“CHICK BEER” MAKES ME WANT TO THROW UP IN MY MOUTH, AND OTHER THOUGHTS

Kid Carboy did a great post a few days ago about introducing people to craft beer. One part, of course, stuck out to me as the lady Alehead. Women and craft beer is a weird little paradox. I have seen both success and failure in trying to get my female friends into craft beer.

Let’s start with a little background:

There are two abnormal things about me as a craft beer lover: 1. I’m young and 2. I’m a girl.

When you picture the typical beer enthusiast, you see a man, perhaps in his thirties, usually with a beard and maybe even a pair of Ray-Bans. You don’t picture a short blond girl who looks like she’s 16 but is actually 22.

Not surprisingly, I get some funny looks and reactions when I order something other than a margarita or vodka-soda at a bar. If you ask me, this shouldn’t happen. There are tons of women craft beer drinkers all over the place. Women are nearly taking over as brewers and bloggers and whatnot.

It’s not news that the world of craft beer was for so long viewed as a boy’s club. Of course, I don’t think this is on purpose. In fact, in my first email to Brother Barley, I asked why there were no female Aleheads. And the answer was exactly what I thought it would be: no women had approached them before. EDIT: *Except for Lady Jay*

Most beers are marketed towards men, as Kid pointed out. It’s a sad fact that it’s rare to see a woman in a beer commercial actually enjoying one and not just standing there in a bathing suit holding one and smiling among her male friends. This only slightly reinforces the stereotype that beer is for men — not that it’s for men only — but that beer is generally seen as a man’s preference. But what really prolongs the stereotype is what I see in my daily life.

While a lot of people think it’s totally normal, some think it’s weird that I like beer and also have lady parts. I cannot count the number of times I’ve walked into a party with my boyfriend who gets handed a (usually domestic) bottle while I get the “There’s Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard in the fridge” greeting. I smile politely and say, “No thanks, I’ll have what he’s having” while (according to him) my boyfriend laughs proudly at the dope who just stereotyped his beloved Alehead girlfriend.

I wish more people (outside of our snug little craft beer community) could see how women are involved in the craft beer world. The “Ladies of Craft Beer” Twitter has almost 8,000 followers. Womenenjoyingbeer.com is not the slideshow you might think it is; it’s a site devoted to educating women beer consumers and helping breweries market to women. Just look at Drink With The Wench’s “10 Amazing Women in Craft Beer You Should Know And Follow.” The Beer Babe’s Carla has been blogging since 2007. This is all awesome.

And then there’s the opposite. You can’t ignore the disgusting idea of “Chick Beer” — by the way that link made me vomit in my mouth. Here’s how I think that idea was conceived: “I know! We’ll market beer to women by making it light and tasteless and package it in pink!”

You’re doing it wrong.

Anyway, most of my female friends have a go-to beer order for when we go out together (I’ve sat at a table where literally everyone ordered a Blue Moon but me). And one of my good friends in particular cannot get the golden liquid down her throat. She dislikes beer so much she won’t even try it anymore. Suffice it to say, I’ve met men who dislike beer too. At least these guys and gals think they dislike beer — I say this because most of the time they’ve only tried MGD or Coors Light and have never had a good IPA or porter in their lives. I’ll try to suggest something not too crafty — something popular and drinkable like 312 or whatever other wheat options are around to get them started, but often they don’t want to go out of their comfort zones.

On the other hand, a couple of weekends ago a group of friends and I stumbled into a local grocery store with a fairly decent craft beer selection and (the ever growing in popularity) build a six-pack for $10 deal. I filled the pack, not really thinking about what they’d like and we went to drink around a fire pit. We passed around the brews and I found that the hoppy IPAs that I enjoy are an aquired taste and the amber and belgian white I found received the most praise.

Getting your friends, both male and female into craft beer can be tricky. But one must not give up!

The whole time I was writing this I wasn’t sure where it was going. Part pseudo-feminist rant, part anecdotal reaction to previous post.

