In late August, Chris and I appeared on Beer School. During our session, co-host John Foster asked, “What do we need to do to get more women interested in craft beer?” Having had a few beers, I came up with “no bathroom lines at beer events” as a selling point. I did go on to offer a slightly more intelligent answer, but I thought I might take the time to expand my opinion on the subject. I think the craft beer industry is successfully getting more women interested in beer.
By various means, craft beer is becoming more accessible and less intimidating to women. Beer writer Lisa Morrison in Portland and Suzanne Woods in the Philadelphia area are offering classes for women on beer appreciation. Lisa also does talks on the history of women in the brewing industry and she has some fascinating tales to tell on the subject. There is a multitude of female beer bloggers out there, many of whom have a target audience of women. The number of female brewers, beer writers, judges, and appreciators is higher than it has ever been and it is still growing.
The focus I would like to see in the industry is on making craft beer accessible and less intimidating for all, both men and women.
I’ll give you an example. At one of our tastings, a male friend who is just getting into craft beer mentioned that he was intimidated by the douchey banter of the more established craft beer drinkers. He is eager to learn and I have been doing my best to offer him bits of information that will increase his knowledge and will hopefully strengthen his confidence when tasting new beers. I am patient and reassuring with him, but I hate to say that I am not always like that.
At the Great British Beer Festival, I had an encounter that made me rethink how I interact with non-beergeeks. When I was volunteering, three American women came up to the bar and asked if “this is where the flavored beers are.” At first I was honestly taken aback, “Flavored beers?” I recovered quickly to offer them the lemon beer, ginger ale, and black cherry beer we had in our area. Another volunteer, who was much more knowledgeable of British beers, came over to assist. She was kind and patient and offered them tastes. At one point, while trying the tasters, one woman said, “They’re all so warm”. And what do I blurt out? How about, “You’re at a real ale event.” Pause for the dumbfounded look. A little softer, “Do you know what that means?” I then proceeded to briefly explain it to her and suggest that perhaps she try some beers at the International Bar.
The response of the other volunteer played on mind for a while. It didn’t take me long to realize that I need to make an effort to act more mentor-like and less snob-like when it comes to interacting with people who don’t yet have an appreciation for craft beer. There is a time and place for more educated discussions of beer. But, most of the time I, for instance, am with regular people who just want to enjoy the taste of beer. There is really no need to out do each other with esoteric comments on the finer points of the beer.
In one of our more recent radio interviews, the woman asked, “I’m a Bud Light girl. What advice do you have for me?” My answer was “to be adventurous. Try something you haven’t had before. You might like it. All that matters is whether or not a particular beer meets your particular tastes.” I thought that answer was a pretty good one. But that’s just one woman’s opinion.
P.S. No lines for the women’s bathroom at beer events is great.