Women in Brewing by Sally MacKenzie

Women in Brewing By Sally MacKenzie, Author of What Ales The Earl


Women in Brewing
By Sally MacKenzie, Author of What Ales The Earl

Today, home brewing is a popular, male-dominated hobby, but once upon a time—in the Middle Ages and earlier—all brews were made at home by women as one of their many kitchen duties. Like cooking, brewing was more art than science as precise temperature controls, thermometers, and other such devices had yet to be invented. Early female brewers—sometimes called brewsters or alewives—might have used only a large pot over an open fire.

Ale was the main beverage for many in those days, providing nutrition and fluids before sanitation made water safe to drink. Until hops—which add flavor but also act as a preservative—became part of the recipe, beer had to be brewed frequently to prevent it from spoiling. (Ale and beer are slippery terms. Historically, the main difference between the two was that beer contained hops, but now you’ll find hops in both beverages. Modern terminology lists ale as a type of beer.)  

With the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-eighteenth century, brewing moved far away from the small, home-based enterprise that one woman could manage by herself and into the male-dominated, commercial arena. Significant outlays of capital were required to secure commercial spaces and outfit them with the new steam-powered machinery. Breweries were sited in cities like London, where rivers provided the water needed for both the brew and to run the equipment. The time of the alewife was all but over.

The larger enterprises also brought new risks. London breweries built increasingly bigger fermenting vats until the London Beer Flood of 1814, when one enormous vat—22 feet tall—at the Horse Shoe Brewery failed, releasing more than 161,000 gallons of beer. The force of the suddenly freed liquid broke the other vats in the room, and the resulting tidal wave of beer demolished the brewery’s back wall, flooding the surrounding streets and homes and causing several deaths.

Brewing continues in large commercial operations today, but with the rise of home brewing—made legal at the US federal level in 1978 for the first time since Prohibition—and the related increase in craft brewers, beer is once again produced on a small scale. Women have yet to reenter the brewing world in significant numbers, however, but organizations like the Pink Boots Society are trying to change that.


Caroline is about to embark on her third Season and her parents fear she’ll be permanently on the shelf if she fails to make a match this time. Unfortunately for them, that is precisely what Caroline wants! Curious and adventuresome, Caroline longs for a life of travel, excitement, and perhaps even a touch of danger . . .

If only she can remain unmarried until she turns twenty-one, Caroline will inherit her grandmother’s bequest and gain her freedom. It’s not a staggering amount, but it’s enough to fund her dreams without a husband’s permission. She has her future all planned out—until Lawrence Sinclair appears on the scene.

Intense, intriguing, and handsome, the man reminds Caroline of a caged lion. In fact, the more she knows of him, the more questions she has. And when she learns how dangerous he really is, he may just become her new fascination—the one she can’t resist . . .

About the Author

A native of Washington, DC, Sally MacKenzie lives in suburban Maryland with her transplanted upstate New Yorker husband. She’s written federal regulations, school newsletters, auction programs, class plays, and swim league guidance, but it wasn’t until the first of her four sons headed off to college that she tried her hand at romance. Learn more about Sally at www.sallymackenzie.net or on the social media platforms below.


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