On Wednesday night our brewing intern Deb and I got the opportunity to speak on a panel about women and beer. The occasion was the screening of The Love of Beer, organized by the Better Beer Society. The panel discussion only just scratched the surface of this issue, we probably could have talked for hours, but it was a good public forum for this very important topic. The film was about women in the beer industry, from brewers to bar owners. The panel was comprised of local women who also work in the industry. The film and panel brought up some interesting questions:
Is the industry and beer scene changing as it relates to women? Where will we see changes first?
It is changing and craft beer is at the forefront of that change. A place you see these changes most clearly is in marketing. When you look at craft beer marketing, the vast majority is gender neutral. Most marketing focuses on the beer itself, often with a sense of fun thrown in. That being said, the people depicted in the ads are still mostly men. The television ads for the big brewers still generally rely on male-based humor (Man Up?), but even there it seems like you are seeing less pure sexuality based marketing. Well, I guess there are still the Miller Liteguards in their Eighties style bathing suits, but that sort of thing is less common these days. That shows already the trend is changing and I believe will continue down that path.
We're also seeing more and more women at festivals and beer events. It used to be that most of the women there were just dragged along by their male mate, but now we're seeing women really step to the front with inquisitive palates and minds. Then when you have a woman serving those beers, you set a great example that women do indeed know about beer and are here to stay in this ever evolving world.
Should breweries market directly to women?
This is a tough question. As a woman, I definitely don’t want a brewery making a special kind of beer just for ladies, complete with pink packaging. I also don’t want ads that play off of some idea of what woman are interested in, like showing a bunch of gals taking in some suds post shopping or manicures. So if you don’t play off of stereotypes of women, how do you structure a campaign that is specifically for women? I just think you don’t. I think you focus on the product you are selling and don’t rely on masculine stereotypes, which are often just as insulting to males as well. When you focus on the product, you can escape so many of the pitfalls of gender based marketing. If you make something good, there is no need to sugarcoat it with sophomoric humor and sex.
How do we get more women to be involved with beer?
So if we don’t design ad campaigns directly for women, how do we reach them? There are definitely ways to think about beer differently that might speak to women. Beer dinners, where you focus on beer and food together, are a great way for women to think about beer in a new light. Focusing on the art of beer-the craft behind it, the people who make it, the details of serving it properly from glassware to temperatures-these are stellar ways to access the wonderful world of beer. I’m a firm believer that there is a beer for everyone, so it is taking the time to get women to experiment, to try new things, and to definitely not cast them off because they haven’t liked beer up to this point. If women truly prefer wine or cocktails to beer, let’s find beers that mirror some of the flavor profiles of those types of drinks. It is often the bitterness that is off putting to a new beer drinker, so we can look to estery wheat beers or smooth malty beers or fruity bright beers. That is what is so great about beer-the vast myriad of styles to suit all tastes. I find that once you start trying things and finding what you like, your palate starts to open up and soon enough you are a bona fide beer lover. One of the best things about beer is also the social aspect, sharing it with friends. Organizations like Barley’s Angels are an even more formalized way to bring women together to discuss and learn about beer. They get together for tastings, tours, and more in a fun female environment. Great way to meet new people too!
As a female and a craft beer lover, I am optimistic about the future of beer and women. All of my female friends love beer, but I know there are scores of women out there that have yet to experience the joy of what a great beer can be. Let us all make it our personal mission to share the pure pleasure of beer!
Summit gals enjoying a beer on the town (the matching green was just a snazzy accident)