UK Breweries Run By Women
Who wants a glass of equality, inspiration and great tasting beer?
Beer. It’s very far from being ‘a mans drink’. In fact, beer and the brewing of it was almost entirely the realm of women in ancient Egypt and Mespotamia. They were the ones who brewed and crafted, under the goddess of beer Ninkasi. The same was true in Norse society, while in Medieval England women brewers — “brewsters” — and alewives totally ran the ale trade. They provided not only to husbands and menfolk in the home but to inns, public houses and businesses around the country.
So how have we ended up here? Beer has largely been seen, over the past 100 years at least, as the drink and refuge of men. Pubs as the places where men go to ‘get away from the wife’ (why did you marry her if you consistently want to avoid her), inky porters and flavourful craft ales with amusing names such as Panty Dropper and Sexy Bitch a hilarious yet un-nerving in-joke.
Industrialisation was largely to blame for the initial divide, where larger machinery and bulkier processes dictated that the brewing of beer on a large scale was mens work. From that point, women were pushed further and further out of the bar and into the cold, our only beverages being wine or some sort of saccharine neon liquid that was low on calories and high in Lolita-like despair.
However, that has changed dramatically in recent years — helped, to an extent, by the rise of microbreweries and their culture of small-batch, artisan brews. Finally, the processes of creating beer has once again been localised and been made accessible — and women can once again move out of the kitchen, and into the brewery. These are the top female run breweries in the UK — prepare to be inspired, and thirsty.
Little Valley Brewery, West Yorkshire
Family-run brewery founded in 2005 when master brewer Wim van der Spek met co-owner and entrepreneur Sue Cooper. All their beers are brewed, bottled and branded high on the Pennine moorland of Cragg Vale, just outside Hebden Bridge, with each and every beer 100% vegan-friendly and all but a few certified organic. They’re even stocked in Waitrose now — that’s when you know you’ve made it.
Loch Lomond Brewery, Alexandria
Amazing Fiona MacEachern and husband Euan, started this brewery in 2011. Now they’re multi award winning contenders on the scene with a Pale Ale to die for. This Family run brewery is set in the scenic countryside of Scotland, creating new and exciting beers made from their very own strain of yeast. They currently create a range of award winning ales from traditional and malty to modern IPA’s, all of which are available to buy from their website.
Brewsters Brewery, Lincolnshire
Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur and beer expert Sarah Barton, Brewsters now sells a range of cask beers, alongside bottle and artisan beers, with all styles from blond and hoppy to dark roasty stouts. Sarah has always been heralded as a pioneer in the world of female beer brewing — and so she damn should be. A true genius with flavour and subtlety.
Fuller’s Brewery, London
Georgina Young took over as head brewer here in January 2017 — and has done an incredible job not only retaining but building on the amazing Fuller’s range. This independent family run regional brewery, founded in 1845, now runs a substantial premises in Chiswick, with information about the brewing and bottling process, a shop and an on-site bar. Fuller’s beers, ales, stouts and porters are available across a huge range of shops and pubs across the UK.
Wild Card Brewery, London
Wild Card is a microbrewery-cum-bar in an effortlessly trendy warehouse space with outdoor tables, serving cask and bottled beers and street food. Founded in 2014, this small brewer has gone from strength to strength, and now provides a small but highly innovative range of ales, pilsners, porters and IPA’s. Possibly the coolest brewster ever, Jaega Wise, is the head brewster here. Not only is she running the show in the brewery, she also does frequent gigs and musical performances in the bar out front. Beer and a show. Perfection.
Woodfordes Brewery, Norfolk
Founded in 1981, Woodforde’s Brewery (named for an eighteenth-century clergyman who enjoyed the occasional pint of the strong stuff) now produces an expansive range of ales, bitters, stouts and barley wine. Brewery tours are available, while nearby Fur & Feather acts as the brewery’s tasting room. Belinda Jennings became Head Brewer here in 2015, and subsequently produced an Earl Grey-infused brew especially for FEM.ALE, GRRRL Grey. It’s mind-blowingly good.
FEM.ALE Festival, Norfolk
Not strictly a female brewer, but this is fast becoming the festival to find them. This beer and music Festival takes place annually each May in the city of Norwich, with the aim to celebrate women in the brewing industry. The flagship festival takes place over four days at The Plasterers Arms, where alongside a huge range of female brewed beers, ales, porters, ciders and pilsners there are female beer experts, brewsters, authors and historians providing talks and workshops. As well as the annual festival, throughout each year FEM.ALE also run beer tastings and beer and food matchings. If you’re looking for inspiration, this is the event for you.
If you want to find where these amazing places are on the map, check out my full guide below: