Next Session Tackles Women In Beer

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For our 81st Session, our host is Nichole Richard — better known to the beer world as “Nitch” — who writes online at Tasting Nitch. She’s originally from the West Coast and lived in Hawaii, as well, has lived in 15 countries on three different continents, and is currently an expat living in France, and trying her best to “create a craft beer movement among cheap wine drinkers.” Her topic for this session asks bloggers to weigh in on the gender issue — Women in Craft Beer Culture. Are they “scary beer feminists?” Or “a healthy growing demographic?”

Feel free to write about what you want as long as it is beer and woman related!

I would love to see some of our historian beer bloggers give a bit of in depth back ground information on history of women in beer culture. Praise Ninkasi and what not, but were there male brewers before the fall of Rome?

Who did most the brewing in early colonized North America?

How is it that most current African brewers are still housewives while modern brewing is male dominated?

Do a feature on a woman in the beer industry!

Have you inspired your significant other to become beer culture involved? Call it, high five your beer loving wife day.

Are there any men out there who think that women in beer is a bad thing? For religious reasons, women aren’t allowed to tour many Trappist breweries and there are still French chefs who believe that a women on her menstrual cycle cannot make whip cream. (Truth.)

Woman’s palate’s are changing the direction of beer! Are women to blame for the recent increase in fruit beers? …

Are there any women out there who are crusading a flag of femininity while milling malt. Tell us your story!

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So two days from now, on Friday, November 1, shake off that post-Halloween hangover and no matter which gender you are, weigh in on the female half of humanity and their role in craft beer culture.

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SABMiller Testing Beer Brewed For Women

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Depending on your perspective, there’s good and bad news for women who love beer. Yesterday, Marketwatch casually mentioned that “SAB Miller, the world’s second largest brewer, is testing a new line of lighter and sweeter beers. Executives are also planning new ad campaigns geared towards women.” Other CBS affiliates, such as WREG Memphis, picked up the story but added little, apart from saying the new line will be “brewed especially for the ladies.” That’s all the information there is, so far, not even the SABMiller website has any additional information or a press release, at least not yet.

But if you’re one of those of the female persuasion that can be reduced to the stereotype of only liking sweet flavors, and don’t mind being pandered to, this just may be the beer for you. But if you’re a real person, like pretty much every beer lover I know who also happens to be a woman, this is probably just going to piss you off. I honestly don’t understand why the big beer companies keep trying this. Has it ever worked, anywhere in the world? People who understand and can appreciate the complex flavors of a good beer, will like it, irrespective of their reproductive organs. So just make good beer, educate your customers about it, and beer lovers — male and female — will drink it. Why is that so hard?

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Beer Birthday: Melissa Cole

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Today is the 38th birthday of Melissa Cole, UK beer writer extraordinaire. I’d met Melissa first online and then in person at the Rake in London a few years ago. She’s also been coming over to our side of the pond to judge at both GABF and the World Beer Cup. She’s a great advocate for beer generally, but especially for women, and is great fun to hang out and drink with. She also writes online at Taking the Beard Out of Beer! which is subtitled “A Girl’s Guide To Beer.” Her first book, Let Me Tell You About Beer, was published not too long ago. Join me in wishing Melissa a very happy birthday.

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At the Great British Beer Festival three years ago, with Roger Protz.

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Melissa with Greg Koch, from Stone Brewing, at GABF in 2009.

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The Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur with a blushing Melissa at the World Beer Cup dinner in Chicago a few years ago.

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A couple of years ago at the Rake in London, Melissa and Matt Brynildson, from Firestone Walker.

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With friends at University sometime between 1993-97 (photo purloined from Facebook).

New Survey Shows Big Beer Brands Aren’t Reaching Women

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A new survey of women by Insights in Marketing found that while women control 80% of all purchasing decisions, the large beer companies are not doing a good job of reaching them. According to the results, only 6% of women thought ABI is doing a good job reaching them, while 5% liked Coors’ approach and a mere 2% had anything positive to say about Miller’s methods. The survey included 1300 women, and 200 men, across a wide demographic, and asked how they thought top national brands, in a variety of consumer goods, were doing in “effectively marketing their products and services.”

