Published on March 4, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour


Brewster rocket, ignite

If you want to organise a special beer festival and a forum for the exchange of ideas you have to dig deep – in your head as well as your pocket. Let’s say the desire and will are in place for such an event in Newcastle this month, but where does the finance come from? Crowdfunding? Too slow. Sponsorship? Too corporate. Single backer? Too, too…

So Kay Masson and Anna Worthy delved into their own finances to organise the Siris Beer Festival and Brewsters’ Symposium in Newcastle, not only to mark International Women’s Day (March 8) but to show the rest of us how dependent we are on women in brewing (brewsters).

Kay and Anna work at the Newcastle Tap, one of a family of pubs situated on or close by railway stations – also in Sheffield, London Euston and York. They have saved a set amount from their wages every month for the past year to bring some of the best female brewing industry operators in the country to a Brewsters’ Symposium at Newcastle University to begin discussing beer – but where it finishes is the whole point.

Alongside that is a beer festival at the Town Mouse pub in the city where female-influenced beers will also celebrate the second anniversary of the award-winning micropub.

Siris is the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, a reference devised by Anna, who studied Greek mythology at university. She is said to be the daughter of Ninkasi (Siris, not Anna), the goddess of fermentation.

“The idea came when Anna and I talked about a beer festival in Newcastle to celebrate International Women’s Day,” says Kay, who also operates Arcane Brewery with husband Tony plus the in-house brewplant at the Hop & Cleaver in Newcastle.

“A Harrogate organisation called Women On Tap did one last year and we got a bit of knowledge from that. It’s basically a celebration and a showcase for what women can achieve – after all, women were always the brewers in society – and we felt Newcastle has been a little bit quiet regarding International Women’s Day.

“As well as a beer festival celebrating women, we thought we’d get some speakers to discuss our roles in the industry. People like Annabel Smith, Melissa Cole and Jenn Merrick have agreed to come.”

Other female brewers invited to supply beer and to be involved with the symposium and festival are Julia Austin from Tyne Bank Brewery; Red Kellie (First & Last), plus Nomadic Beers, Marble, North Brewing Co, McColl’s and Wild Card. The project has been a year in the planning with Kay first approaching Jon Sibley at The Town Mouse to gauge his interest in hosting it (which he did with great enthusiasm).

She says: “We didn’t want a massive venue to start off with and the pub is perfect, really.”

Newcastle University’s own microbrewery Stu Brew has organised the venue and have prepared two beers specially, a Vanilla Milk Stout and a Tropical IPA.

Anna Worthy says: “Loads of people in the beer world have been very supportive. They see it as a great initiative. We’ve put our own money into it, saving a bit each week from our wages at Newcastle Tap and tucking it away – no crowdfunding or sponsorship – it’s how we wanted to do it.”

Siris is also believed to be the mother Zu, a large bird that can breathe fire and water. It’s what you need to get things moving.

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Alastair Gilmour

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