otherwise, no hops should be present.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body. Creamy, rich and round with medium to strong carbonation. Hefeweizens should be effervescent. There should be no heat from alchohol.

Ingredients: At least 50% of the grain bill should be wheat. While the other 50% is composed of mostly pilsner with Munich malts as specialty grains. Noble hops used for bittering. And a low flocculating weiss yeast. Roggenbier will have rye added to the specialty grains.

Technical Notes:
Original Gravity:
Final Gravity: 1.10-1.022
SRM (Grain Color): 2-25
IBUs: 8-30
ABV: 4.3-8.0%

Commercial Examples:
Hefeweizen: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, Schneider Weisse Weizenhell, Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse, Plank Bavarian Hefeweizen, Ayinger Braeu Weisse, Ettaler Weissbier Hell, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse, Andechser Weissbier Hefetraeub, Kapuziner Weissbier, Erdinger Weissbier, Penn Weizen, Barrelhouse Hocking Hills HefeWeizen, Eisenbahn Weizenbier
Dunkelweizen: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel, Ayinger Ur-Weisse, Franziskaner Dunkel Hefe-Weisse, Schneider Weisse (Original), Ettaler Weissbier Dunkel, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse Dark, Tucher Dunkles Hefe Weizen, Edelweiss Dunkel Weissbier, Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel, Kapuziner Weissbier Schwarz
Weizenbock: Schneider Aventinus, Schneider Aventinus Eisbock, Plank Bavarian Dunkler Weizenbock, Plank Bavarian Heller Weizenbock, AleSmith Weizenbock, Erdinger Pikantus, Mahr’s Der Weisse Bock, Victory Moonglow Weizenbock, High Point Ramstein Winter Wheat, Capital Weizen Doppelbock, Eisenbahn Vigorosa
Roggenbier: Paulaner Roggen (formerly Thurn und Taxis, no longer imported into the US), Boergerbraeu Wolznacher Roggenbier

‘Tis The Season: Wheat Beers

28 04 2010

Photo Credit: Wikicommons CC

It’s springtime in the Northern Hemisphere and here in the United States, the unofficial beginning of Summer (Memorial Day) is just a month away. One of my favorite parts of Spring and Summer is drinking outside. And in my opinion, there is no finer beer for drinking outside as a good wheat beer. Although wheat beers can be consumed year round, I believe it is the perfect warm weather beer. The slight spiciness of the nose, the way the haze catches the sunlight, the refreshing nature of the beer; all make it all the more better out doors.

Traditionally, a wheat beer is made of about 50% wheat and barley. There are some difficulties of using wheat in brewing. For one, it is rich in non-fermentable starches and it is low in starch converting enzymes. For that reason, the wheat must be matched with barley in order to get a complete fermentation. Those unfermented wheat starches and proteins are not filtered out. As a result, the starches and yeast create a lovely haze as well as increased fruit and spice esters. Wheat beers are rich in notes of banana, clove, all spice, pineapple and smoke. Depending on the region of the beer, different characteristics are enhanced (more on that a bit).

Wheat proteins are good at another thing: head formation and retention. Wheat beers create lovely, rich, foamy heads that are persistent. A properly poured wheat beer can be a thing of beauty; a graceful, light, hazy body with a cloud of meringue-like head floating on top. There are few things like it in this world.

The Three Traditional Wheat Regions-
Traditionally, there are three countries that brew wheat beers: Germany, Belgium, and the United States. While all wheat beers have the same haziness, spicy notes and beautiful head, the different regions have their own different characteristics.


In Germany, wheat beers are known as “Weissbier” or “White Beer.” The most popular of the Weissbiers is Hefeweizen which translates to “Yeasted Wheat.” Hefeweizen began in the state of Bavaria. Because Bavaria had the strict beer purity law known as Reinheitsgabot (which only allowed barley, water and hops in the beer), only the King’s Brewery, Hofbrauhaus, was allowed to brew it. Having a monopoly on the style, the Hofbrauhaus made a fortune on the very popular style. As Mel Brooks would say, “Its good to be King!”

