The Witchy History Of Beer Brewing

If you've ever looked at the depiction of a witch and wondered what may be bubbling in her cauldron, well, it could have been beer.

Brewing beer is now a male-dominated industry. In fact, Thrillist reports that only four percent of 1,700 breweries featured in a Stanford survey had a female leading the brewing process. However, it was once the work of almost exclusively women. According to Smithsonian Magazine, in medieval Europe, the herb-oriented, at-home nature of brewing landed it solidly in women's to-do category.

Of course, the beer then was not quite the beverage we know and love today. All the Swirl notes that the alcohol content was lower and it contained herbaceous medleys in the place of a "bitter agent." And before we had a strong understanding of the science of fermentation, All the Swirl explains, the resulting brew did seem pretty magical.

So how did we get from women brewing almost all the beer, to the beer-brewing landscape we have today? Well, it wasn't without a witch hunt.

Where the witches come in

According to Smithsonian Magazine, women began to be pushed out of the brewing process as it became more and more commercialized, coinciding with the Reformation in the early 16th century.

As witch hunts became prominent throughout that period, many of the qualities of a female brewer, like economic independence and the strong herbalist and scientific knowledge required to craft a brew, says All the Swirl, made them prime targets of the anti-witch campaign.

In fact, notes Smithsonian Magazine, a lot of the modern-day visuals of what makes a witch can possibly be attributed to the back-then conflation of female brewers and witches.

Picture a witch in your mind. What do you envision? A cauldron? Well, says Smithsonian Magazine, women often brewed and transported their brews in large cauldrons, and what was bubbling inside was wort, a brewing term that essentially means unfermented beer (via The Spruce Eats). A pointy hat? Those, says All the Swirl, were a sales tactic to stand out at markets. How about a cat? Well, when you're housing all the grain you need to brew beer, who better to keep mice out of your stash than a feline (via Smithsonian Magazine).

After the witch trials, females dominating the European brewing industry were a thing of the past by the 1700s, says All the Swirl, and women are still underrepresented in the industry to this day. Here's to hoping more and more female brewers will get back to their witchy business now and in the future.