Why women invented beer

Ninkasi, Sumerian goddess of beer.

Yesterday an article in the Food and Drink section of Huffington Post caught my eye: “According To History, We Can Thank Women For Beer.” It details the role of women in the invention and development of brewing going back at least 9,000 years. But it never answers the question that immediately arose in my mind – “Why did women invent beer?” Here’s my theory.

Why Women Invented Beer

In those days the hunters had to range so far to find
a mammoth the whole clan would have to come,
leaving behind the sheltered valley rich with berries
and nuts, the river teeming with fish and mussels -
out to where there was nothing but wind and moss,
snow blown sideways across the endless steppes.

Then a year came when there were no mammoths,
not a track, no dung, nothing. The men pogoed
for hours around the fire, chanting their hunt songs;
the shaman babbled, wailed, shook the magic rattle -
all to no avail. And so, half-starved, footsore, the band
dragged themselves back to their bend in the river.

That lean year the clan ate anything they could find:
roots, bugs, even the grasses the wild horses grazed.
Being barely edible as was, a woman boiled it, added
a little wild honey so the children would eat it too,
and set it aside for later. But she forgot about it
until the batch went bad, bubbling and stinking.

So when himself came back grumpy, hungry, with
his game pouch empty, she said “Well, there’s this;
it’s nasty, but it will fill the hole in you.” Having eaten
worse – raw snails, rotted fish – he choked it down.
Later he began to laugh at nothing in particular
and rolled around with the children in the dirt.

This being so unlike him, she made another batch,
gathering all the seed-heads she could find.
He shared the brew with his hunting brothers,
who spent the whole night hooting around the fire,
dancing and showing off. When morning broke
none of them felt much inclined to take up the hunt.

And so settled life began, and agriculture. The men
began to build fences and walls and huts. Women
planted, harvested and brewed, and the place beside
the river became civilization. The Sumerians knew
her as Ninkasi, goddess of beer. In ancient Egypt,
she was revered as Menqet. And the rest is history.

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