To mark International Women’s Day, Bristol based craft brewery Wiper and True has created ‘XX’, a limited edition beer that celebrates the role of women in the beer industry. The Gooseberry Wheat Beer is vegan friendly, made like all Wiper and True beers without the use of isinglass, a kind of gelatin made from fish.
Flo, 24, is a brewer at Wiper and True and part of the creative alliance behind this brew, made from conception to bottling entirely by the female members of the team.
Part of the profits from the beer will be donated to Bristol Women’s Voices, a charity that works to make women’s equality a reality.
Flo says: “Traditionally beer was clarified using isinglass, which is made from fish bladders. Isinglass is used as a form of finings which is essentially for clarifying beer – making it bright and transparent like a typical mainstream lager.
“We don’t use any finings, only physical filtration systems to remove particles in our beer, so it’ll always be cloudier but we don’t mind. We don’t use fish bladders because it’s an unnecessary extra step and it’s not a nice product. But also because leaving particles like the yeast in our beer is necessary to allow secondary fermentation in the bottle or keg. Cloudy beer can look very attractive and the particles in the beer can also impart more interesting flavours and characteristics that you might lose without them.”
XX is a tribute to the female-driven origins of beer and is named XX to represent the female chromosomes. Before the industrialization and commercialization of brewing in the UK, making beer was the domain of women. These women were known as ‘alewives’ and sold their brew in alehouses, at markets and from their doorsteps. The symbol of a broomstick was historically associated with alewives, as they hung a stick above their door frame to indicate when they had ale to sell.
Flo adds: “We’ve added a subtle broomstick and the Venus symbol to our iconic windmill label for our XX brew. When we had the idea of creating an all-female brewed beer for International Women’s Day, all the women from Wiper and True got together to discuss what type of beer we would like to make. We decided on a Gooseberry Wheat beer and my colleagues Cynthia, Amanda and I came up with the recipe. The beer was developed from start to finish by the women on the team. It felt like a fitting tribute to our beer ancestors, the alewives. We’re continuing the story of women brewing, while celebrating that women once again brew, promote, distribute, drink, critique and enjoy beer.”
The beer has been brewed with botanical ingredients as a nod to the provenance of women in beer history. Alewives used botanicals to preserve and flavour ales, sometimes with unexpected side effects. Psychoactive and aphrodisiac properties of these botanicals led to claims alewives were ‘bewitching’ their drinkers. In homage (but without the psychoactive and aphrodisiac effects) Flo and her team added the botanicals heather and meadowsweet, which lend a floral complexity and complement the tart fruitiness of the gooseberry.
She says: “It might seem unusual for a woman to be a brewer but I love my job. As one of three brewers at Wiper and True, I am in charge of making the beer. On a brewing week we create three or four brews. I look after the beers during every stage of their long journey. I start a brew day by testing and treating the water we’ll use in the brew and mashing in (and later digging out) 1-2 tonnes of grain from the mash tun. I then boil up 3500 litres of water in large stainless steel vessels, add hops, monitor the fermentation process with constant analysis and quality control which involves lab work and a fair bit of testing samples.
“When the beer is ready to package I manage the four person strong packaging team operating a bottling line running at 2000 bottles per hour. We have Thursday tasting sessions after work, where everyone from the brewers to the admin team are invited to try new brews and discuss recipe development.”
The craft beer industry is booming but the use of isinglass finings in breweries is still widespread. Wiper and True never uses isinglass finings and the majority of their beers are vegan. Some, such as their milk stout, contain lactose, clearly identified on the ingredients list.
While their vegan-friendly beer bottles do not yet have the iconic ‘vegan friendly’ logo, look out for ‘unfined’ on the label, indicating that the beer has not been passed through the finings process.
Flo says: “Whenever friends tell me they don’t like beer, I tell them they just haven’t found the right beer yet. It’s not just mainstream lagers available in the pub now and it’s not just men drinking beer. Even Wetherspoons has a phenomenal craft beer range (and vegan menu!) and many restaurants run regular beer tasting nights, pairing beer with food. I’m training to be a beer sommelier and love learning about which beer can be paired with certain main courses, desserts and even used in cooking and baking. There are so many flavour aspects and dynamics. It is lovely to see beer being recognised for the refined, subtle, quality drink it can be.”
The beer will be available across the UK in bottle and on draft. It will be pouring in all Draft Houses (www.drafthouse.co.uk) on Thursday 8th March, International Women’s Day.
There will also be launch parties celebrating the beer’s release across the UK:
Thursday 8th March – The Birdcage, Shoreditch, London, E2 7QB
Thursday 8th March – Dead Crafty Beer Co, Liverpool, L2 5TF
Saturday 10th March – Wiper and True Brewery, Bristol, BS2 9XT
Drinkers of XX are encouraged to #celebrateXX by toasting women everywhere on #internationalwomensday.