100% pure sexism for brewster

By Philip Chandler

Rachel Beer's brew carries a picture of Lake Hayes ...  but she's barred from the Lake Hayes A&P Show's brewing competition because she's a woman. Photo / Mountain Scene
Rachel Beer's brew carries a picture of Lake Hayes ... but she's barred from the Lake Hayes A&P Show's brewing competition because she's a woman. Photo / Mountain Scene

A woman has been banned from a home-brew beer contest - because she's not a man.

Rachel Beer, 36, this week tried to enter her home brew in a competition at Saturday's Lake Hayes A&P Show in Queenstown, only to be told it was a "blokes only" contest.

"Who cares if I have or haven't got balls?" she fumed.

"At the end of the day a home brew is a home brew."

Ms Beer - yes, that's her name and her tipple is called "Beer's Beer" - was told by the chief steward she could enter but wouldn't be judged.

"There's no point entering a beer if it's not going to be judged whether it's gold or mud," she said.

Ms Beer said she had nothing against the Lake Hayes show.

"I think it's fantastic. But it'd be great if the rules could be changed to meet modern times."

A Human Rights Commission representative said: "On the face of it, the competition may be breaching the Human Rights Act, but in the absence of a complaint and full details of the competition, the commission is unable to comment any further."

Ms Beer said she had no intention of complaining to the commission.

"It's more just the principle of the matter. Perhaps they'll consider a home-brew competition for females," she said.

"But I would love to enter in the competition with the males, as there are some mighty talented home-brew gents who I'd love to compete with."

Ms Beer, who learned the craft from a man, said she had put down about half a dozen brews in the past three or four years.

"I give quite a lot to friends. They might be lying when they say it's great, but they always ask for more."

One of the two labels for her ales, lagers and pilseners shows a picture of Lake Hayes.

Show president Mike Smith said he didn't want to comment on whether the "blokes only" rule was sexist.

"I didn't even know there was a brewing competition."

He suggested Ms Beer put a proposal to his committee for a women's or mixed sex section next year.

"I'm sure the show can make room for it in the next round," he said.

The show's "blokes only" contest has not only left Ms Beer frustrated, but it has also upset others in the beer business.

The female team leader of brewing at Speights brewery in Dunedin, Kerryn Sheen, said she "simply could not believe it" when she heard about Ms Beer's plight.

"Is it the 1800s or something? What do you mean women can't make beer? I beg to differ," Ms Sheen said.

"Are men allowed to enter the baking competition? Same difference. If they're going by what they consider to be traditional male and female roles then women, not men, should be in the kitchen baking."

Mr Smith did not respond to Herald messages asking whether whether men could enter the show's baking competition.

Ms Sheen, who has been brewing professionally for almost five years, said if a woman could lift a bag of malt, there was nothing stopping her making her own brew.

"In fact, we're better at it because our sense of taste is better."

She invited Ms Beer to go to the Speights brewery for a tour, a beer and to "leave the backwards competition" behind.

The President of the Brewers' Guild of New Zealand, Ralph Bungard, said the rule was ridiculous because traditionally it was a woman's job to brew the beer.

"It was just like any other job in the traditional days of beer brewing - it was women's work if they were home women, as they were in the bad old days.

"That was their job, to make beer, just as it was to bake the bread. It was a very female profession."

Female beer brewers, known as "brewsters", are becoming more and more prevalent in the industry, Mr Bungard said.

And Martin Bulmer, of the Society of Beer Advocates, was embarrassed by the show's "blokes only" rule and said it by no means reflected the industry's opinion.

Of the society's 500 members, about 10 per cent were women, and many had their own breweries.

- additional reporting, Amelia Wade

- NZ Herald

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