Trip Blog (for live reporting from the road).
Encouraging Women to Drink Beer
From time to time, people email me for advice. If I'm not too busy, I answer them. These are actual letters (with names removed). Hope you find them useful, or at least entertaining.
Please note: I do not neccessarily know these people before hand. Also note: If you email me, and if I reply, our correspondence is fair game for me to use any way I see fit. (Names and places have been changed.)
We are new owners of a brewpub about to open. What is the best way to encourage other women to drink beer? I hope to write an article on this subject eventually. Any grand advice?
Woman Brewpub Owner
Hi Woman Brewpub Owner,
Congratulations on your impending brewpub opening!
I have opinions about these things, but I haven't had the opportunity to pursue them. Here are my thoughts.
I have no proof, but I do think brewpubs with women brewers attract more women drinkers. The important thing is to let people know that you have a woman brewer! In the 1990's, my employer, Steelhead Brewing Company ran a TV ad that contrasted dusty bottles of imported beers to "beer made across the room." Then the camera panned in on me with the canoe paddle stirring the mash. Over the years several men told me that every time that commercial came on TV they told their daughter(s), "See honey. You can be anything you want to be when you grow up. There's a woman brewmaster!" I heard an anecdote that somewhere in Florida is a woman brewer who grew up in Eugene, and she was supposedly inspired to become a brewer because she knew Steelhead had a woman brewer.
Now you are wondering, "What does a woman becoming a brewer have to do with attracting women beer drinkers?" Well, in my opinion there is a logical progression that feeds on itself and becomes a critical mass. First, you have to get a woman to taste a beer. Believe it or not, there are women out there who either have never tasted a beer, tried it once and didn't like it, or otherwise had a bad experience with beer.
What I have found, with men and women who say they don't like beer, is that generally they don't like yellow lager beer. They don't like the sulfur or corn or rice flavors. Personally, I don't much like the smell of a standard American lager unless it is really fresh. Many yellow lagers remind me of the stale beer "day after" smell of a college beer party. Yuck. A lot of people have that same association with standard American lagers.
So I ask the person, "Do you like coffee?" If the answer is yes, I give them a porter or a stout, and that is usually the only beer they will like. I have wine friends who can't handle beer's bitterness, so I introduce them to a Flemish Red Ale or other sour Belgian beer, and they can hardly believe it's a beer. They tell me it's the first beer they ever liked.
I know I'm rambling, but stay with me...
So, the first step in attracting women beer drinkers is to get rid of any bad or inappropriate connotations. If a brewpub is a college party hot spot with spilled beer and puking, that is a negative association and the place won't attract many long-lasting women beer drinkers. If a brewpub makes mostly yellow and/or mostly lager beers, that may not do it either. Perhaps a brewpub is considered a man's turf, at least until the potential woman beer drinker finds out there is a woman brewer working there.
Another inappropriate association is the cheesecake factor. As an intelligent woman beer drinker and brewer, I resent it when breweries use sex and skin to sell my favorite everyday beverage. I do not like the Swedish Bikini Team, nor the Bud Girls. Anheuser-Busch employs many intelligent women brewers. (I've met some of them.) Why don't they put a real feminine face on their advertising? They could do a biography series of ads, similar to Alaskan Brewing Company's ads, with photos of their real women brewers and what their off-work hobbies or favorite books are. Kind of like a Dewar's Profile, but with women in brewing as the subjects. That could do a lot at the national level to get women thinking about beer as a beverage of choice.
One thing I found out from my trip is that there are more women brewers out there at the Craft level than I thought. You can see the list at www.pinkbootssociety.htm. The women brewers I am talking with and connecting together are very excited to find that there are so many of us. (So many is relative. There may be several I haven't found to put on the list yet.) If women brewers are excited that there are so many other women brewers, I think that women homebrewers and women beer drinkers would be excited to learn that too. It would be great if the women homebrewers could start collecting their own list of names.
There's certain sequence of events that have to happen to attract women to drink beer consistantly. This could be the sequence:
1. Remove any negative connotations about beer. (This includes making the atmosphere attractive, safe, and inviting.)
2. Find out what other beverages the woman enjoys.
3. Introduce her to beers that have a similar flavor profile.
4. Match those beers to foods that complement their flavors. (Generally beer complements food, and wine contrasts with food.)
5. Encourage women to learn more about beer and beer production.
a. That includes women-oriented brewery tours and special tastings.
b. Also, Beers of the world tasting sessions or dinners aimed at women's groups or women.
6. Encourage women to homebrew. A homebrewer is your best customer. Teach homebrewing classes at your brewery?
This part may be controversial, but start with girls. Women brewers should go into the schools on career day and set up a booth showing both the artistic and the scientific side of brewing. Give presentations to girls in after school programs and girl scouts. Offer tours to girls age 8 and older. When I was 10 years old, my girl scout troop went on two tours: One was a tour of a McDonalds restaurant, and the other was a tour of Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee. When I was 16, I went to work for McDonalds. When I was 28, I became a professional brewer. Which tour do you think sounds more interesting?
If you give a tour to a girl scout troop, be sure to have several root beers to taste. You want kids to get in the habbit of comparing flavors between similar beverages. Two root beers never taste alike. If you make a root beer, great. Then buy a case of A & W or Dads or whatever and let the girls learn something about flavors by comparing with your root beer.
Once people (and kids) become intrigued by flavor comparisons and determine that they prefer more intense flavors, then you have the makings of a gourmand. Part of the drive behind the craft beer revolution is the drive for flavor that is sought by the "foodies." If someone is seeking more intense flavors, and they are finding it in coffee, cheese, cuisine, wine and/or whiskey, it is very likely that they will eventually find it in beers too. So drive what drives us: teach people to appreciate stronger and more interesting flavors. That will cause people to prefer a craft beer over a standard American lager every time.
Hope I rambled only enough to give you lots of interesting ideas to flow off of. Best wishes for your article, and please let me know if you have more questions.