Cool things brewing in London — women in the beer trade

19.03.18

Last week we raised a glass to the women of the world, and it gave us a thought: what’s the state of women in brewing?

Having designed the What’s On Guide for Walthamstow Forest Council and their community arts project Making Places, we’ve had a sneak peak at cultural events popping up around London. That’s how we discovered Wild Women Week, a beer-soaked musical celebration for women that raises money for Girls Rock London.

Heading up some of the activity around this is Walthamstow’s own Wild Card Brewery, featuring super cool head brewer Jaega Wise. They play a central part in International Women’s Collaboration Brew Day, a celebration for female brewers worldwide, founded by Sophia de Ronde of Burnt Mill Brewery. (Can we get a ‘YASSSS.’)

Photo: Wild Card Brewery

As big fans of both beer and female empowerment in general, we thought this was all great and wonderful. Unsurprisingly, however, the topic of women in the male-dominated world of brewing is also an on-point political topic.

Sorry, fellas…women were there first.

Photo: Wellcome Images, operated by Wellcome Trust

The original brewing profession was women’s work—they brewed most of the ale in England. Regarded as a domestic chore, women planted and grew herbs, ground grains and boiled ingredients in a large black cauldron over a sweltering fires, all whilst running a home. This eventually led to an accessible (and often lucrative) side hustle for many women, leading to ale-houses and a few women gaining independence through their trade.

Back in those days it was vogue to wear large conical black hats, a fashion supposedly adopted by brewers as a way of being identified in a crowded market. A geographical identifier for thirsty customers was a broomstick hung over the front door. As mentioned, the ale was brewed in a big black cauldron…one can imagine where this is going.

In short, growing male-led urban guilds and the Church turned against these women. The trademark alewife identifiers became associated with fire, hell, brimstone and all other terribly bad things. At first the talk of witchcraft was seen as merely insulting, but as guild communities grew, and urban life increased, screaming “witch” at the sight of a woman brewing became easier and easier, thus turning a once profitable, accessible career into a form of devil-magic.

With the rising tide of witch-hunts and persecution by death, we can see why brewing beer became a less appealing craft for women.

Photo: Wiper and True Brewery

Thankfully, we’re now in an age where people have (mostly) ceased walking around shouting “witch” at women in the street, and there is a resurgence of women being interested in the craft. The good work of making good beer for all to enjoy can continue. Black hat or not.

We’ll drink to that.
> Tessa

( Psst. My current go-to: the limited edition alewife-tribute beer XX from Wiper & True Brewery. That beautiful windmill illustration above is from the packaging.)

Inspiration and images for this post borrowed from these awesome sites…
wildcardbrewery.co.uk
wiperandtrue.com
ancient-origins.net
medievalists.net

Season’s Greetings from Nunraw (and O Street)

12.12.16

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A graphic scavenge through a curious old bookshop yielded this treasure: bits of 1980s Christmas programmes from the Sancta Maria Abbey in Nunraw.

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From a graphic standpoint, it’s a goldmine: digitised black letter typography (which we redrew for our Christmas letters, printed by Risotto), forgotten photography and lo-fi print techniques we tend to drool over these days.

The best this find has to offer though, are the stories. There’s a bookie who became a prior. In 1985, the guesthouse received a dish wash-up unit. Best (or worst) of all, there’s the story of Father Gerr Lynch.

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“Fr Lynch of the Cathedral stayed at the guesthouse while waiting for a place in the a retirement home. He was celebrating his farewell Mass. In the introduction said it was his ‘swan song’, he asked pardon of everyone for his short-comings, gave a homily concluding with a short consecration to Our Lady and at the Communion carefully placed the chalice back on the altar and collapsed and died. He was indeed prepared and could not have asked for a better re-routing of that day’s journey to his new home.”

This Christmas, we’re raising a glass to Father Lynch. If only we’d be so lucky as to drop dead moving type around a screen. Season’s Greetings and lots of love from the O Street family.

