A Woman’s Place
A She Said/He Said Beer Rant, Michigan Style
Back in the day, women brewed the beer. Period. Men were busy, you know, killing things, starting wars, pounding their chests and what not. There is even archeological evidence that in certain cultures that pre-date the Incans in Peru noble women brewed the beer, creating specialty beers for ceremonial purposes.
Beer WAS food in early cultures, that much is certain. Women were in charge of all things food-related, along with child bearing, rearing, growing crops and keeping the cave/ten/hut clean and the hubby satisfied. While not a whole lot of those tasks have changed one thing has. It seems we have given over the brewing of the beer to the guys. Certainly less work relative to killing animals for food and starting wars is required from them anymore, although there is plenty of chest pounding still happening among certain groups.
For many years, beer was a “man’s drink,” while we ladies sipped our Tom Collinses or wine sprtizters or (God help us) wine “coolers” which were malt beverages flavored with various disgusting variations on raspberries or lemon-line nastiness. The Big Breweries knew this and targeted advertising accordingly. They still do, really, because the general feeling is that men STILL are the primary purchasers of macro brews. Those clever ads from Miller (or whichever one it is I tend to lump them all together) with the (still very hot) female bartender making fun of the chump in his skinny jeans or whatever drinking whatever she thinks is even lamer than Miller are a nice change. But in general, the majority of beer advertising is still targeted directly at a man’s “tiny brain.”
But those snarky (still very hot) bartending females poking fun at the hapless dude in the kitty costume are perhaps a leading edge indicator of sea change? The facts are that more and more of us (that is to say we with ovaries) are in the business. Statistics show that more of us like to drink beer with flavor (Read: craft beers) than ever before. While there are areas where I still feel like I’m in the boy’s locker room when I need to conduct my business of selling the stuff, now that I’ve proven my bona fides it’s not such a big deal anymore. And of course, luckily for those guys, this Wench doesn’t mind it and can roll, specially if they look good in their towels. Oops, sorry, digression.
It is undeniable that more and more women are enjoying craft beer, perhaps because we have more discerning taste buds or perhaps we just know quality when we taste it. I’d say that on any given evening in the Wolverine Tap Room there are just as many women knocking back my brewer’s hoppy concoctions, rich porters or smooth lagers as there are men (which is why in a burst of savvy hiring, I ended up with a very attractive male bar manager and equally adorable bar tender with similar XY chromosomes to go with the lovely ladies who also pour the beer for us).
Of course, we craft brewers are guilty of serious female-objectification style names for some beers, using words like “Wench,” “Bitch” and plenty of tits and ass on labels. I am certainly proud of my own little Wenchie avatar, created by our Master of Corporate Imagery himself—who graces many a tee shirt these days. But it sometimes makes me wonder—now that we ladies are getting hip deep in the mash tun with the dudes, will the whole culture change? Will we be harking the “Beer Boy” to fetch us another, admiring him in his tight little costume that highlights his, ah, features? We will start naming our brews things like “ManUp IPA” (hey, I might copyright that one so back off) or “Raving D*ckhead Amber” or even (oh yes, wait for this one) “NutSack Brown Ale”?
Probably not. I’ll admit to getting some female feathers ruffled with my in-your-face tendencies towards raunchiness and the objectification of Certain Male Someones. Will I change; become more genteel, more ladylike now that there are more of us double X’s in this biz? Definitely not. This Wench loves craft beer, loves all craft beer drinkers and welcomes all the fabulous ladies into the club—but with one caveat: Lighten Up! Let the boys admire you as you pour, drink and enjoy your brew of choice. Just because they like what they see doesn’t mean they don’t see you as an equal. Prove yourself an equal: increase your knowledge by trying lots of different brews, attending tasting classes (Wench and her brewer are offering one this summer!), learn more and know the difference between an IPA and a Stout instead of wasting your precious energy getting all pissy at the boy’s club over there giggling in the corner.
Sisterhood of the Suds/Ladies of Craft Beer/Girls Pint Out there are lots of facebook/twitter based groups to join and follow. And of course, your beloved Wench will continue to impart her own occasionally naughty brand of lady-wisdom on the biz as she sees it! Tell your girl friends to put down the Cosmos and grab a brown bottle of craft brewed goodness – or else. We are coming boys, and you’d better shove over and make room at the bar for us!
And so the interest of fair play, I’ve invited my own personal craft beer guru, Mr. Fred Bueltmann, graced with abovementioned XYs, nutsacks and other accoutrements of masculinity to join my, up until now one-sided conversation. Part owner and marketing head honcho at New Holland Brewing, he’s been around the craft beer block a few times and so I want Him to have His Say (that's us, over there to the right, with the martini glasses):
That was quite an introduction, Wenchie. I’ll do my best to shed a little light on this complicated ball of wax.
First off, “Big Beer” marketed to women more than you may realize. The whole “beer would be great if it only had less calories” thing, didn’t come from a focus group of dudes watching cars turn left. Big Beer is also pretty slick about where they use their T & A. You see it on TV and at bars, but you don’t see it much on packaging in the grocery store, where they’re counting on dutiful wives picking up beer for the household. In either case, the game-changing act of the past, wasn’t necessarily marketing it was a dramatic reduction and narrowing of choice and flavor.
People may be drawn to the Craft segment for many different reasons. It could be word of mouth, a menu or waitstaff suggestion or the good ole fashioned attempt to impress the opposite sex. Regardless, I argue that people that have become devout fans of Craft beer haven’t done so because of our marketing, branding, or who turned ‘em on to it. They’ve become champions because there is more flavor. Whether the styles are simple or complex, the beers of the Craft world are deeper in character and broader in range, making for a beer market that is more diverse than ever before in history.
Yeah, yeah,…you want me to talk about women and beer. I believe that more women are coming into beer, because beer has more to offer them. Most men nostalgically adopted the beers of our fathers, and enthusiastically headed down a path of beer from the beginning, and some women followed suit. However, who can blame the rest of the women for dismissing beer, when it was previously defined as light American pilsner or lighter American pilsner?
In terms of marketing tits and ass, I think it boils down something I’ll call, Jerry’s Burlesque Principle. First, know that Burlesque is risqué, but also clever and thoughtful and it enjoys a very co-ed crowd. If you try to use T & A, yet lack the playfulness of Burlesque, don’t be surprised if you find your brand at a sausage party out by the airport. Second, frequently remind yourself, “that’s right, the women are smarter.”
The original question was, “Will the culture change?” I say, absolutely and not at all. We’re the culture OF change, so I expect dynamic change as more people come into the fold and enjoy beers of depth and flavor. However, while women may be wooed by a handsome bartender or brewer here or there, I think their hallmark on the Craft Beer Scene will be voting, drinking and buying with their palate, not their libido.
Because this is my blog, I get to have the last word of course so I'll say:
"that's right, the women are smarter" (he is such a suck up, our Fred)
"I reserve the right to be wooed by handsome bartenders and brewers AND buy with my libido, when necessary."
now over to YOU.....leave a comment and maybe I'll send you a Tee shirt....or maybe I'll smack you upside the head if I don't like what you say!