Brewster has been used as the old English word for a female brewer. Today, it is a word that remains as a relatively common surname and until recently it was the legal name for the Magistrate court meetings in England where pub licences were renewed or granted; these meetings were called Brewster Sessions. It is still used in the brewing trade, since Sara is a female brewer and no one else was trading as Brewster’s Brewing Company it seemed an good name to start selling beer under.
In medieval times women brewed and sold most of the ale drunk in England. With the introduction of hops, their use first demonstrated in Northern Europe, which helped preserve beer, it was found beer lasted longer hence it could bedistributed more widely and find wider markets. As a result beer was produced on a larger scale and as time passed it became a trade that eventually became dominated by male brewers who began to brew beer with hops on an industrial scale.
In addition to the change in ingredients the poor old Brewsters were probably the victims of misogynistic spin against them and they developed a terrible reputation over the years which helped put them out of business. However some of the accusations levelled against them sound remarkably similar to some of today’s drinkers gripes. They were accused of serving short measures, adulterating their products and charging unfairly high prices. They were also supposed to have brewed with substandard products and kept very unruly alehouses with “other women” to help encourage trade.
Apparently there was much written about the Brewsters in old English literature and some of it with bawdy affection. One infamous Brewsters was Mother Bunch. She is described as a Brewsters of great size , great appretite and great age. Probably as a result of very shrewd marketing on her part it became legend that her ale was more potent in more ways than one:
“she raised the spirits of her spicket, to such a height, that maids grew proud and many proved with child after it, and being asked who got the child , they answered they knew not , only they thought Mother Bunch’s ale and another thing had done the deed, but whosoever was the father, Mother Bunch’s ale had all the blame”
Mother Bunch herself was described as
“an excellent companion, and sociable , she was very pleasant and witty , and would tell a tale, let a fart, drink her draught , scratch her arse, pay her groat, as well as any chemist of ale whatsoever”
Go girlfriend !