The Reinheitsgabot was later amended to recognize two things: the inclusion of yeast and generalizing malted grain. Thus, allowing other breweries to use malted wheat in their beers. Schneider & Sohn was the first brewery to begin brewing Hefeweizens in the 18th Century. And by far, their beers are some of the best. Even though the Reinheitsgabot has been lifted decades ago, Germans still hold true to their sense of purity. Only barley, wheat, hops, yeast and water are used in their beer. Any aromas of spice, citrus, fruit or smoke come from the yeast and nothing else.

Hefeweizens are served in long, slender glasses which help accentuate the head and haze of the beer. Below, I show you how to pour a Hefeweizen.

There is some controversy on whether or not the pour above is appropriate. Garret Oliver argues in The Brewmaster’s Table that it is very rude to pour a hefeweizen in that style. Although Randy Mosher argues equally as much in Tasting Beer that he has seen people in Germany serve the beers that way. I have asked some Germans and they say that they have never seen any one pour a beer that way and they were quite impressed with the technique. So, either way, just have fun!

In Berlin, they drink a sour style of Weiss called Berlinerweiss. Berlinerweiss lost its popularity in post-war Germany. And for many years in the late 20th Century, it was seen as an “old man’s beer” and a relic of drearier times. Lately, some breweries have picked up the style again and it has begun catching the attention of some beer programs on this side of the Atlantic. It is often sold with a shot of raspberry syrup or essence of Woodruff, a bitter, green herb.


Whereas the Germans base their beers in the strict confines of styles and a tradition of simplicity, Belgians see their beer as an opportunity for freedom of expression. While German’s have a “paint by numbers” view toward beer, Belgians have a more “watercolor” view to their beer. In Belgium, wheat beers are known as “Witt” and their beers are spiced with adjuncts: traditionally coriander and curacao (bitter orange peel).

If it weren’t for one man, Pierre Celis, the world would be without Belgian wheat beers. Lovingly brought back from near extinction, Celis, painstakingly recreated the style with the archetypal witt, Hoegaarden. In 1955, the last wittbier brewery in Belgium closed. Celis, only a milk man at the time, decided to brew his own to sell to his customers. As demand increased, he gave up on his milk delivery and began exclusively brewing witts. In the 1980’s ImBev (owners of Heinekin and now Anheuser-Busch) put up the funds to help Celis expand. Feeling pressure from the larger brewery to change, he sold the brewery to ImBev and moved to the United States where he could have more freedom. While Hoegaarden is now part of a multinational company, the love for Belgian style witts has stuck. Several breweries in both Belgium and the United States are brewing witts with corriander and orange peel.

Belgian witts are often served in short, multifaceted tumblers. These help accentuate the haze as they act like a gemstone’s cuts and refract the sunlight.

The United States

In the United States, wheat beers got a lift from the craft beer community, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. While many American wheat beers call themselves “Hefeweiezen,” it is a pretty big misnomer. The BJCP considers them “Hybrid” beers as they really have no resemblance to German or Belgian style wheats. Too hoppy and spicy for German weissbier and absent of spices and adjuncts for wittbier, American wheat beers are a horse of a different color.

Using citrusy American hops from the Pacific Northwest, American wheat beers are crisp and refreshing with notes of lemon, orange and grapefruit. They have very clean and smooth back ends that don’t linger as much as their European counterpoints. They don’t hold a lot of complexity but they are darn tasty.