7″ slipcases

20.11.15

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We’ve just allocated the Secret Santa names in our studio (I have a feeling the Illinois Dynamo is a ‘Christmas person’) and I have been racking my brains as to what to buy. Scrolling through eBay I stumbled on some great old 7″ vinyl and was struck by how amazing the slipcases were.

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There were a few that were specific to the singles, but most were these generic designs that related to the record labels themselves.

ost-singles7Again, I harp on about this a lot, it made me think about the aesthetic that we are losing with the digital music revolution. Will the industry behind these playful compositions ever be replicated?

ost-singles5I realised I was onto ‘a thing’ when I even found one guy who was just selling the slip cases, no vinyl at all. Where did all the records go? I like to think they are in a Wurlitzer somewhere, maybe even the great juke box in Bradleys Spanish bar off Oxford Street.

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I’m not going to show you the cracker I got for Secret Santa (or who I’m giving it too), needless to say the Capitol Records building has never before looked so resplendent! (Always wanted an excuse to use that word… natch!)

last of the cut ’n’ pasters…

05.11.15

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We were out of space in the studio plans chest yet again. Right, some of this shit has to go. And go it does, piece by piece to reveal… eh, what’s this at the back of the drawer?

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Man almighty, I’d forgotten all about that. A black oversize A4 plastic display book with the word ‘LaForet’ tucked into the clear spine pocket. But it’s all coming back. This remnant from the glory days of cut ’n’ paste. A handmade campaign snapshot presented to Japanese ‘depaato’ (department store) LaForet back in 1990 (a fine example of why it’s a good idea to put the date on things).

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‘What’s that?’ says the voice of a person in their 20s, over my shoulder. ‘That,’ I reply, ‘…is 1990’. When I was a person in my 20s. And right there, I saw myself clutching it with sweaty paws as a room-full of perplexed Japanese media execs closed in.

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Back then, I was working for Sony Music in Tokyo. A certain Mr K, one of the many sellers and fixers who flitted in and out of our office, had decided that I was his go-to-guy for ‘all things unusual’. It’s odd how far a pair of white brothel creepers will take you in this world. It all seemed highly suspect, but with the tacit approval of the big boss and occasional bribery, Mr K brokered my services to other agencies—in this case the somewhat straight-laced, poker-faced account handlers at McCann Eriksson Hakuhodo.

Hence LaForet, a sprawling and vaguely trendy store in the Harajuku shopping district, tapping me up. In retrospect, I only remember their brief stipulating ‘something different’ for an autumn/winter campaign. That was lucky, as my response was to stick a black magic hand over the face of a small boy in his underwear and attempt to sell it in as the lead poster image. Ambitious and dumb in equal measure—friends, I must’ve been on drugs.

Suffice to say, it was a step beyond the step beyond they had imagined (fair enough really) and yours truly didn’t get the gig.

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Happily, it did lead the ever resourceful Mr K and I to some sublimely random commissions elsewhere. Note to a younger me: ridicule and lack of remuneration are no barriers to creative expression. Let’s hear it for small children with voodoo heads, everyone!

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Anyhow, mise en scène apart, the original point of this tale and the thing that person in their 20s was so taken with, was all this visual calamity had been done analogue oldskool. Indeed folks, I am talking magic markers, scalpels and UHU (anyone born after 1985 can use Google or ask an old person to expand on these terms). And yes, all those flowers on the Botticelli above were cut out by hand. The only inkling of design technology to come that played any part was the clunking workhorse Canon photocopier. Once you’d cleared the paper jammed shots of other people’s bottoms, that is.

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I suppose it’s pretty quaint now. Back then, working in confined spaces, high on pen, glue and petrol fumes, the risk of brain damage and self immolation never really crossed our minds. After all, we were just doing what we loved, the only way we knew how.

Was the work any better because it was harder to pull off—I doubt it. But it does make me smile and just a wee bit nostalgic for those days of chemical and physical endeavour.

So come on kids, park that mouse and flip your switch for the solvents.

ONW

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LOTCNP is, conveniently for these purposes, a track by moo-wave popsters Joaquina, from the album ‘The Foam and the Mesh’. If you like that kinda thang—and really, you should—you can check it out here or just go straight and blow 99¢ at that Amazon.

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