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33 comments

  1. It occurs to me that I don’t know if we actually have any proof that Mother Gueuze is a woman. Brother Barley, did you seek such confirmation?

    Regardless, I suppose I can appreciate the post anyway, even if it is from someone of still-uncomfirmed gender. Well said, “Mother.”

    1. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone I’m pretending to be a 22 year old girl on the internet, you’ll ruin my cover

    2. We’ve eliminated the “gender confirmation” as part of the Aleheads vetting process. Too many lawsuits.

      We never checked your gender either, Kid. I have no idea what you are. Hell, I’ve known Beerford for 15 years now and I’m STILL not sure what gender he is.

      1. I retract my query and request you don’t look into it further.

  2. Awesome post! Life would be so much easier on us male beer geeks if the females in the world just give some of our craft beers a shot. My fiancé, a long time only Miller Lite drinker is now a huge fan of Victory’s Summer Love, Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo and just recently fell in love with 3 Floyd’s Zombie Dust! Not bad choices right?

    1. Good for her! Torpedo is a great place to start.

    2. Does your fiancee drink wine? If so, does she love every single varietal and blend of wine? Probably not. And this is the same thing with craft beer. I love craft beer and I even work in the industry, but it doesn’t mean that my palate *loves* every style of beer (respects, yes… but love, no). In fact, my threshold for ISO-amyl acetate (banana) is so low, I avoid hefewiezens and some Belgians like the plague.

      In general, hops can be very abrasive for even the toughest of palates. As animals, our instincts tell us to stay away from bitter flavors, as they are historically tied to poisonous things. Bitter is a very acquired taste, and most people are turned off by it (at least at first). In fact, super tasters are extra sensitive to bitter tastes and often abstain from bitter beers and bold wines. Since there are more women supertasters than men, it is easy to see why some women would be turned off by bitter beers and hops.

      The greatest part about beer, the thing that differentiates it the most from wine, is that is has such an extensive spectrum of flavors and possibilities with flavors. After all, we don’t use just one ingredient (grapes), but at least 4 if not more!

      Best recommendations I can make are to 1. invite some friends over and setup a more formal beer tasting party — showcasing a spectrum of styles and flavors (chances are your lady will find at least one that makes her go yes!) and/or 2. introduce your lady to the concept of food and beer pairings. It’s amazing how people perceive beer when its paired with food!

      Good luck!

      1. The main point I was trying to get across was that she TRIED something new. I don’t need to tell you the huge difference between Summer Love and Zombie Dust but she loves them both because she tried them out. No, she hasn’t loved everything I’ve asked her to try but at least she’s willing to try and that I believe that is the first step!

  3. The topic of women & beer is a very touchy and often controversial topic, so I commend you for this post. The sad reality is not that women make up a significantly small part of the beer consuming population, but that craft beer is only 5% of the entire market share. Heck, I don’t blame women for not wanting to drink the crappy 95 percent. After all, studies have proven that women have more discerning palates — so why would they subject themselves to the mass-produced, more widely available yellow fizzy swill? Please pass the Napa Cab….

    The issue is not that women don’t like beer, it’s that PEOPLE, regardless of gender, are not properly educated about craft beer and many (MANY) people do not have access to really great craft beer (think of all the poor craft beerless people outside of the major metropolises!). Lack of education on a subject leads to lack of confidence. Lack of confidence impedes people from trying new things. Seriously folks, this is consumer psychology 101 (hey, I gotta use that Psych degree somehow, right?!).

    What we really need to do, as craft beer professionals, bloggers, advocates — what have you — is educate and empower the consumer. We need to educate and empower the restaurant, bar and retail employees so that they too can educate and empower the consumer. We need to give people tools.

    Think about Tequila. If you drink the cheap shit, it burns, it tastes like vomit and it gives you the worst hangover in the history of man — making you never want to touch a bottle of tequila ever again. Right? Well that is how most people react, especially those with discerning palates, to shitty beer. Introduce someone to a fine, super smooth anejo tequila and they might not even think they are drinking tequila. Same thing with beer.

