French brewers return beer to its feminine roots

The first recorded beer recipe was written on a piece of clay in 1800 BC as an ode to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer. A feminist brewery in France is inspired by this ancient legacy.

French founders of the feminist beer brasserie 'Y'a Une Sorciere Dans Ma Biere' are inspired by ancient history.
French founders of the feminist beer brasserie 'Y'a Une Sorciere Dans Ma Biere' are inspired by ancient history. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

When Vero and Vero started making beer, they thought they were part of a new trend of women asserting themselves in a traditionally male-dominated industry — only to discover that beer actually has ancient feminine roots.

“We were just two women who liked beer and wanted to do something on our own,” said Vero Lanceron, 44, co-founder of Y’a Une Sorciere Dans Ma Biere (“There’s a Witch in my Beer”), a small brasserie in the town of La Reole in southwest France.

From the start, theirs was an adamantly feminist enterprise — the word is on their business cards.

But it was only when they began researching the beer industry that they realised they were part of a much older tradition.

“In the collective imagination, there’s this idea that beer is mostly for men,” said Lanceron’s partner Vero Verisson, 49, adding with a chuckle: “Unsurprisingly, that is something we strongly refute.”

The first recorded beer recipe was written on a piece of clay in 1800 BC as an ode to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer.

Around the same time in Mesopotamia, the earliest-known laws, the Code of Hammurabi, included several rules for brewers and tavern-owners — always referred to as “she”.

Beer-making remained primarily a women’s affair into the Middle Ages, when low-alcohol fermented ale was a nutritious drink for the whole family.

Since it didn’t keep, women often sold the excess to neighbours, giving them some financial independence and leading many to open taverns in their homes.

It was only when brewing became a more profitable pastime, that it was increasingly taken over by men.

‘Completely moronic’

The Catholic Church declared “alewives” to be immoral and unclean temptresses — a handy argument for its monks as they took over brewing in their abbeys.

“As soon as it started making serious money, men got interested,” said journalist Anais LeCoq, who lays out the history in a new book “Maltriarcat”.

“The final straw was the industrial revolution when brewing was industrialised. Women were barred from having capital, property or higher education so naturally they disappeared from the profession.”

Things have changed radically with the recent trend for craft beers and small-scale brasseries — many of them run by women.

There are dozens of women-led breweries in Britain and the United States, for example, who have set up networks such as Project Venus in the UK”

“We see it with young people who are very interested in our beer, and don’t find it all strange that we are female brewers,” said Verisson.

“With the older generation, by contrast, we sometimes have to do some explaining.”

They shake their heads at some of the adverts from big beer companies, still sticking with semi-naked girls and football as their main marketing ploys.

“It’s the same thing with spirits. I love whisky, but it is still categorised as a man’s drink,” said Verisson.

“There are no male or female drinks — there are just different tastes. Sadly, some men feel emasculated by the idea they drink the same thing as women, which is completely moronic.”

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7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With rising inflation and cost of living, many people in France are desperate to keep their grocery bill low. Here are a few tips for how to avoid paying too much for food, drink and other everyday items.

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With inflation ticking upward, we’ve seen prices rise, especially for things like fresh vegetables, meat, pasta and cooking oil. Even though inflation is affecting food prices less than energy prices, buying groceries is still a huge part of every household’s budget, and unfortunately things are set to keep getting more pricey. 

We’ve put together a list of a few ways you can save a few euro at the supermarket:

Figure out if you qualify for any government benefits

First things first, it is worth seeing whether you can qualify for any existing government assistance, like CAF. On top of this, the French government has promised to set up a food voucher of €50 per month for low-income households after the parliamentary elections in June. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to receive CAF payments in France

Compare store prices

Unfortunately, going to the closest supermarket is not always the most economical solution. If you prioritise grocery stores on the lower end of the price spectrum (and you’re willing to walk a bit further) you can save a lot of money. A helpful tool to find the cheapest store near you is the “Que Choisir” online interactive map (click here) that has listed 4,000 affordable stores in mainland France. 

Discount grocery stores, like Lidl and Aldi, are great options for saving a little extra at checkout. But if you must go to a pricier chain, like Monoprix for instance, try to buy Monoprix brand items – they’re typically a little less expensive than name brand foods.

Plan ahead to make the most out of discounts

If you go online ahead of heading to the grocery store, you can see which items will be discounted (“promotion”). If you cannot find this information online, you can always go to the store and ask for a catalogue of that week’s sales items.

Normally, this is something the cashier should have access to. With these discounts in mind, you can construct more affordable recipes. 

Franprix’s website, the ‘discounts’ page

Also, if you’re looking for cheaper recipes in general, you can always go to blogs and online recipe sites specialised in frugal shopping. If you want to try some French specific sites, you can test out “” or “

When it comes to discounts though, be careful about conditions involved (particularly when it comes to loyalty cards).

Sometimes these promotions promise a lot, but actually getting your money back might not be as simple as slashing a few cents at the checkout – you might need to send the coupon somewhere to get the discount, or wait for points to accumulate on your card.

That being said, you can optimise your discounts using several online sites that allow you to combine your loyalty cards (Fidme, Fidall, and Stocard). Other online coupon sites include Groupon, which allows you to make grouped purchases (therefore cheaper), and Coupon Network and Shopmium, which help you benefit from existing discounts. For cashback plans, you can look to websites such as Shopmium, iGraal, FidMarques and Quoty, which allow you to be reimbursed for a part of your expenses.

Make a list, set a budget… and stick to it

It might seem obvious, but when you go into the store, try to resist temptation. The best way to do this is to keep track (in real time) how much you are spending.

Some stores make this easier by allowing you to carry around a ‘self-scanner,’ this will help you to watch your bill go up as you shop. Another tip for this is to withdraw the exact amount of cash you expect to need for the essentials of your trip – obviously in order to do this, you’ll need to know the base prices of your essential items, so it will require a bit of planning ahead.

Buy (then freeze) soon-to-expire products

A consumer’s best friend and sure-fire way to decrease waste! Items coming up on their use-by-date tend to be discounted, so if you plan to purchase these foods and then immediately freeze them, you can significantly extend their shelf life.

Lots of supermarkets make this easier for you by dedicating entire shelves to “short shelf life” items that, according to Elodie Toustou, the head of the “Money” section of the magazine 60 Millions de consommateurs, opting for these foods will allow you to “pay three to four times less.”

Another great way to do this is to use applications like “Phénix” and “Too Good to Go.” These applications will allow you to set your geographic parameter and then click on food stores, restaurants, and bakeries in your area that are getting rid of “panniers” (sacks) of soon-to-be-expired foods. Lots of times these panniers cost only a couple euros.

The trick here is to plan ahead by arriving at the start of the allotted time (if the boulangerie on your corner is offering “Too Good To Go” bags from 11am to 2pm, try to get there as close to 11am as possible for the best items).

Re-consider markets and farmer’s stores

Contrary to popular belief, buying from farmers’ markets and grocers that sell predominantly local products actually can save you money, particularly if you are buying the seasonally relevant fruits and vegetables. Buying directly from a producer can also allow you to eliminate the margin taken by intermediaries. But be careful, this rule is not true all the time.

One way to benefit from cheaper prices at markets is to arrive as late as possible, when the merchants have started to pack up their products. This might allow you to benefit from lower prices or even free items, as they’ll be hoping to get rid of their remaining items.

Know what items are most impacted by inflation

Finally, as inflation continues to increase, try your best to monitor which foods are most impacted. If possible, it might be worth removing or limiting them from your diet – or looking for more affordable alternatives.