For all products, they found that 49%, or just less than half, thought they did a good job, suggesting that marketing and advertising in general, across the board, could be doing a better job reaching women, but that beer companies are doing a particularly bad job. All three brands surveyed — Bud, Miller & Coors — ranked in the bottom half for all women. Anybody surprised by that result?

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The survey also found some slight differences between generations. For example, Baby Boomers seem to like Miller and Coor’s just fine, but not Budweiser. Gen X thinks Coor’s and Bud are doing great, but Miller, not so much. Millenials didn’t respond well to any of the beer brands, with Miller coming out on top, at just below the middle for all brands (beer and non-beer).
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Beers The Ladies Love

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Today’s infographic was originally created for Valentine’s Day earlier this year, by Save on Brew. I picked today to feature it because it’s Women’s Equality Day. Entitled Beers The Ladies Love, it gives tips for beers to give to the lady or ladies in your life. I’m not sure about their list of “10 Top Rated Craft Beer,” and especially the three that are imports, but they’re pretty good beers, at least. And there’s not a fruit beer in the bunch. It’s certainly better than many other attempts at this sort of thing I’ve seen.

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Click here to see the infographic full size.

Happy International Women’s Day

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As you may be aware, today is International Women’s Day, and although I’m up to my eyeballs in work, I do want to pause and celebrate the many, many women in beer. Time was, beer was an all-boys club, and to a certain few it still is, but I couldn’t be happier to see an ever-increasing number of women attending beer events, writing about it and brewing it. There was a time when brewsters made almost all of the beer, but then men grabbed the reigns and kicked women to the curb. I, for one, think beer was all the poorer for that decision, but then it happened centuries before I had any say in the matter.

Because I don’t want to leave anybody out, I’m not going to even try to list all of the wonderful people I’ve met over the years I’ve been writing about beer who just happen to have been born female. To them, today and really on every day, I raise a toast to you.

Although I’m not naming names, here are a few others who have, and some organizations, too, that are also worth singling out. It’s not complete, of course, and I’m confident there are others I’m forgetting, but suffice it to say I mean to include everyone. To all of you, thanks for what you do, and making the world of beer a better place to work, to play and to enjoy life.

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The Pink Boots Society, founded by Teri Fahrendorf, “created to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the Beer Industry through Education.” Today there are nearly 900 members for all facets of the beer industry.

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Barley’s Angels, co-founded (I think) by Lisa Morrison in Portland, Oregon. “Barley’s Angels is a growing collection of individual chapters around the world that work with craft beer focused breweries, brewpubs, restaurants, alehouses and other public beer establishments to advance the female consumer craft beer enthusiast, resulting in increased patronage and revenue from women, while encouraging education and interest in beer among this often under-recognized demographic group.” There are currently 25 chapters in 18 states, plus 12 international chapters in five countries.

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Women Enjoying Beer, started by Ginger Johnson. “Women Enjoying Beer develops and serves the female beer enthusiast. We’re the only organization anywhere doing as much, from the consumer vantage point, to benefit the craft/beer industry.”

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Megan Fox For Brahma Beer

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Today I saw in the UK Sun that American actor Megan Fox is doing ads for Brahma, the Brazilian Budweiser, an especially accurate association since Brahma is part of Anheuser-Busch InBev. Why do we care? We don’t, but I’m game to look at a couple of ads with Megan Fox in them. Isn’t that why advertisers chose her? Of course, it’s still a tasteless, flavorless beer.

As Mais Gostosas do Carnival (The Hottest Carnival)

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Is it just me, or does that beer have his arm around Fox? Is the beer wearing sunglasses because he doesn’t want to be seen with Megan Fox?

Convidando Megan Fox Pra Uma Brahma (Inviting Megan Fox for a Brahma)

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And here she is going off to have a picnic. According to the Sun, she’s flying down to Rio to do a commercial and pose for some more ads.

