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Beer and Women: UNCG History Project Celebrates An NC Tradition

When you imagine someone who brews beer for a living, who do you picture? A chill guy in jeans and a baseball cap? He's probably white, maybe he has a beard.

Craft beer and craft brewers are celebrated in North Carolina, but women's contributions to the state's beer legacy are less well known. Researchers behind theWell Crafted NC project at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are working to change that.

Credit Courtesy Well Crafted NC
Anita Riley of Lonerider Brewing Company in Raleigh, N.C shares her story with the Well Crafted NC project.

UNCG archivist Erin Lawrimore celebrated the diversity of women-made brews at the Bière de Femme festival in Asheville this month.

“You could find everything there from a deep dark raspberry stout to a triple IPA. There was a little bit of something for every palate," Lawrimore said. "And every single beer there was made by women.”

Bière de Femme is aPink Boots Society fundraiser to provide scholarships and networking opportunities for women in the craft brewing industry. Lawrimore also brought her recording equipment to the event. She and her colleagues at Well Crafted NC are collecting records and oral histories about craft brewing in North Carolina.

"I want other people to know, first of all, that there are women in the industry. A lot of people don't think of women stereotypically as brewers."

The Brewers Association estimates the industry has a $2 billion economic impact on the state. Butmen outnumber women in brewing 2-to-1.

Anita Riley is assistant brewer at Lonerider Brewing in Raleigh, and a co-founder of the Bière de Femme Festival. She's also an alumna of the Brewing, Distillation and Fermentation program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.Riley told Well Crafted NC that she wants women who love to make beer to know there’s space for them in the industry.

"But also letting the guys know that, 'Hey, you want a really good New England IPA, and there's this gal over here that makes a fantastic one and you should try it.' I think that goes a long way just to say, 'there's a different way to think about this.'"

A picture of the 'Molasses Beer' recipe from Mary Randolph's 1828 cookbook, 'The Virginia Housewife.'
Credit The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph (1828) / Courtesy of UNC Greensboro Libraries
Courtesy of UNC Greensboro Libraries
'Molasses Beer' recipe from Mary Randolph's 1828 cookbook, 'The Virginia Housewife.'

Archivist Erin Lawrimore says women have been brewing beer in North Carolina for hundreds of years... at least. She's been combing through UNCG'sRare Books collection and found proof.

"When you look at historic cookbooks in the 1800s and back, who's making the beer? It's the women. So you would just make your beer at home with the ingredients you have on hand. We had recipes for molasses beer, spruce beer, pea-haulm beer, all sorts of hyper local ingredients."


Lawrimore says she hasn't convinced any contemporary brewers to take on those old school recipes, yet.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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