Why you should care
Because you can drink a tasty beer while sticking it to the man.
It’s Saturday night and Madrid’s Mercado de San Fernando is already packed. People eat standing up, balancing tortillas in one hand, spearing olives with the other. Customers line up to buy drinks. Over the din of chatter, clinking glasses and hearty laughs, one of them yells: “Give me a Fuck the Patriarchy!”
It’s a call being heard not only in Madrid but also in Germany, England, Belgium, France and across the Atlantic as far as Ecuador and Chile. It seems there’s high demand to fuck the patriarchy — or, at the very least, drink it.
This bottle with a message is Spain’s first feminist beer, launched last August by Cervecerca Libre, a very small brewery in Madrid. Owners Ainara Cano Echeberría and Jes Matthews describe themselves as “gypsy brewers” renting out space at CCVK, a brewery in the working-class neighborhood of Vallecas. As Echeberría gives a tour of the location, she confesses they weren’t sure what kind of reception Fuck the Patriarchy would get. “We didn’t know if it was going to be a complete disaster — if they were going to beat us in the street,” she says.
Echeberría started making beer in her kitchen in Mérida. Six years ago, she met Matthews here and they founded Cervecera Libre, a beer company about making a change. In 2014, they launched their first beer: a summer-on-your-tongue IPA named La Loba (or She-Wolf) — an appropriation of an insult given to women thought to be “loose.” But demand for artisan beer in the Extremadura region was low. So the pair moved to the capital, where things really kicked off. They created Medea, a saison flavored with juniper berries. Next came a ginger-spiced blonde ale La Largata (the Gecko), which is an insult for a “manipulative” woman. And then came Cuatro Perras (Four Bitches), a Russian imperial stout whose label features a picture of Emma Goldman, a radical feminist famous for saying, “If I can’t dance it’s not my revolution.”
It’s rich and bitter, like dark chocolate. And full of sass.
But Fuck the Patriarchy has made the biggest impact. It’s now Cervecera Libre’s most popular beer, selling between 30,000 and 35,000 bottles a year. It’s also a hit on social media with fans posting selfies with the bottle. That might have something to do with its provocative name, but the IPA is also tasty — like “toasted bread … dark and caramelized,” describes Matthews. After seeing the facilities, I’m offered a glass and am immediately struck by its powerful marijuana-like aroma (hops and cannabis come from the same family). It’s rich and bitter, like dark chocolate. And full of sass.
However, the brewing team thinks its popularity is linked to the resurgence of the global women’s movement. This year on International Women’s Day, a record-breaking 500,000 women marched in Spain, galvanized by #MeToo, the rise of the far right, a recent bus campaign against “feminazis” in Spain and increasingly restrictive abortion laws.
Echeberría and Matthews are quick to point out that their brewery isn’t about being fashionable. “Our involvement with the feminist movement came first, and then came the beer,” says Matthews. They have been active members of women’s groups, take part in the yearly March 8 demonstrations and starred in a satirical religious procession in Madrid, dubbed the “coño insumiso,” or “insubordinate pussy,” featuring a large model vagina instead of the Virgin Mary.
While Fuck the Patriarchy is not the world’s first feminist beer — a group in Brazil launched Cerveja Feminista in 2005 to raise awareness of offensive gender stereotypes — it coincides with a global rise in the fight for women’s rights. In Australia, Sparkke Change Beverage Company wine and beer can labels feature political and feminist messages (“Consent can’t come after you”). In Canada, female brewers have set up the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies and in the U.K., the brewsters network Project Venus runs the International Women’s Collaboration Brew, a free event for women passionate about beer.
Cervecera Libre receives orders for Fuck the Patriarchy from “half the world,” says Echeberría. Most of the requests come from small bars that only want a box or two, which makes it financially prohibitive to export outside of Europe. But the beer, which costs around 3 euros ($3.40) for a 33-centiliter bottle, is available in Spain in bars like Madrid’s Oveja Negra, Barcelona’s La Raposa del Poble Sec and Veganitessen in Seville. However, other bars, including some of their existing clients, have refused to sell Fuck the Patriarchy — likely because of the provocative name. Echeberría shrugs this off: “They know what their clients want.”
The output is still very small, especially compared to larger breweries, and Cervecera Libre doesn’t make enough profit to provide a living. To make ends meet, Echeberría works as an archaeologist and Matthews as a translator and photographer — but money is not really the goal. “The idea of a guy walking into an old-fashioned bar and asking for one Fuck the Patriarchy, that’s amazing, that’s the prize,” says Matthews.