Women Who Brew, Bru

“Hey! What do you call women who brew beer, bru?
- We call them awesome.

This Women’s Day, we celebrate the incredible contribution made to our business by a truly gifted young brewer. It may be a long battle before we finally smash the patriarchy, but at Darling Brew, the ‘hopriarchy’ is under threat. It’s not just men who can work with the ‘holy hop’. 

Joyce Denson first joined the business when we opened our Tasteroom in Darling’s main Road back in 2012. Starting out as a waitress, the young Zimbabwean quickly came to dominate the bar with her beer knowledge and vibrant personality. Joyce was a real local favourite, with some regulars only popping in if she was working.

After the brewery was commissioned in December 2015, things started to change for Joyce. Our master brewer, Felix Magdziarz had a little contest going. He was getting all the staff to brew a batch of beer. It was a great idea because it improved the beer knowledge of the team. 

Team members would brew, discuss the process and learn from mistakes and triumphs. After hearing some of the banter from the brewery floor, Joyce put her hand up. She signed up to brew a batch of beer.

Felix was stunned. 

Joyce had taken the time to research different styles of beer. She’d found some books on the topic and picked up on discussions about beer from customers at the Tasteroom. When the day came to brew her first beer, she brought her A game.

Part of Darling Brew’s sustainable journey is to constantly challenge our assumptions. We look into every corner of our brewing and acquisition processes, searching for better ways to do things. Is it better for the planet? Is it better for the environment? Is it better for people?

As hard as we look though, sometimes it takes someone else to twirl the kaleidoscope. Joyce did that. She came along and blew us away. For us she was a much-loved fixture behind our bar. It turns out though, there was a talented brewer ready to burst out of this dynamo. We suddenly had our brew master agitating to let her join the brewing team.

As Darling Brew microbrewery co-founder, Philippa Wood, says: “Growing up in South Africa, you’re socialized to believe beer is a man’s drink. Women were considered ‘unladylike’ if they ordered one. That’s changing now, of course.”

“It’s also worth noting,” she continues, “That in traditional societies, women are the brewers. There are some incredible women heading up craft breweries all over the world.”

This is borne out in the words of another woman brewer, Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela. A well known local brewmaster and co-owner Brewhogs, Apiwe had this to say on the matter: “Back in the day, brewing was a female thing. Over time it became industrialized and became a male thing. But, in the African culture, beers are still made by women only.” 

With this in mind, when Felix came to us wanting to steal Joyce from the Tasteroom, we thought ‘Why not?’ 

Joyce Denson is now officially the right hand of our current brew master Rene du Toit. When he stepped into his new roll at Darling Brewery, Joyce helped smooth his path with her knowledge of our processes and equipment.

Changing perceptions and driving change is all part of the Darling Brew sustainable journey. Joyce’s evolution into a skilled brewer is something that makes us immensely proud. 

This is for you Joyce. This Women’s Day, we wish you many, many more awesome brews.

Join us today and raise a glass to Joyce Denson and all the women in South Africa and abroad who make the global beer industry so awesome. Cheers!

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