The Elephant in the Room
Talking about wheat beers brings up a big debate: whether or not to wedge a wheat beer. By that, I mean, does a wheat beer get a wedge of citrus on the rim? It is difficult to tell. Traditionally, wheat beers do not get a citrus wedge. It is hard to trace back where this phenomenon came from. Some beer historians believe it began with the Widmer Brothers–the first brewery in America to offer a wheat beer. They thought a lemon wedge on the rim of the glass would help accentuate the citrus of the hops and yeast. Whereas, others believe the adding of a wedge of orange to a wheat beer began with Blue Moon, thinking the wedge would accentuated the orange peel in their Belgian Witt. Regardless of who did it first, it has caught on. There is no doubt that a wedge of citrus can help pick up some of those notes. However, squeezing a lemon into a beer can also cover up some of the more delicate notes. Some places, including my work, won’t volunteer a lemon wedge for any beer (including an American wheat). I won’t begrudge some one of one if they ask for it, either.

Garret Oliver, Randy Mosher and I all agree- there is a time and a place for a wedge. At a picnic, drinking an simple American wheat is fine. But why would you want to ruin a perfectly balanced, creamy, spicy $12 hefeweizen? It would be like going to a fancy steak house, getting you prime rib medium rare and then covering it with A-1 sauce. It just does not compute. Please, be discerning of your citrus, and when in doubt, ask your bartender.

Next week, we will pick our top 5 favorite wheat beers of 2010 and add some honorable mentions. In the meantime, below are some wheat beers to try.

Some Wheat Beers to Try:
Dirt Cheap
: Pyramid Haywire, Widmer Bros. Hefeweizen, Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss, Harpoon UFO, Shiner Hefeweizen, Spaten Franziskanner
Mid-Range: Bell’s Oberon (Seasonal), Paulaner Hefewiezen, Hoegaarden, Omegang Witt, Ayinger Brau-weiss
A Pretty Penny: Allagash White, Schneider Hefeweizen, St. Bernardus Blanche Witt, Sterkins White Ale, Kaputziner Hefeweizen

Best Bocks 2010: #4 Spaten Optimator

30 03 2010

Much like yesterday’s Shiner Bock, Spaten Optimator is a wonderful first example of a first time dopplebock. It can be a bit unnerving the first time one drinks it. It is bold, meaty, and strong. One of my bartenders described it as “drinking a roast beef sandwich.” But once one overcomes the surprising boldness of the beer, one can find a really warm and comforting beer.

Spaten was the first brewery to develop mechanized refrigeration. For that reason, Optimator was the first dopplebock to be developed on an industrial scale. Inexpensive and plentiful, Optimator is easy to find and drink. With its distinctive forest green bottle and coppery label, Optimator stands out from the other bottles on the shelf.

Spaten Optimator, Spaten-Franziskanner-Brau (InBev) (

Photo Credit: naz66 CC

Rate Beer Score: 94 Points

Aroma: A strong, earthy maltiness reminiscent of forest floor: Mossy, woody, and soil. Very clean and smooth. Little to no hop aroma.

Appearance: Russet brown with a fine, sticky, off-white head that dissipates quickly. Very faint ruby highlights. Very clean with little carbonation.

Flavor: Rich, meaty (cold roast beef), maltiness. With hints of chocolate. Very slight hoppy back-end from Noble Hops. Sharp, but well balanced booziness leaves a clean palate.

Mouthfeel: Thin to medium bodied. With pinprick carbonation. Very light feeling. Yet, surprisingly satisfying and filling.

Lenten Beer Lessons

28 03 2010

Today is Palm Sunday in the Christian Calendar which marks the last week of the fasting month of Lent. Last month, we discussed how lent was the traditional time for bocks and dopplebocks. As an experiment, I decided to devote this lent to getting to know these beers. I drank (not exclusively, but primarily) bocks and dopplebocks from all over the world. Some I liked better than others. This week, i will list my five favorite  beers from the last month. I recognize my total list of beers is hardly comprehensive and it is dependent on availability, cost and interest. As I list my favorites, I invite you to join in.

Photo Credit: Bernt Rostad CC

First: what did I learn?

