Here's the thing about beer and gender: they're unrelated.
December 24, 2016
Let’s talk about women and beer.
As a proud feminist and member of the craft beer community, these are some of my favorite topics. It should come as no surprise that the craft beer world is dominated by predominately cisgendered, white men. This is not to say that women, LGBTQ+ folks and POC aren’t out enjoying craft beer but the industry as a whole is still lacking in diversity. Thrillist’s James Beard Award winning story about the lack of black folks in the industry was one of the first nationally recognized moments where we talked about this issue.
1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
As craft beer continues to regain its importance in mainstream society, we’re starting to see a slow shift in its inclusivity – which is awesome. Women still make up less of the beer drinking crowd than men, but the number is growing and research has found some interesting reasons as to why women might be more likely to chose craft beer over domestic or mass-produced beer (more on that later).
(As an interesting side note, according to the Brewer’s Association, Hispanic craft beer lovers are also growing in number. One in five weekly beer drinkers and weekly craft drinkers are Hispanic, making them the second-largest cultural group among craft beer appreciators. This is, frankly, cool as hell)
There is a lot we could unpack on the topic of women and beer and sexism in the beer industry. I mean, a lot. However, today we’re going to focus on the idea of how presumed gender attributes affects people’s access to the equal education and opportunity surrounding craft beer.
Earlier this week, I was tasked with bringing home a few growlers from the brewery I work for to travel with us for the holidays. At the time, we had over 15 beers on tap ranging from a 15% breakfast stout to a Geuze blended from a one and three-year Lambic, so naturally I started digging for a bit more direction. It came as a complete and refreshing surprise to me that not one of my immediate family members demanded an IPA (score!) and that my mom and sister-in-law actually requested a sour – a Berliner Weisse to be exact. Two women who once would walk up to the bar and only know to ask for “something light” are now comfortable telling the bartender that they like berliner weisse's and gose's and Belgian style beers, etc.
In her Ted Talk “A Hammer, Beer and Women,” Ginger Johnson talks about why she wants to make gender extinct when it comes to beer. She recalls working at hardware stores and being asked to sell the “female-oriented” pink hammers. Here’s the problem with the pink hammers though: they were cheap and smaller than real hammers. They were simply poorly made. In thinking about the hammers she makes the powerful conclusion that it’s oaky to like pink, but it’s wrong to market crap to women with that color.
She goes on to talk about her moving into the world of craft beer and trying to find out why women were not thought about in craft beer. Her end point? Beer is not about gender. BEER HAS NO GENDER.
Beer is about brains and taste buds, she says. Simple as that. Making beer an environment for all folks is about education and opportunity.
AND SHE’S ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.
This is the point shown through my mom and my sister-in-law. They were able to find an avenue to explore craft beer in a welcoming, non-threatening environment. All too often do we sit down in restaurants and watch a waiter’s eyes fall on the woman when listing the wine options and then shift to the man when delivering the beer selection. All too often I’ve been standing at a beer event wearing my brewery’s shirt and been ignored when delivering a factual answer to a patron’s question because my male counterpart (usually just a friend) is assumed a superior source of knowledge. Just last weekend, I walked up to a bar and ordered a triple IPA and a glass of red wine while at a local brewery. The triple IPA was for me. The red wine was for my boyfriend who owns a brewery.
Beer, and wine, and cocktails have no gender.
When you strip away the patronizing environment that assumes women only want a “fruity beer” (which is fine by the way. Fruit is delicious) and simply ask them what they like to drink in order to point them to a beer that might fit their palate, you open up a whole world of opportunities. One of my favorite things about selling or serving beer to women is that they tend to be “cross-drinkers." A cross-drinker is someone who drinks a variety alcohol: wine, cocktails, beer, etc. My boyfriend and I are cross-drinkers, for example.
The beauty of selling beer to a cross-drinker is being able to identify flavor profiles they enjoy, i.e. the tannins in a red wine and find a beer with a flavor profile that can deliver a similar experience i.e. the complexity of a flanders-style sour. Man or woman or non-binary folk, beer has no gender. So let's start selling it and enjoying it and treating it that way.