Frequently, for Christmas, Father’s Day, or birthdays, I’m the recipient of a beer book, a beer-themed T-shirt, or both. A couple of Christmases ago, I unwrapped a T-shirt that proclaimed “The Persuit of Hoppiness” and a very interesting book: A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE BREWHOUSE: A FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF ALEWIVES, BREWSTERS, WITCHES AND CEOS, by Tara Nurin (Chicago Review Press: 2021).

The T-shirt has become well-worn and the book is well-read. There are under-linings, stars in the margins, and on the inside front cover the numbers of pages to be reread. People often think that the main role of women in craft brewers is limited to the administrative offices, doing a lot of paperwork, or the front of the house, slinging pints and taking food orders. But that ain’t so. Since Sumerian times, brewing beer and owning breweries has been a major occupation for women. At least until the Industrial Revolution and the later control of breweries by mega breweries, more and more of them controlled by international corporations.

But since the craft beer movement began in the later 1970s, more and more of the brewing of beer has been in the hands of brewsters, that’s the term for women brewers. Unfortunately, their importance has not been widely known — until now. A Woman’s Place … is a very lively and important book, especially about the last half-century of craft brewing.

I finished the book last spring, just before I began my Upper Peninsula Circ-ALE trail, interviewing brewery people for Upper Ale Trails, which is now in the editing stage. And, my eyes opened by A Woman’s Place, I was not surprised to meet so many women. Twelve craft breweries are co-owned by wife-husband teams; two solely by women. Four women are lead or co-brewers.

The first brewster I talked with last June is also one of the pioneer brewers in the Upper Peninsula. In the mid-90s, when Lark Ludlow, along with her brother, opened the combined gift shop and restaurant at Tahquamenon Falls, one of the premier tourist attractions in the Upper Peninsula, she decided that she would serve craft beer at the restaurant. She developed recipes for a range of ales, including one of the first blueberry ales served in the UP. “I thought that having beer made a few dozen feet away, along with a meal, would be a nice way for people finish a daytrip to the Falls.” When Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub opened, not many people weren’t familiar with craft beer. “I used to go from table to table carrying a tray of little glasses filled with our beer and offer samples to people,” she remembered.

One of the most experienced brewsters in the Upper Peninsula is Erica Tieppo of Upper Peninsula Brewing Company in Negaunee. A young woman in her thirties, she has been around the beer world for some time. A native of the greater Detroit area, she studied at the prestigious Siebel Institute in Chicago and worked at breweries in lower Michigan, North Carolina, and Colorado before coming to Negaunee. Here she could establish a new brewery from the ground up. AND, when she wasn’t being a brewster, she could be a musher — racing sled dogs is one of her hobbies. She’s also an aficionado of classical Renaissance music.

Another Detroiter, Lydia Novitsky had moved to the tiny UP village of Alpha (just off of Highway 2), because she wanted a change. She saw an ad asking for help at the Alpha Michigan Brewing Company — NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY “I was tired of my other job, I liked craft beer, and I thought it would be exciting to learn something new.” The day I visited, she was on her own, brewing an IPA. “They ran out of beer on the Fourth of July the first year the brewery opened,” she told me. “So I’m making sure there is plenty ready when the holiday comes in a couple of weeks.” She’s a fast learner. By the fall, she had become the lead brewer.

When Sarah Rusch first started dating her now-husband Kris, she didn’t realize that she’d become a craft brewery co-owner, administrator, front-of-the-house host, and brewer. Kris had long wanted to open a brewery in his native Upper Peninsula and chose Menominee, along the Wisconsin-Michigan border. Together, the couple opened Three Bridge Brewing. “Before I met Kris, I didn’t know much about beer; he was my teacher.” She helped him with the brewing — when she wasn’t working the front of the house or doing paperwork in the back office — and now brews entire batches by herself.

If you’re taking the Yooper Ale Trail on a vacation, do stop by these four breweries and say hello to the brewsters. Then, if it’s a warm day, the brewery patio isn’t too crowded and there aren’t many mosquitoes around, you can sit quietly in the sun, sip one of these brewsters’ beers, and, if you’ve brought a copy along, read a few pages of A Woman’s Place is in the Brewhouse.