Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson


Happy October and Happy Halloween!

When we think about craft beer in October it is easy for our thoughts to be drawn to Octoberfest or even pumpkin ales. These, though, are relatively recent manifestations of beer in October.

The roots of beer and Halloween go much deeper back into our history. The primary connection between brewing and Halloween is through witches.

In ancient Sumeria the profession of brewing was the only one watched over by a female deity, named Ninkasi. In ancient Babylon, women worked as baker-brewers and distributed beer commercially. Brewing was the province of Egyptian women. The goddess Hathor was considered to have invented brewing and Hathor’s temple at Denedra was known as a place of public drunkenness. Other African societies also credited women with creating beer.

Until monasteries took over production of beer in the 11th Century, brewing was the domain of tribal Germanic women. Hops was first recommended as an ingredient in beer by Saint Hildegard of Bingen.

Women in northern England were the primary brewers for their communities.

Double, double, toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!

Over a long period of time in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries brewing in Europe changed from being a women’s profession to one dominated by men, particularly churchmen. Women were forced out of brewing, and a new ideology of female brewers was created.

As brewing became dominated by men, women came to be seen as incapable of brewing properly. Female brewers and ale sellers were depicted as “witch-like, untrustworthy, and grotesque.” Women were described as using their charms to induce meant to drink. By linking alewives with witchcraft, men were able to “justify the social control of women.”

Many aspects of our image of witches grew out of the practices of these female Medieval brewers and ale sellers.

  • They used large brew cauldrons filled with boiling wort.
  • An ale stake was displayed above the door of a brewer with ale for sale. It was a rod with with many smaller sticks tied onto one end and doubled as a broom used for sweeping the shop.
  • Brewers often kept a cat to keep rampant rodents out of their grain storage.
  • When brewers took their ale to market, they would wear tall pointed hats to be clearly visible and stand out in the crowd.

IE Brew Witches

I have gotten to know a more contemporary group of witches interested in craft beer and brewing.

The IE Brew Witches were formed almost a year ago by two women working at different Southern California craft breweries. Julia was working part time the Hamilton Family Brewery in Rancho Cucamonga. One slow Monday evening Destiny, from Hangar 24 in Redlands stopped in for a flight. They got to talking and came up with the idea of a group for women who are passionate about craft beer to get together, support each other, and taste locally brewed beer.

It was “love at first flight.”

IE Brew Witches hold a meet up most Thursdays at a local craft brewery or tasting room. I attended a meet up at Rescue Brewing a couple months ago. The main focus is on learning more about and tasting great craft brews.

They rotate their meet ups throughout the Inland Empire, not visiting one location more than others. They also seek out new beer releases by local breweries.

Two members of the board recently brewed a persimmon wit beer with the head brewer of La Verne Brewing for a membership drive on October 7.

The most intriguing beer-food pairing I heard about was when Last Name Brewing (then Dale Brothers) in Upland held a Girl Scout cookie and beer pairing which was described as phenomenal.

The group is in the initial stages of offering annual memberships with incentives for members and breweries to get involved. They recently became incorporated and are working on their tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status.

Anyone can become a member of IE Brew Witches. Whether you prefer a great hoppy triple IPA or a rich, dark stout. You do not need to live in the Inland Empire or even be female. Plenty of men participate.

I am told the women in IE Brew Witches are more interested in craft beer than many men are. As they say, No Mansplaining Needed.

The best way to find out more is to follow them on Instagram at iebrewwitches or on Facebook at I.E. Brew Witches. You can meet people, find out more, and taste some excellent local craft beer. Everyone is welcome.

Happy October and Happy Halloween! I hope you have an opportunity to make friends with your inner brew witch this month. 

Greg Richardson is a leadership and organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney, executive, and university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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