The term “brewster,” which means female brewer has fallen largely out of fashion, though I know a number of brewsters who do actually like the word. I’ve always liked the sound of it, myself, and it evokes a time when it was not only common for brewers to be female, but it was it was the norm as recently as the 1700s and into the early 1800s. Women brewed beer for the household, which is where the term “alewife” comes from. At one point, something like 80% of brewers were female.
The beautiful wooden fermenters at Wentworth Brewery.
But then “monasteries began larger scale brewing for passing travelers, so women became less involved in brewing.” Later, in the mid-1800s, the industrial revolution took brewing from the home to the factory brewery and men became the dominant force in the industry. With rise of small craft breweries in the U.S. and abroad, women have been returning to brewing in greater numbers, especially in America.
From some reason, this is less so in England, where the promotion of Michelle Bright to head brewer at the Wentworth Brewery in South Yorkshire makes her only the second brewster in all of England, and the first in northern England. At just 26-years old, she’s also the youngest.
The only other brewster in the UK is Sara Barton, who owns and brews at Brewster’s Brewery in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
Both breweries are effectively with microbreweries, with small output over a local geographic area. A website for the village of Wentworth has a nice photo tour of the Wentworth Brewery online. And Brewster’s website features a short history of brewsters.
From the press release:
Michelle is also thought to be the only award winning brewster in the land, after winning the Gold Medal accolade at the Oakwood Beer Festival in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. She is an ex-army chef who has served in Kosovo and has since turned her skilful hand to brewing.
Steve Beech, Wentworth Brewery’s managing director, said: “Michelle has been with Wentworth for a few years now and has well and truly served her apprenticeship. She is a model employee and we are delighted that she has risen through the ranks to the dizzy heights of head brewer. She really deserves it and we are looking forward to tasting further exciting, new and interesting brews from Michelle in the future.”
Wentworth’s popular Oatmeal Stout – brewed by Michelle – scooped the best in show prize last year; at 4.8% it is dark, smooth, deeply delicious and definitely ‘moreish’! The outstanding Oatmeal Stout has already won many awards across the country and must be tasted to be fully understood. The satisfyingly malty flavour is achieved partly from the roasted barley and Golding hops.
Plus they’ve got some of the most beautiful labels I’ve seen. Here are just a few of them, but check out their website to see many, many more cool labels.