During Medieval England Woman Dominated The Brewing Industry

Samuel Reason | December 11th, 2018

During the 18th century if you happened to travel around England, then you will have come across an Alewife, there were several notorious ones such as Mother Louse. In fact, during this era, woman dominated the whole of the brewing industry. Also known as a Brewer or a Brewster, this historical term Alewife was used for all woman who made ale for commercial use.

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The term was first seen recorded in 1393 and simply meant a woman who kept ale in her home, and it is now commonly used as a translation when the document is talking about any woman who brewed or sold ale since the beginning of time.

It is strange that in modern times the profession has indeed been taken over completely by males, but the origin of the brewing profession goes as far back as ancient Greece and was in most cases performed by women. In fact, women brewed the majority of ale for both domestic and commercial use in the whole of England. This was before the great plague which caused the black death, after this period then males started to take over the trade.

During medieval times, without any modern refrigerating, ale would go sour after a few days. This mean consumption was very high, historians believe it was in the realm of a gallon per person per day. Because in England, it was the most affordable and clean beverage readily available. In most cases, due to the brewing, ale was safer to drink than water.

Historians believe the female domination of the trade, would have been down to it being a craft that could be learned and passed down by family knowledge. It did not require any need of going to a school and becoming a specialist, which was still very difficult to do at the time. And as a trade in medieval Europe, if you were known Alewife, then it could be a very lucrative and successful career for you! Essentially because it was a very stable profession: everyone wanted to drink ale!

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