Before I started this experiment, bocks and dopplebocks were hardly my favorite style. In fact, if I had to rank my favorite styles, they would probably be on the bottom of my list. i found them strangely rich but with no satisfying mouthfeel. The meaty nature of the malt made the beers very filling (as was the intention of bocks) but as some one who cut his teeth on session beers, I found them disapointing. When I told a friend I was only drinking bocks for Lent, his response was, “So you are giving up good beer for lent?”

But as I tried more, I came to appreciate them more. I learned to love how a well put together dopplebock would have a big, bold front-end and a nice boozy back-end to cleanse the palate. I loved the juicy, fruity middles and the unusual, minty hops used. Once I trained my palate to know what to recognize, I found them extremely interesting and, at times, surprising.

Toward the end of the month, I went back and triend things over again. I found beers I couldn’t stand initially were becoming new favorites. And I started to recognize between good examples and poor. And while bocks and dopplebocks are not my favorited beers, they have defintiely moved up my list a few notches.

German or Otherwise?

Photo Credit: @Joefoodies CC

The Germans invented the style and they certainly do it very well. Their sense of Rheinheitsgebot make sure the beers tay firmly in the style. And Americans have taken the beer in different directions. Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale is a pale ale made in the Maibock style. The result is a very boozy, sweet, hoppy, robust ale. Heavy Seas in Baltimore has an Uber-pils that boost the traditional pilsner style to the level of a bock (verging into dopplebock territory). And Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Amber Bock is essentially a hopped up American adjunct lager with some caramel coloring added. Moretti La Rossa has the grassy maltiness I expect from and Italian beer with the sweetness of bock; resulting in something resembling cooked pasta. And Obolon Deep Velvet is nothing at all surprising to me. First a big, sweet front-end followed immediately by a huge, boozy back-end with no middle at all. It is quite like being on a See-Saw by yourself.

What I Drank-
Ayinger Celebrator*
Bells Consecrator*
Fisherman’s Navigator*
Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning*
Leinekugel’s 1888 Bock
Michelob Amber Bock
Moretti La Rossa*
Obolon Deep Velvet
Rogue Dead Guy Ale*
Shiner Bock*
Spaten Optimator*

*Outstanding examples

Over the course of the next few days, I will be sharing reviews of my favorite bocks and dopplebocks of the season. We welcome your thoughts and comments below.

Women and Brewing

24 03 2010

Ed. note- March is Women’s History Month and today (March 24th) is Ada Lovelace Day. Ada Lovelace was an English writer and mathematician. By many, she is considered the first computer programmer. On Ada Lovelace Day, bloggers are encouraged to write posts on women’s roles in the advancement of science.

It can be claimed that over 99% of humanity’s interaction with fermentation has been led by women. It seems difficult to believe in the modern West where beer and spirits have become a man’s space. But from the hunter gatherer’s day of fermenting honey to mead to even today where cheesemaking,  , and even in the case of many pre-industrialized cultures alcohol making has been led by women. If, for so long, yeast production was led by women, why is it that men have so successfully co-opted beer?

But first, a history of women and fermentation.

As mentioned above, women were most likely the first fermenters. In hunter/gatherer societies, mead was the first fermented beverage. Honey mixed with water and fermented with wild yeasts, it is the most basic of alcoholic beverages. Women would gather honey along with herbs, fruit and roots. And, as water gatherers and fire keepers, they were probably the ones to control the mead as well.

Fast forward several thousand years to the beginning of agriculture. It is a common theory among anthropologists and archeologists that agriculture was begun in order to increase fermentation yields. Records found in Mesopotamia (one of the first agricultural sites in the world) showed that farmers grew as much barley as wheat. If food was the main reason for farming, it would not make sense to grow so much barley. Barley is more difficult to grow than wheat. It is difficult to mill into flour due to its hard shell and is poor for making bread. On the other hand, wheat is not good for making beer because of its high protein levels and thin shell. To grow one and not the other would show agriculture was based for food instead of alcohol. But to grow both shows a selection of grains for multiple uses.

