Women's Equality Day: Showcasing Beer & Spirits Produced by Women

Image: Bourbon Master Distiller Marianne Barnes. Image Source: Castle & Key

In less than three weeks we all have the opportunity to recognize Women’s Equality Day. Congress designated August 26, 1971, Women’s Equality Day. This was due to the efforts of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), and the date was chosen to commemorate the certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. For our readers who are a bit rusty when it comes to the Constitution, that amendment gave women the right to vote.

Women’s Equality Day (again, that's August 26) is more than the observance of the passage of the 19th Amendment. The day is meant to shine a light on the continuing efforts of women to achieve full equality. It’s interesting that even in 2016 we’re still facing issues of inequality and lack of diversity.

It’s even more interesting – and more than a little disheartening – that women’s roles in brewing and distilling are often downplayed and even ignored by much of the media. The omission of women in the history of distilling in particular seems to have led to many misconceptions. For example, many Americans (possibly the majority) believe that women don’t care for beer. The public has been fed a steady diet of fallacies regarding the imbibing habits of women for far too long.

Luckily, science, history and those interested in facts have teamed up to uncover the truth. Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey, written by Fred Minnick, notes that women have been involved with distilling since its inception. Women created the devices used to distill plan extract in 1400 BC. And while it wasn’t used to make alcohol, an alembic still prototype was invented around 2 AD by Maria Hebraea. Women ran Kentucky distilleries all over the state in the 1800s, and the first known sour mash recipe was written in 1818 by Catherine Spears Frye Carpenter. There were women bootleggers. There are women master distillers, master brewers, and owners of distilleries, breweries, bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and other hospitality industry venues.

Which leads us to celebrating Women’s Equality Day. All we ask is that operators consider highlighting beers and spirits they should already have on hand that are produced by women. If you genuinely wish to acknowledge the contribution by women to the industry then you’ll come up with promotions and social media posts that aren’t tone deaf. To help you on your way to showcasing spirit and beers produced by women, here’s a short list to get you started:


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