Portsmouth Brewery Creates LIBEERATION, a Women’s Beer
Picture Rosie the Riveter. You know the drill: Hair tucked up into a bandana, bottom lip pushed out in a challenge, long lashes at attention. She holds her right arm up in a flexed position as her left hand pulls back her sleeve to suggest that she has a bicep under there, and she isn’t afraid to use it. Originally created to recruit working women during World War II, Rosie’s iconic pose has come to represent female strength, empowerment, and brawn in countless settings. Now ask yourself this—does Rosie the Riveter drink beer?
In a sense, Joanne Francis, co-owner of Portsmouth Brewery and Smuttynose Brewing Co., asked herself this same question five years ago when she came up with the idea to create a beer made specifically for older women experiencing menopause. Her answer? Of course!
“I’ve been in the beer industry for the past 25 years,” says Francis, “and the focus has been constantly the same, with the demographic being 21 to 35 year old men.” But having grown up in the beer industry, trying her first craft beer in the early 80s and being surrounded by female friends who preferred having a beer over a glass of wine, Francis started to feel a pull toward correcting this gap. “No one was making beer with a particular bend to the older female,” she says.
The ingredients used in Libeeration, namely Motherwort, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Damiana, Stinging Nettle, Mugwort, Rose, and Chickweed, are part of a longer list of remedies employed by alternative practitioners to help alleviate symptoms of menopause in women, such as digestive problems, brain fog, sleeplessness, and weight gain. A small amount of saphir hops was also added, which is said to have a sedative effect, despite its name.
When Matt Gallagher, head brewer for Portsmouth Brewery, announced that he was on board to make a seven-barrel batch of what Francis had been thinking about for years, Libeeration was born. The two began the process of creating the beer by meeting with herbalist Amanda Stanley, owner of Jupiter’s Labyrinth in Dover. Stanley introduced Gallagher and Francis to many different kinds of herbs through tea, which set the stage for their ingredient selection. Francis also attributes her friend, Dr. Marilyn Svihovec, who she says was very instrumental in narrowing down the field of herbs and flowers that were used in the final beer recipe.
The result was a complex Gruit-style ale with a 6.1% alcohol content. “So it’s not a light beer,” says Francis, who describes it as “rich but not heavy.” Upon first sip, you’ll likely taste the lemon balm. Upon first sniff, you’ll likely smell its tangerine notes. Then, as it warms up a bit you may taste the nettle, “and you’ll definitely taste the rose,” says Francis, who put a lot of thought, along with her team, into the eight herbs and flowers that would best complement one another.
“Men can of course drink this beer too,” says Francis, “but that’s not who I’m making it for.”
For Francis, calling it Libeeration is an ode to celebrating the positive sides of menopause, a shared and sacred secret between women.
Libeeration was released on October 5 and will be available on draft and in bottles at Portsmouth Brewery on Market Street in Portsmouth until it runs out. Bottles will also be available for a limited time at the retail store at 56 Market Street (located next to the brewery). Libeeration is being considered as a possible addition to the brewery’s normal beer rotation, if there is enough demand.