February 26, 2014 Updated: February 26, 2014 at 1:58 pm
From the time our first gullible ancestor took that dare and chugged a gourd of fermenting liquid, right up until the coup of commercialism, beer production was based in the home and handled primarily by women. In Anglo-Saxon times, a female brewer was known by the trade name "alewife."
Now that's the kind of marriage I can wrap my head around.
According to a Gallup poll, women represent 37 percent of the craft brew market. More women are getting into home brewing, too. While once considered the realm of the fellas - an accent for sporting events, brawls and male bonding - beer is no longer marketed in a gender-exclusive way.
Beer has changed. Beer drinkers have changed. And it is all good.
The Sud Sisters - Monica Mendoza, Nichole Montanez, Andrea Sinclair and myself - are four women who like beer. We're helming a new column and blog, Sud Sisters, to bring you all things beer and brewing in the Front Range region. This represents an especially fertile topic here in Colorado, a state ranked first in gross beer production and which boasts the third heaviest concentration of breweries in the nation.
Beer and I didn't start out on good terms, however.
My first experience with the libation occurred when I was in grade school and I asked my father for some of his drink. He obliged, possibly to teach me a lesson but probably just goofing around and curious about my response (please direct all complaints to the 1970s.) I managed only a sip of that light and watery lager - the style he still favors - but it was enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth for years.
That didn't keep me from drinking beer, of course. In college, it picked up where academia left off context-wise and provided a quasi-reliability in a world where party punch concoctions routinely were served from trash cans by frat boys. It wasn't until a college year in Edinburgh, Scotland - a city with a natural aroma of yeast and hops due in part to the massive, now-closed McEwan's brewing operation - that I realized there were far greater things to beer and beer culture. What's more, there were beers out there that actually tasted good!
As Ben Franklin reputedly said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
So it began.
There are many things to love about beer, the true everyman drink. Even when fancy, it's still Homer Simpson's beverage of choice. It's the place where everybody knows your name, even if they don't remember it in the morning. We even have an affectionate term - beer gut - for the physiological consequences of regular indulgence.
Beer allegedly showed up on the manifest of Noah's Ark and might have predated the invention of bread, which I guess means everyone sobered up really slow back then. It was enjoyed by ancients in Sumeria and in Egypt, where its very existence was credited to the goddess Hathor, "queen of drunkenness and dance and the inventress of beer."
Throughout history, when the water was bad - and it often was - people drank beer, even for breakfast. It was both sustenance and recreation. Wherever we've gone, beer has made the trip too. When we colonize distant planets, we'll show up with a six-pack, as that's the neighborly thing to do.
In the past two decades, America's palette for beer has matured alongside the burgeoning craft brew industry. Last year, 948 breweries opened across the U.S. In that time, 56 opened in Colorado, bringing the state's number of brewpubs and craft breweries to 217. It's now uncommon to belly up to a bar that doesn't have something local on tap.
To some degree, my life has been guided by an invisible beer compass. I spent the late 1990s in the microbrew mecca of Portland, Ore., then moved to Yakima, Wash., where 75 percent of the nation's hops is grown. Now, home is Colorado Springs, where it seems a new brewery opens monthly.
Invisible compass, you done good.
Join the Sud Sisters for a cold one every other Wednesday in Food and online at blogs.gazette.com/sudsisters.
Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364
SUD SISTERS BIOS
Hometown: Berkeley Springs, W. Va.
Day job: Features reporter
Fun facts: Stephanie has worked at newspapers in West Virginia, Washington and New York and is pretty sure she remembers writing an online beer column in Portland, Ore. When she’s not writing, she often can be found not working on projects at her west-side home.
Hometown: Globe, Ariz.
Day job: City Hall reporter
Fun facts: Monica grew up in the desert where typically the best beer was the coldest. In the early years of being a cub reporter, the best beer was the cheapest. But then she had a chance to live in Germany for a few years and that is where “die Liebesgeschichte mit Bier” (the love affair with beer) began.
Hometown: Cañon City
Day job: Features designer
Fun facts: Nichole grew up in Colorado but don’t look for her on the slopes or the trails. She is from Florida and feels most at home on a flat surface. Nichole has forgiven Colorado for not having palm trees — the beer makes up for it. When she’s not hibernating, you can usually find her holding a baby somewhere.
Hometown: Mexico City
Day job: Public safety reporter
Fun facts: Andrea grew up as a multicultural expatriate in Mexico and South Korea, and has traveled and lived all over the U.S. for 10 years. When she’s not reporting and sleuthing, Andrea enjoys hiking, biking, trying new restaurants and spending time with family and friends, all in the company of beer.