When New Hampshire brewery owner Joanne Francis first floated her idea for a new kind of beer a few years ago, her employees reacted, she says, with disgust and horror.
Her idea: a beer for women in menopause.
Why not, the 57-year-old Francis wondered.
“The idea of simply putting herbs into a beer that would be favorable for a woman experiencing menopausal symptoms was simply just a no-brainer,” she told WCSH in Portland, Maine.
So she created “Libeeration,” a limited-edition craft beer that debuts on Thursday.
“It’s taken years to bring this idea to market,” Francis, co-owner of Portsmouth Brewery, explains on the company’s Facebook page.
“After consulting with women health practitioners and herbalists, our team came up with ingredients believed to relieve symptoms like sleeplessness, hot flashes, and mood swings.
“And, we want to shift the mentality from focusing on the negative aspects of this stage in life, to celebrating the liberating aspects! Fun, crazy, wildly different: that was our goal to reach women who truly know what it means to be hot!”
Francis has been in the brew business for more than 20 years. As she got older, she told the Foster’s Daily Democrat in Dover, N.H., she “began to feel more and more marginalized and more of an outcast in the business that I worked in and I knew that a lot of girlfriends had a huge passion for beer, but nothing was really particularly being devoted to this age group, the over-50 woman.”
People got squeamish when she first brought up the idea. Disgust is not too strong a word to describe the reaction she got, she said. “The word ‘menopause,' ‘menstruation,' God forbid!” she said.
A team of womens’ health practitioners and herbalists worked with head brewer Matt Gallagher to create the beer, described as a golden straw-colored, gruit-style ale with fruity, spicy, earth flavors.
“We worked with the herbalist first coming up with a long list of herbs that all had beneficial qualities alleviating symptoms associated with menopause,” Gallagher said.
“And we had a womens’ health practitioner who sort of was like, ‘Oh, maybe I’d steer away from those two, combining them with alcohol and things like that.’”
He and Francis had a “tea drinking afternoon” where they tasted 1-ounce samples of the herbs hydrated in hot water. Some were great.
“And then there were certain ones that were ‘Mmm, no, too bitter, it’s gross. I don’t care what it does for you,’” Gallagher told the newspaper.
After the tasting, Francis recalled, “Matt stood behind the bar. He looked at me and he said, ‘I’m so mellow.’ I went upstairs to my office and took a nap for 15 minutes. We were so blissed out.”
The ingredients they chose are ones that herbalists have traditionally used to help women going through hormonal changes, including lemon balm, rose, chamomile, stinging nettle, motherwort and chickweed.
Gallagher used them instead of hops to add balance and bitter to the beer.
Because of FDA rules that frown on promises of medicinal “cures” from herbs or flowers, the brewery is careful to avoid such claims.
“This is meant as a fun product and perhaps it’s an awareness awakening for women at a certain age that think ‘Oh, only wine … I get fat from drinking beer,’” Francis said.