#WomensMonth: The art of brewing with a woman’s touch
By Jessi Wesson, Fastmoving - Aug 19th, 13:36
SAB which boasts 57% of women brewers in South Africa, believes Women’s Month provides the perfect opportunity for our country to reflect on how far we have come in changing the perception of women and beer. Since prehistoric times, the important responsibility of brewing beer was almost always undertaken by women in a community, but since the industrial revolution in the 18th Century, it has become more of a male-dominated industry. Now is the time for women to take their power back and reassume their rightful place as society’s leading brewmasters.
We chat with Mandy Ryan, Brewing Production Team Leader at SAB’s Rosslyn Brewery in Pretoria who is at the frontline of this revolution about her journey and all things beer brewing with a woman’s touch.
FM: Where did your journey start in the craft and art of brewing the perfect beer?
MR: I have a Microbiology background and started at Rosslyn Brewery in 2015 as a Senior Laboratory Technician in the Micro laboratory. The position required me to work closely with the Brewing Team on problem-solving and process optimisation, which introduced me to all the intricacies of brewing that I fell in love with. It was the start of an overwhelming passion and the more I learned about the brewing process; the more I wanted to know.
When an opportunity came around for a brewing traineeship, I immediately applied for it and was fortunate to get the opportunity to discover more about brewing. Alrode Brewery, Johannesburg South, became my home for two-years where my knowledge grew, and I got to know some great people in the business. During my second year, I received my qualification as an International Brewer from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and obtained validation as a key taster on the Africa Zone Tasting Panel.
After my final brewing checkout, I jumped into the Brewing Production Team Leader role where I manage the brewing process itself. It was during this time I realised how much I also enjoy working with teams and developing people.
FM: What does the ‘art’ of brewing mean to you?
MR: I have found it is called the “art” of brewing for a reason because just when you think you have it all figured out; you are once again surprised by the complexity of the science behind the process. There is never a dull moment.
It is very fulfilling when everything comes together perfectly, for that 8.5 scoring beer, and I can say that I had a hand in brewing it.
FM: What advantages, if any, are there in being a woman in the male-dominated industry of brewing?
MR: When you look back at the history of beer (in most parts of the world), women have been instrumental in the brewing of beer – there is even a goddess of beer in Egypt.
The beer industry benefits from a woman’s touch both in the art of brewing (and attention to detail) and in the tasting process. It is well-known that women tend to have a better taste palate than men, so this makes tasting certain flavours easier for us and as a result, brewing these flavours more beneficial.
FM: Where are women at now in the male-dominated industry of brewing?
MR: I think the change is already happening. More and more women are taking the industry by storm and conquering what was once perceived as a male-dominated industry.
If you still think beer and brewing is a man’s domain, think again. At SAB, this is far from the truth because, in South Africa, we are making our mark on the industry and currently have 57% of women brewers at the company.
FM: Do you foresee a complete breaking down of the male-dominated industry stereotypes?
MR: Yes, I see the stereotypes around women in beer are slowly eroding away – they are still there but we are slowly starting to counter them with more and more women being involved in the industry. I speak not only from my experience at a big brewing company but also from what I can see within the craft beer market.
At SAB, women are embraced and encouraged and there is a strong support structure within the brewing community - both female and male. That said, women are not only involved more in the brewing sector but across the business in general from corporate through to industrial.
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