Beer was most likely discovered by accident. Malting grain (allowing it to sprout and then drying it) is the best way to preserve grains other than baking it. Women bakers at home most likely discovered some water in their malt storage and found the sweet, fermented liquid to be pleasing to the taste and constitution. For a vast history of subsistance lifestyle, women were in charge of cooking cheese, baking bread and brewing beer (the three forms of human led fermentation).

In the pre-industrialized world, much of the alcohol consumed in home was brewed at home. Each family had their own recipes, malted local grains, grew their own hops and re-used their own yeast. In Belgium, spontaneous fermentation led to the development of “farmhouse style ales” including Saison and Lambic. In England and the New World, a process of reusing yeast called “Kreuzening” was used. This was accomplished by taking the yeast filled foam off the top of the fermenting beer and putting it in the next batch.

In Ancient Sumeria all the way to the Industrial Revolution, women weren’t only the homebrewers, they were also the tavern owners. women, being the ones who knew how to brew, were responsible for the town’s beer supply. Owning taverns and brewing beer were seen as socially acceptable ways for widowed and orphaned women to support themselves. And in England during the middle ages women tavern owners were called “Alewives.’ Their breweries were recognized by the brooms hanging over their doors. These Alewives, with their brewed potions and brooms, may have been the early models for our witches myths. As Carolyn Merchant points out in “The Death of Nature” it was precisely these witch myths that men exploited in order to consolidate power and wealth during the rise of modern industrialism. Eventually, male brewers became so tired of competing with Alewives, they had laws passed to make it near impossible for women brewers to make money off their product. They even made certain vital ingredients illegal for women to own including more than one bushel of grains at a time.

In other areas, the responsibility of the town’s beer supply was to the clergy. Some monastic orders, including the Trappists and Paulanists, are recognized for their proud brewing tradition. But some nuns, particularly the Franciscans, were also accomplished brewers. To this day, many Franciscan nuns are still very accomplished brewers. In 1976, a 26 year old nun named Sister Doris took the Bavarian brewer’s examination and came in on top.

Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen was a German Bendedictine nun and mystic who wrote many books about brewing and the brewing process. There is some debate on whether or not she is the first person to write about the use of hops. But she is definitely the first person to recognized the preservative nature of the plant.

St. Brigid, a patron saint of both Ireland and brewers is said to have turned her bathwater to beer so that the local lepers could drink potable water. And it is also said that when an easter celebration had run out of beer, she had turned water to beer.

In America, beer was slow to catch on. Barley was difficult to grow. By the time German and Czech immigrants began selling beer, most Americans were happy sticking to spirits and cider. Beer did not catch on until the mid- to late 19th century. At this point, beer and taverns had been designated as male spaces. American women generally did not brew beer at home. And thus, beer in the States had become a male dominated beverage.

In the twentieth century, women still bought beer for their family’s use. Beer at that point had been reduced to the sparkling macro brews we are used to today. The development of the beer can and the six pack was actually marketed toward women as an easy way to bring home the beer. And men, who’s beer tastes had been developed during WWII, were comfortable with the beer in a can.

As the American craft brew scene developed in the 1970’s and 1980’s women’s liberation and feminism brought women right back to were we began, in the brewery. Although a small proportion of modern brewers are women, it is growing. Stoudt’s Brewing in Pennsylvania is recognized as the first modern brewery with a woman brewmaster. Harlem Brewing Company in New York City is the first brewery in America to have a Black woman brewer.

In nearly every facet of brewing, there is a woman’s touch these days: women brewers, bar owners, distributors, sommeliers, and just drinkers. an organization called the Pink Boots Society works to support women in the beer world. As of last month, their directory contained over 320 members from around the world. Any woman who makes at least part of her income from beer is welcomed to join the Pink Boots Society.

Let us raise a glass in recognition of all the women who helped make beer what it is today!