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The Brewster of Salem

The term “brewster” for a female brewer was used as far back as 1308, according to my O.E.D., when it was common for beer to be made by the woman of the household. Like many early crafts, once the industrial revolution changed the way our society functioned, men generally took over as brewers with the rise of commercial breweries. There were, of course, many commercial beer ventures before that time, but it was the mid-1800s that sealed the fate for the majority of female brewers, and the term fell into disuse. I actually have always liked the word, and I know several women brewers who also prefer the term. Today, only about 10% of all brewers are female.

One of them is Jen Kent, who was named the brewer at Thompson Brewery & Public House in Salem, Oregon at the end of July. Thompson’s is part of McMenamins chain. According to a profile in today’s Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal newspaper, Kent is called “the brew goddess” by her fellow workers and customers. It’s a nice name too, and certainly implies more power than a brewster. Teri Fahrendorf is also quoted in the profile, though she’s referred to as “a respected elder,” a label I think she’d probably object to. I certainly don’t think of Teri as an elder, though I do have the utmost respect for her. All in an all, a pretty good article.

Jen Kent, brewster at McMenamins’ Thompson Brewery & Public House in Salem, Oregon.
(Photo by Andrea J. Wright, Statesman Journal)

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