Yes, Real Women Drink Real Beer
Two years ago, I read a review of a new bar that had a fantastic beer line-up. Over 25 craft beers were listed in the review and the food was decent enough to deserve a “gastropub” label. I called a friend and said let’s meet up and check it out. They were going to have Stone beers I hadn’t seen on draft and we wanted to try them. I beat my friend to the bar, and it was nicely full. Not overly crowded but I could see it was doing well. I found two chairs and threw my coat over one to save and sat down in the other. I took a look at the list and found the Stone Smoked Porter on draft.
The bartender introduced himself, asked if I would need a food menu and what would I like to drink. I told him that I’d have a Stone Smoked Porter and his face lit up like a Christmas tree. I liked craft beer. So he brought me my porter and a small tasting glass filled with a bourbon barrel aged stout. Try this, he said. We’ve been friends ever since.
You feel like you’re in a secret club when you order a great beer and everyone around you is drinking a domestic light beer. You find others who have the same passion for great beer (and not coincidentally great food). The focus of the night out shifts from who can win the most games of beer pong to who can find the bar with the rarest craft beer. Maybe that comes with age, but my first beer was a German Hefeweissen when I was 17 and spending the summer in Germany, so I didn’t know how bad beer could taste until I was in college. I thought all beer was cloudy and unpasteurized until I was 20.
So far our experience with craft beer might sound similar. Here’s where it changes. After I ordered my Stone Smoked Porter and it arrived, a young professional sitting next me holding a domestic light bottle addicted to his blackberry takes a look at my drink and exclaims “that’s a big beer for a little girl!” loud enough so his swill drinking buddies all laugh. I politely smile and take my first sip of escape. Another time out, I ordered a Bell’s Hopslam (a hell of an IPA rocking 10% ABV) and a guy suggested I order a Blue Moon that he deemed “better” than my choice that I would like more. I don’t think that would have happened if I was a guy. It’s intimidating to always be told you could drink something better even when you know he’s wrong.
Sure, you may not expect to see a woman at the bar drinking craft beer, but you don’t need to mock her or her drink selection. I believe this might be part of the reason more women don’t drink craft beer. When we order a drink (not just beer), our male counterparts are quick to judge what we ordered as if they are superior drinkers. I’m not sure why this is. Drink what you like. Occasionally I want what craft beer snobs consider “girly beer” such as an Abita Purple Haze but I’m confident enough to go ahead and order it. At least I didn’t order a Mich Ultra, right?
The craft beer market is much like sports talk radio and geared towards men in general. Not many craft breweries make a push to cater to women drinkers. It’s not that breweries are pushing us away, but more that they are ignoring us all together. This has to change if they want to survive. Take the NFL for example. My first NFL jersey was a Peyton Manning boys medium and giant on me. Now I can order a pink glittery Peyton Manning jersey. Or a pink Vince Young jersey in a women’s fitted style. 10 years ago this was unheard of.
Breweries need to see that they should produce the same level of apparel for women that they do for men. I was so disappointed that Flying Dog brewery did not carry a Gonzo Imperial Porter shirt for women. They offer 1 women’s shirt, 1 hoodie, and booty shorts that say “Doggie Style.” Cute marketing, but the only person who might see that “Doggie Style” logo already drinks your beer. Some breweries are already getting it. Bells from Kalamazoo MI hosted an Oberon release party last year handed out womens Oberon shirts that said “Stop Staring and Buy Me an Oberon” as well as the prerequisite large and extra large shirts for men. Bells made sure everyone felt included in the swag giveaway.
I could go on and on about all of the things I think women are left out of when it comes to craft beer. With the number of beer blogs popping up by women, it’s a matter of time until we’re looked at as a growing segment that breweries should market to. In the mean time, I’ll continue to go out and drink great beer, meet great people and have an amazing time doing it. I’m happy that I can share my passion for great beer with good people and we should all look at it that way. So the next time you see a woman drinking a craft beer, engage her in conversation just like you would a man. She’ll appreciate it more than you know.