Happy belated International Women’s day folks! Sorry about being around to wish it to everyone identifying as female on the actual day but you see, I was busy brewing beer. This Ale Lover Extraordinaire got to put her money where her mouth was and actually get her hands (and clothes, doh) dirty.
International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and acts as a reminder that we all need to work towards accelerating gender parity. It’s not about women celebrating “just being women” (although I see zero problems with that, to be honest) but more celebrating how far we’ve come since the early 1900’s when this day was envisaged, and to remind us how far we’ve still got to go.
I have spoken about women and real ale before, so when I found an invitation to an “extra special female brewery experience day” in Brewhouse & Kitchen in my inbox I was nothing short from hyperventilating with excitement. I mean yeah, I love beer but I’ve never actually had a hand in making it. Which is pretty odd, considering my best friend is a brewer and I’ve been to more breweries than I care to count. Maybe I’ve been lazy, I don’t know. Point is, now was my chance. And not only my chance to actually get down and dirty with the brewing process, I was able to do it with some ladies, on International Women’s Day, with the proceeds of this brew going to charity.
So on Wednesday Polly and I headed over to the brewery pub with our mind very firmly on all things ale. But first things first. The itinerary promised us some brekkie and a cuppa to kick off our day and boy did they deliver. Some tasty bacon butties and coffees later we were ready to meet Matthew Lloyd, the head brewer in B&K Chester, our guide for the day. We mused over some malts and hops and talked about the different varieties… and that’s when the ladies got to work.
Let me tell you, brewing is very physical and whatever calories I consumed during the day are well and truly worked off after just a few minutes of manual mashing. For those who are yet to be indoctrinated to beer or brewing, mashing is a step in the brewing process that combines crushed malts with hot water in a mash tun to convert complex starches into simple sugars that are more readily fermented. And after the mashing comes the cleaning of the mash tun and that my friends is rather laborious as well.
I now feel like I understand the chemical process going on in the mash tun and I’ve also had a hand in measuring hops and yeast and yeah – there’s a lot more that goes into brewing than I never really appreciated. I think I have to start being nicer to my brewer friends now. I’ll let you know how that goes later though.
Anyway. It wasn’t all hard work. We were fed with one of the best mac n’ cheeses I have had in a long while, all the while sampling some beers brewed at the premises (“here’s one I made earlier”). They were all well rounded and balanced beers, from the DevaVictrix (single hopped pale ale), Golden Boy (blonde ale), Sunset Curfew (IPA) to the Twisted Chimney (Black IPA). The one I was somewhat wary of was the Preceding Judge, a rye beer that once made me actually leave a half unfinished.
I’ll put that into perspective: I never leave beer. If I pay for it, I’ll drink it. And I left this beer at the table. Don’t get me wrong, I love rye beers – they’re in the top five beers I most enjoy, but something terrible had happened to this one. Maybe it was the last of the barrel, I don’t know, and yeah I probably should have mentioned it to someone but in a truly (in my case adopted) British fashion I just left the beer and thought “that’s a shame” instead of having a calm and reasonable conversation about it with someone. That’ll learn me.
You’ll be happy to know that this half of Presiding Judge was on top form though.
But I digress. Point is, I had a lovely time. From what I gather, so did everyone else too. As someone who advocates more women to drink beer, seeing all the lovely ladies work hard to brew one, sample several and, I suppose, come together all because of the top tipple in the world was really gratifying.
And we all get to go back in a few weeks to sample our beer. It’ll be a nice pale ale with a touch of fruit cordial sourced from a local farm, and the proceeds of the beer are donated to Cancer Research UK so make sure you pop in to sample it and get some good karma.
I’m super proud of all the femALE’s I was with on this #InternationalWomensDay, we did a top job. And thanks B&K Chester for giving us the opportunity to come along. What a great idea this “extra special female brewery experience day” was. Let’s do it again next year, yeah?
P.S International Men’s Day is on 19th November. You’re welcome.