Monday, December 10, 2012

Musings on Women and Beer

In addition to loving bourbon, as the title of this blog suggests, I who know me will attest that I am equally passionate about beer. Lately I've been pondering the relationship of beer and feminism, or at least beer and gender, and when I came across a blog post on the subject, well, I just had to talk about it! You can find the whole post over at Queen City Drinks, and I've cross-posted it here as well for those too lazy to click on stuff. And hey, I welcome the lazy reader! So make yourself at home and read up about beer, will ya?



A recent post on this blog caught my attention, since I’ve been thinking, reading, and writing a lot lately about women and beer. I’m a woman who genuinely loves beer, and I don’t do it to “be one of the lads,” or to show off, or to look cool in front of guys. I’ve loved the beverage ever since I can remember. As a kid, I begged for sips of my dad’s beer (he only ever let me have the tiniest sip of the foam); as a teenager, I visited the Czech Republic, where my mom is from, and reaffirmed my love of beer. Now, I trade feats of connoisseurship with my husband, who is only too happy to while away hours poring over the selection at our local emporium and spend entire holidays in Belgium with me. I love beer so much that when I meet someone who doesn’t care for it, I sort of want to convert them. So I understand the impulse behind “Women, Don’t Fear the Beer.” I believe it was a well-intentioned missive that came from a good place and had an honorable goal – to see more women get into craft beer. Still, there were a few missteps that rightfully irritated some of the commenters, and I wanted to address them here in a little more detail.

First off, The Brew Professor admits that his post contained “generous helpings of broad assumptions and stereotyping. Most of this is observational ‘fact’ that I have experienced personally.” This weakened his argument upfront, which is a shame, since literally two minutes of research would’ve yielded some statistics that might have strengthened his position. Let’s take a look at a recent Gallup poll for starters: the alcoholic beverage most consumed by men is, by a wide margin, beer (55%); for women, it’s wine (52%), followed by a fairly even split between liquor (22%) and beer (23%).
[Click to open a larger copy of chart]
[Click to open a larger copy of chart]
So instead of throwing out some nebulous anecdotal evidence, he could’ve started with something a little more concrete, and then maybe we could’ve had a real conversation about those numbers, and what they mean.

Secondly, he chose absolutely the wrong wording in the wrong forum. On this blog, you’re dealing with a constituency of beer drinkers, male and female. To speak to this audience from the position he took, e.g. that women need instruction on the ways of beer, was somewhat poorly thought out. Granted there are some spaces where this might be appropriate, but this blog wasn’t one of them. Furthermore, statements like “The problem with experimenting with real beer is that the selection process can be extremely intimidating” are in no way gender specific. It is no more intimidating to women just getting into craft beer than it is to men just getting into craft beer, which many commenters pointed out.

Finally, and this speaks again to the issue of research, The Brew Professor says:

“Okay, ladies. Why is the craft beer movement mostly driven by men? What is holding you back from trying more beer? In my experience, it is inexperience.”

Hmmm, wrong. The craft beer movement isn’t where the women aren’t (if you follow me). There are plenty of female brewers, sellers, journalists, and drinkers in this milieu. There is still a small imbalance to address, granted, but advocacy groups like the Barley’s Angels and Girl’s Pint Out are working to educate and empower women to buy, drink, and order beer with confidence. On the consumer side of things, it’s the macro brewers who have much, much more of a gender problem than the craft beer world.

But. (There’s always a But.) The idea that introducing gender into the conversation is inherently unnecessary or somehow offensive is a little off the mark. And this is where I have to stop taking issue with The Brew Professor’s post and see where he’s coming from....

The second half of this post will appear on Queen City Drinks tomorrow!

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