Originally published in ELLE Canada, 07/12
Ladies, for the last century we’ve been cheated out of our birthright — beer.
When beer was first brewed by the ancient Sumerians about 6,000 years ago, its deity, Ninkasi, was female and in every major brewing culture since, including the Incas, the Egyptians and the Vikings, the magical elixir was brewed almost exclusively by women.
But the industrial revolution took brewing out of the home and into the factory where commercial breweries marketed it as a beverage for the hard-working, bikini-loving male.
No longer. The rise of the craft beer movement — artisanal, microbrews with plenty of flavour and variety — is once again breeding female brewmasters and aficionados. Barley’s Angels, a female-only beer appreciation club, opened chapters in Toronto and Vancouver last year.
But the biggest reason for us to rediscover our love of pints is flavour. While most wine is made with two ingredients, beer is made from four, giving it some 400 flavour possibilities. Plus beer doesn’t have the acidic profile of many wines, often making it a more natural compliment food. And not just barbecue, we’re talking cheese, chocolate and eggs Benedict.
There’s really only one rule for enjoying beer — always pour it into a glass. Seeing a beer’s colour and getting your nose into the glass to sniff its aromas (from grapefruit peel to licorice) deepens its flavour.
For beer newbies, it helps to think of lagers as white wines and ales as reds. I chose five flavour-forward brews and asked sommelier David Black, proprietor of the Italian Wine Academy, to match each choice to a wine style. Use our handy guide to steer you to a perfect brew.
There’s a beer out there for every woman. All you have to do is start sipping.
If you like the fresh fruit and crisp acidity of unoaked Chardonnays try:
LugTread Lagered Ale, Beau’s Brewing Co., Ont.
The flagship brew from this organic, family-run brewery is the perfect gateway beer. If this cross between a crisp, clean lager and a fruiter, sweeter ale with notes of fresh bread, grass and hay doesn’t entice you to reconsider beer, nothing will.
Pair with: grilled salmon, summer salad or Monterey Jack cheese
Can’t get Beau’s? Try San Francisco’s Anchor Steam Beer.
If you like an off-dry Riesling from Germany, Alsace or Niagara, try:
Czech Mate Pilsner, Paddock Wood Brewing Co., Sask
Like the originator of the pilsner beer style, Pilsner Urquell, this brew by Saskatoon’s only microbrewery, is made with soft water allowing its floral, grassy and slight grapefruit peel notes to take centre stage.
Pair with: Thai food
Can’t get Paddock Wood? Try Pilsner Urquell
If you like lighter reds, like fruity Pinot Noirs from New Zealand, try:
Propeller ESB (Extra Special Bitter), Propeller Brewing Co., NS
Having taken home three gold medals at the World Beer Awards this supremely mellow brew is a great starter craft brew. If you haven’t tried this Halifax brewery’s spectacularly smooth, caramel English bitter with a nutty, dry bitter finish, do it. Now.
Pair with: ribs, fish & chips
Can’t get Propeller? Try Fullers ESB
If you like gooseberry-forward New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs try:
Blanche de Chambly, Unibroue, Que
This Belgian-style witbier is light and fruity with zingy notes of ripe banana, clove, orange peel and coriander. Wheat beer’s champagne-like bubbles and complex fruitiness make them a summertime favourite.
Pair with: Eggs, goat’s cheese
If you like the intensity, deep dark fruits and dry finish of a California Zinfandel or an Australian Shiraz try:
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, McAuslan Brewery, Que.
This smooth stout is one of the best beers in the country. If you’ve sworn off dark beers, give this fluffy oatmeal number a chance: if its chocolate and espresso notes don’t woo you to the darkside, nothing will.
Pair with: anything chocolate
If you don’t like wine but love juicy, bitter grapefruit, try:
Red Racer IPA, Central City Brewing Co., BC
This is one big, bitter brew: it starts off with a hit of caramel malt followed by a big explosion of hoppy grapefruit peel, and pine with a lasting dry, bitter finish. If you like this beer, you are officially a “hophead.”
Pair with: hot Indian curries, spicy Mexican fare