    I could rant about this topic forever…. and I often do :) As someone who was once that “young female minority”, I encourage you to hold on strong. Five years ago, I never thought a mere beer blog would give me the opportunities, the friendships and the amazing experiences that I have now. So keep on keeping on.

    Remember: “Be the Change.” It’s the greatest thing we can do.

    1. I forgot….

      Xoxo,

      The Wench

    2. Thank you for this, Ashley (or do I call you Wench? That makes me feel like a Game of Thrones character).

      While I agree with both you and Mother that the “women & beer” topic is a sensitive one, I couldn’t help but notice at the last beer festival I went to that there was close to a 1 to 1 ratio of women to men. I’m sure the majority of participants were male…but not by much. More importantly, I didn’t think anything of it. I wasn’t surprised to see so many women enjoying complex, all-malt beer. When I go to my local beer bar, it’s heavily populated by females. And while I recognize that some women still eschew hop-forward IPAs and DIPAs, the proliferation of styles like Saisons, Farmhouse Ales, Sours, Berliner Weisses, Kolsches and your everyday Blonde and Brown Ales means that female Aleheads of every stripe will find a style that suits their tastes.

      My point is, I don’t think of craft beer as being a male-dominated world anymore. While brewers are still overwhelmingly male, Kim Jordan of New Belgium and Carol Stoudt of Stoudt’s have already shattered whatever glass curtain there may have been in the craft industry. And then there are well-regarded all-female collaborative beers like last year’s Project Venus (made by female brewers from Stone, Victory and Cambridge Brewing Company).

      Beer may still have a “male” connotation thanks to the horrendously sexist marketing efforts of the macros, but in the craft world those barriers are quickly being toppled. Wifey McHops splits whatever bomber I’m drinking every night and she’s a far more thoughtful and discerning taster than I’ll ever be. And I LOVE how fervent female beer evangelists like you and Mother are, Ashley. You’re certainly “Being the change”!

      1. Cheers to that, Brother!

      2. I think you meant to refer to the glass “ceiling.” The glass curtain is like a really weak, fragile, transparent embargo on information between communist Russia and the rest of the world.

        1. I think it was a lesser known Billy Joel album.

          Glass curtains are far more hilarious than glass ceilings:

  4. Things like this make me wonder why there isn’t a better (or at least a more sophisticated) attempt at marketing to women?

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704629804575324503844478326.html?mod=rss_careers

    On a typical evening, two people go to a bar, what are the odds they are the opposite sex? You’re missing out on half of the population. Craft would do well to recognize that there’s a potential revenue source just waiting to be catered or… “tapped” into! Ha! (Yeah, that was pathetic.)

  5. I’m consistently surprised by what my friends and coworkers like and dislike. Like you (and like the previous post about introducing people to beer), I’ve had bad luck with giving people IPAs… but just when I think I have that figured out, I bring a selection of homebrew to a friends house, and all my Simcoe IPAs get snapped up immediately (by girls and guys alike). I didn’t even get any!

    Basically, I think the whole thing is reliant on a willingness to try new things (whether male or female). We have a beer club at work where everyone brings a beer to a local byob and we all share stuff around. Some people don’t like certain kinds of beer, but they don’t have to drink much of any one beer and there’s often something else they like a lot.

    1. There’s something to be said about the “Oh, what is this?” factor of opening a fridge at a party and seeing something other than a Heineken or Corona. People will definitely try something new (kind of like what Ashley was saying about beer education.) They may not order something their unfamiliar with, but put it in a friendly setting and it’ll be the first thing they grab.

      1. Very true. At my brother’s second wedding reception (second reception, not second wedding) he had a batch of homebrew and ran out of it before the normal stuff. People love trying beer made by someone they know — or at least they probably trust it more because that person likes it.

