Raise a Glass to Lisa, and celebrate Women and Beer

You don’t think women love beer? Of course they do! Why wouldn’t they? What’s stopping them from loving beer? Oh, wait…. The fact that hundreds of years of masculine imbeerialism by the likes of Charles Glass and his macho-icon cronies has claimed beer as the birth right of the male species, that’s what. It’s a sad indictment on the human race that beer is routinely claimed to be the beverage of overweight, wannabe alpha males, and precious little else. It’s even sadder because the fairer sex has a little-known yet glorious history of brewing and consuming beer.

Prior to the industrial revolution, women were in charge of beer. In many cultures, women were the brewers, and often the biggest consumers of the amber liquid. Norse shield maidens, Egyptians, Greek, Medieval and African brewsters (the official term for a female brewer) were the reason the world’s oldest beverage could be enjoyed.

So what happened?

Well, money and masculinity happened. The industrial age meant the development of copper smelting, which led to large-scale breweries being built. Hildegarde von Bingen, a natural scientist and herbalist discovered hops could be used as a preservative to prolong the life of beer, which in turn led to even bigger production capacities and the first commercially-orientated breweries.

Thus did clever men in professions not yet open to women wrest the reigns of the beer wagon away from the brewsters. Of course, you also need massive capital to build big, beer-making factories. And who had the capital? The mega-rich Industrialists’ Old Boys Clubs (also not open to women).

Ask yourself, what do Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker, Charles Glass, Jim Beam and Captain Morgan have in common? When you’ve figured that out, the next question naturally becomes why the consumption of alcohol is inextricably linked to male icon worship. It’s simple: that was the market. Women were subverted in the name of patriarchy and the ‘family values’ of the Industrial Revolution. Men work and make money, women stay at home and look after family affairs. Naturally, after a hard days’ work men would be entitled to a drink or two, and their women would have to wait patiently for their drunk husbands to realise they were hungry.

Enter the villain of the piece (in a South African context, at least): Charles Glass. The man whose name is synonymous with one of the largest brewing operations on the planet, and the Sacred Cow of South African beer consumption. Yes, yes, Glass was a good businessman (and an even better opportunist). However, it was his wife, Lisa that was the hand and mind behind the beer that was eventually acquired by South African Breweries. Lisa has been marginalised (if not completely erased) in a beer history written by men and immortalised by the statue of her husband at Newlands Brewery and his signature all over her product.

It’s time for this rather disturbing masculine beer stereotype to be gone. It’s time for Lisa to step out of Charles’ shadow. Sadly, existing stereotypes forged on the anvil of Charles Glass and his macho henchman will not go quietly into the night. Even at Beerhouse, where we pride ourselves on an inclusive menu and a stereotype-free atmosphere, we’ve not always got it right. Sometimes our Navigators find it easier and more efficient to stick to profiles and stereotypes when recommending beers, and have rightly offended some hop-loving ladies by suggesting they try something fruity. Following a similar line to that espoused by popular Beerlover Melissa Cole, we have to remind ourselves to avoid such outdated profiling and selling techniques.

At Beerhouse we want to challenge Beerlovers to explore Beerland, and explore a little further every time. We want to cater for all manner of tastes, not stereotypes, and for the most part we seem to have struck a chord with men and women alike, young and old. Some love beer because it can be bitter, heavy or textured; some love beer because it can be light, fruity and refreshing. But all of them love beer, and that’s the way it should be.

So let’s raise our glasses and say a long overdue “Cheers to Lisa!”

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