It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, - It might be time for us to consider a crusade to get more women to drink craft
beer. I recently saw one statistic that had women as making up only 15%-20% of beer
drinkers. That's not very good. Too many women are simply missing out on the amazing
variety of wonderful flavors in craft beer.
I'd be willing to bet that most women don't realize that brewing was once the preserve of the
distaff side. Like bread and other daily necessities, for centuries ale making was a largely
within the domain of women’s household tasks. It was also common practice for women to sell
their excess ale to neighbours and passers-by. Not only did this prevent waste, it also enabled
medieval European women to earn an income from their domestic labor. In larger towns,
women had a near monopoly on the production of ale for commercial sale. Barrels of ale would
be sold to colleges, churches, public houses, private homes, and, sometimes, cup-by-cup, an
alewife would take her brew out onto the street to sell. As you see Bill, women and beer have
always gone together.
Obviously things changed and women were no longer the mainstays of beer making. I did a bit
a research and it seems that part of the reason was the rise of male brewer’s guilds which
were powerful political and economic entities in medieval and early modern Europe. For
example, when the London Brewer’s Guild made their constitution in 1639, it detailed the
exclusion of women on the basis of their being “unfit to brew or sell ale and beer.”
Interestingly I also found that the increased use of hops in brewing served as another reason.
Hopped beer had a much longer shelf life than ale made with traditional recipes so hop
cultivation escalated. That required a significant investment by brewers.. Most early modern
women lacked the necessary access to the needed capital. So men controlled hops and hops
controlled who did the brewing.
But what about today? Why don't more women drink beer? Watch some beer commercials
and you'll see how they exclude any attempt to bring women into the fold.The problem is that
most women never taste the good stuff we love. Get women to try some things like a nice
trippel such as one from Ommegang or a Rogue's chocolate stout, or a.......I think you see my
Hey, I'm nearing my space limit so let me generalize by saying fewer women may drink beer
today because of culture and peer influence. That can and should be changed. The easiest
way to do that is to simply spread the word that the craft beer revolution is for everyone. The
most direct way to do that is to ask a female friend to sample various styles of craft beer (and
stay away from macro lagers).
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time.
Well said Gina however let me give you a different spin on your first statistic. Women ages 21-34
now consume craft beer over the national average, which means that they represent one of craft
beer’s strongest groups of supporters. Even more telling is that this group represents 15% of
total craft-beer consumption. To me that says the future looks good for more and more women
to begin enjoying good beer. Here's another positive statistic - overall women account for 25% of
total beer consumption by volume, and 37% of craft-beer consumption in the United States. And
that number is increasing each year. I understand you may see this as the cup being half empty
but in the context of where we were and where we're heading I see it as half full and more..
I totally agree with you that breweries really don't do much to reach out to females. But why?
The fist thing I see is that women are type-cast as uninterested in beer. Most beer commercials
to me are out of touch with the breathe of the marketplace. They focus only on their male target
demographic. I see lots of beer ads using sexy bikini-clad women to appeal to men, which I
actually find to be offensive. There have been ridiculous attempts to market pink,or fruity, or low-
calorie brews to women, but none has succeeded. Why? Women, like men, are looking for flavor
in their beer.
Despite the fact that beer brands have little understanding of their female customer base I see
some good things going on in the industry. Women are well integrated into almost all aspects of
the beer scene—from brewers, to distributor reps, to home brewers, to bar owners. And there is
an increasing—albeit small—number of women in positions of power, like head brewer or owner.
So Gina please consider that the view from inside the industry looks decidedly more egalitarian
than ever before. In many, many ways beer is a great equalizer—your success is mainly based
on whether you know your stuff or you don’t..
I think the craft-beer community is generally friendly and inclusive. Note however I said "craft
beer" community. Some so called "dive" bars moving to craft still embrace the old ways. Just last
week I was in a pub and heard the bartender ask a female customer to confirm her order of a
beer that was strong, and very bitter. She had a great reply that hopefully taught the bartender
something about women and beer - "YES, I KNOW that my double IPA will be strong and bitter. I
want it that way!”. Hmmm... now that I think of it that woman was you!
Let's remember that brewing is a business and I believe the marketplace with eventually correct
itself and bring the genders equally to craft beer. So, as the craft beer drinking demographic
changes, breweries will have to take female drinkers more seriously because that will be the
single best way to increase profits.
And breweries that don't do that will deservedly fail.
Here's looking at you Gina