  6. LadyJay · ·

    Whether your target for craft beer initiation is XX or XY, really the best thing you can do is know your audience and know your beer. So your drinking buddies all order a Blue Moon. Can you really knock them for that? Maybe they don’t know any better. One up them–order whatever Belgian pale is hopefully on tap, and let them have a taste. As Josh alluded to, if you can set someone up for a low-risk, low-pressure friendly setting, they’re much more willing to try something new.

    And really, Barley, no other female Aleheads? I guess I have been off the radar a while…

    1. Lady, my apologies for leaving you out of this post. I have corrected it with an “EDIT” and some *

      When I’m with the Blue Moon crowd I always have them all taste what I order. Usually they’re not fond of it, but sometimes they like it and will ask what it’s called –for what I’m hoping is future reference. I never “knock” them for drinking Blue Moon to their faces. In fact, I’m pleased that they drink beer at all when we go out. It makes me happy and of all the choices they could make, Blue Moon is a decent one.

      As a disclaimer: I don’t think everyone should be like me. I don’t think everyone should like craft beer — I’ll admit it’s not for some people (gasp! but, really). And I’m very proud of these friends for trying things and being open to new experiences. I didn’t want this to seem like I was bashing this group of my friends, I was just explaining my general observations.

      1. LadyJay · ·

        Yeah, I was cheaply perverting your anecdote to illustrate my suggestion. Glad to see another lady on the site, especially since I haven’t been “representing”. You are correct. Not everyone *should* like the same things. I can accept someone not drinking something they genuinely don’t like. However, drinking the same beer day after day, year after year simply because you can’t be bothered to try something new makes the baby Jesus cry. I don’t even *gasp* always drink beer–sometimes gin just sounds better. Not because I’m a woman, not because I’m young, but because damn it, gin is just going to hit the spot. Being a beer geek is, for me anyway, fundamentally about embracing the staggering variety of options in life, and about sharing your discoveries with others. And complaining about how InBev sucks, of course.

        1. This is poetry, my friend. I too enjoy gin. When I go for a mixed alcoholic beverage (which isn’t very often) a gin and tonic is my drink of choice.
          And I enjoy beer for the same reason as you and many others: the options. I think my fascination started when my brother (an avid beer enthusiast who taught me everything I know) had a beer that was made with a bacteria meant to taste like bandaids. I kid you not, this beer exists. I can’t remember the name of it because it was a long time ago and since I wasn’t 21 yet I only was allowed to have a sip. But I will never forget how cool I thought that was. When I did turn 21 (about a year and a half ago) I started trying every weird, rare, and interesting beer I could. I’m still on the mission to taste as many cool craft beers as I can afford — this mission will never end.

    2. Lady Jay, I would have gladly made you an “official” Alehead if you had only asked. I just assumed that Herr Hordeum ordered you not to join our ranks for fear of you showing him up. I’ve heard from reliable sources that he makes you walk a step behind him at all times and that you’re forced to wear a burka made of bottlecaps so that your visage won’t inspire lust in Herr Hordeum when he should be focusing on his important ornithological work.

      But yes, you were and will always be the first published, female Alehead. We’d love for you to come back into the fold if you can ever break free from Hordeum’s ruthless, iron grip.

      1. LadyJay · ·

        Yeah, I probably should have asked you about this like a year and a half ago, but it is very hard to type after a long, hard day slinging stein after stein down Herr’s gullet. However, I have managed to break the shackles of my servitude, since he’s abroad terrorizing the birds of the Philippines and sampling the fine offerings of San Miguel Corporation. So game on.

