It’s not every day that you come across a woman brew master in an industry that has been dominated by men. However, as opposed to the popular notion that beer is an archetypal man’s drink, the brewing of it was once a woman’s domain. The oldest known record of beer brewing comes from Ancient Egypt, where beer was made and sold almost entirely by women.
As the world shifted to an industrial economy, men took over. But, the advent of craft beer is slowly yet steadily reversing the clock. For the uninitiated, craft beer is beer that is not brewed by one of the big mega-brewery corporations. Rather, it is beer made by a brewer that is small, independent, and traditional, with a contemporary touch. While in the US, women aged 21 to 34 make up for 15 percent of craft beer sales, India is catching up with its western counterparts. And Bengaluru-based Vidya Kubher, who is on the forefront of this change, is pulling all stops to change the narrative.
Having started her career with a mutual fund group, followed by a couple of stints with engineering companies, Kubher developed a passion for beer through her travels to regions and interactions with communities that are known for their beer. “It actually started with drinking beer which was my favourite beverage. Later, my trips to breweries in Europe made me more passionate about it,” says Kubher, who has a Master Brewer Certificate from Siebel Institute & Doemens Academy and internships at a few Bavarian breweries before becoming head brewer at a popular brewery in Bengaluru.
Considering it’s a very unlikely choice of career in the traditional sense, Kubher did have to face her fair share of challenges. “With alcohol having a negative perception, putting fears and concerns to rest with close ones was a challenge,” says Kubher, who will be sharing her story at the second edition of speaker series Meraki on December 9.
Beer is still seen as a man’s drink. The idea of women in the beer world is often parodied and, occasionally, openly mocked. “But things have certainly changed over the years. The fact that I’m here talking to you is indicative of it. Today, the craft brewing community is very well-travelled and progressive and has had the exposure to not have such biases.
Also, I would say, for social drinking beer might be the choice after wine, among women. But I can see that women really like the taste of craft beer and it might become their top pick soon,” adds Kubher. “Having said that, I still have a lot of people think I brew coffee and not beer when I tell them I’m a brew master,” she says with a laugh.
Kubher, who is simply in love with her job, which is quite palpable as she speaks with excitement when she describes the brewing process, says, “I love everything about it. We brew three types of beer at the facility I work at now and each of them is so interesting. A day at work is like playing a game of golf. At the end of the day, for women who want to enter this industry, I’d say it’s all about loving what you do, be it brewing or working in front of a computer.”