  7. Nothing wrong with a feminist rant, particularly when beer is the topic.

  8. My problem with women and Craft Beer is… my daughter keeps after my stash. She won’t settle for just a Ranger (nice entry IPA) or Sweetwater IPA (ditto) anymore. She’s gotta go for my Founders Breakfast Stout and my Deviant Dales…This could be more expensive than college was…

    1. I hope when you say “my daughter,” you’re talking about someone other than the baby in your profile picture.

  9. All I can say is “amen”! While I tend to steer clear of IPAs, I am a devout fan of porters and stouts (and I am also crazy excited that stout rhymes with devout), and I am often given strange looks at this, followed by “but…”

    My dad runs the local Cork & Keg festival down in Northeast Georgia where I’m from, which showcases local breweries and wineries, and some not-so-local ones, too, and I flew home for it this weekend to volunteer. It was like stepping into a beer commercial, with a lot of wives following their husbands around and trying to sweet wheat beers and making faces at most everything else. It was sad.

    Anyway…I’m not sure where I was going with this. I’m just glad you wrote something about it.

    1. Devout stout, that’s awesome.
      I have seen the scenario you described and also the opposite — I think it really depends on where you are. I live in Chicago and at bars with good beer selections I see 50/50 men and women enjoying craft brews. But then I’ll be at like a restaurant with a bar in a snooty north-side neighborhood and that’s where I get the looks. I know the waiters are supposed to push certain drinks, but I’m sick of hearing “Can I start you ladies off with some sangria?”

      Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to see a solid number of women at my hometown’s first Ale Fest last summer. Especially since the town is known for being religious and conservative and was a dry town just two decades ago. You’ll see me post more about this Ale Fest soon because I’ll be attending this year’s event as well.
      Thanks for the comment!

  10. Hmm… Where to start…. I’m not a woman (certainly not a young one despite what my daughters think when they offer me a princess gown or heels and ask me to join them in a dress up for the Ball session) and I’m not young – not by simple math anyway. I’m already working on my third 22 year old life….

    Well, first of all, great post. I’d like to see more woman not only embrace craft beer but also extol its virtues to other women (and men) from the highest bar stool in the city. It’s not as though there aren’t some incredibly talented, well-spoken, vibrant women in the craft beer scene (I call them #BarleysAngels). Ashley Routson, Laurie Delk, Anat Baron, Stevie of the Ladies of CraftBeer and the Girls Pints Out groups are all obvious and great examples but I have to believe they are the vocal – and thankfully so – bow of the icebreaker ship carving an ever widening and deeper path through the male dominated industry.

    As Ashley suggested, I’ve been hosting friendly but still formal beer tasting nights for several years now – always for couples only. Without exception, every one of the women who I’ve introduced to craft beer has become a certified beer geek. Some took more careful steps than others but all of them are now full-fledged craft beer fans and just about all of them would sooner smash a Smirnoff Ice over your head than politely accept and drink it. My wife has morphed into a certified hop head – not an easy transformation given her deep roots in central Pennsylvania’s coal region. Keystone, Natty Light and the occasional Yuengling are about the only beers her hometown has ever seen – or understood. When I poured her her first Stone IPA it was if I’d offered to clean the kitchen and do laundry for a month. It’s been all up market since then and the same has been true for the other women I’ve “counseled” in the art of craft beer. Actually, some of the men proved more difficult – something about that stubborn gene…..

    Oh, and Chick Beer…. Well, let’s just say that the day I brought one home (along with Ballast Point Sculpin and Goose island Matilda) AS A JOKE I really did end up cleaning the kitchen and doing the laundry.

    Cheers to you! Keep up the good taste, good drinking and good writing!

    @TheAlemonger

  11. beer-miester · ·

    I guess it is what part of the country you live in for the per capita of lady craft drinkers. New England has just a ton of female slurper’s and brewers. Not an usual site to have a nice lady elbow in her way up to the bar at Gritty McDuff’s in Portland Maine for a taste of the greatness. I say hell yes, get more ladies involved – who doesn’t want something nice to look at while we drink!

  12. So glad another female out there enjoys GOOD beer! I always shake my head at the girls who love Smirnoff and Mike’s and constantly make fun of my dad who drinks both! haha

  13. [...] her post decrying the stereotype of the craft beer drinker, Mother Gueuze describes the prototypical Alehead as “a man, perhaps in his thirties, usually [...]

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