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Although humorously enough, a few years ago the hipster appeared more partial to Pabst Blue Ribbon. This was taken by paparazzi in 2009. Ah, sex and beer. What’s not to love. It seems to me, the big brewers follow a variation of the old lawyer’s adage. “When the law is on your side, argue the law. When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When neither the facts nor the law are on your side, make an ad hominem attack.” In the brewer’s world it’s more along these lines. “When the beer tastes good, promote the beer. When the brewery has personality, promote the brewer. When the beer has neither, promote a celebrity, a cartoon, or both.”

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Pandering To Women

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I may not be a woman, but I grew up around them quite a lot as a child, perhaps more than some others (my folks divorced when I was one and I spent most of my formative years among my mother, grandmothers, aunts, etc.) and am fully in touch with my feminine side. Plus, I love quite a few women — one a lot more than others — but count quite a few among my closest friends. So I cringe every time I read about the efforts of big companies to market beer directly to women, believing all it will take to increase market share is more attractive packaging or sweeter flavors. How many of these failed efforts have we endured in just the last decade?

A few days ago, yet another one surfaced, in a Fast Company interview with Carlsberg Group CEO Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen entitled Carlsberg Taps The Next Big Beer Market (Really): Women. This morning, I saw quite a few exasperated tweets and posts from women in the beer industry that I respect, and decided to read the interview. It’s a head-shaker, alright. Riddled with so much wrong, it’s hard to address it all, so I won’t. I’m sure someone will dissect it better than I can.

But, just a few points. First, Rasmussen claims that the “beer category has been suffering in terms of image,” but for just “the last 10 to 15 years.” Um, I can’t actually remember a time when beer wasn’t marketed almost exclusively to men. There are a few post-World War 2 ads that reach out to women — primarily because they were the ones doing the grocery shopping — but by the 1960s it was all men, all the time. And it’s been that way ever since, from the Swedish Bikini Team to Miller’s infamous mud wrestling. But he soldiers on.

Rasmussen and others still think product innovation and marketing brewed drinks toward women is possible. Increasingly, women know about different, palate-friendly beers like Abbey Ales, fruit lambics, ciders, ginger beers, and dark stouts — as well as about the more varied glassware they require and how to pair them with foods. Women want “a less bitter, non-bloating beer that does not give you a malty/hoppy aftertaste and breath,” says Carlsberg spokesman Ben Morton. “Flavor proliferation has become a key feature of beer innovation.”

So what’s the plan? “[H]e wants to come up with new types of drink recipes that can be made in Carlsberg-owned breweries but are lighter in alcohol, refreshing in taste, and perceived as healthy enough to take on wine, champagne, and other drinks vying for women’s dollars.” Rasmussen used to work for Duracell, Gillette Group, Mars, and Unilever, and seems to believe that beer is just the same as marketing razors and candy, but I don’t think that’s true.

Then there’s this bit of wisdom, by Carlsberg’s VP of Marketing, Kirsten Ægidius. “Many young people aren’t keen on the bitter aftertaste of beer.” Uh, huh. That’s why IPA has been the fastest growing category for years.

So I know they can’t help themselves, but I really wish the big beer companies would just stop this insane, asinine belief that reaching women is a matter of finding beer that’s female friendly and is marketed to them like Virginia Slims’ “you’ve come a long way, baby” pandering.

Not surprisingly, I have a lot of female friends who love beer every bit as much as I do. My wife is a beer lover, and probably drinks more beer at home than I do. I know countless female brewers, beer writers and female fans who love craft beer. This is the same craft beer, mind you, that I love, and that every other beer-loving male loves, too. There doesn’t need to be gender-specific beer. That’s a ridiculous notion, but one that keeps resurfacing, even though it fails every single time. I remember an “I Love Toy Trains” video that Porter used to watch when he was younger that showed how in the 1950s Lionel created a toy train set aimed at girls in which all the cars were pastel colors, pink, lavender, etc. It bombed, because the girls who wanted to play with toy trains wanted the same trains that the boys had. It’s hard to imagine why anybody would have thought otherwise.
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So while I hate to speak for women beer lovers, who are quite capable of fending for themselves, I’m just as eager for this nonsense to stop. So here’s a few tips I have for the big beer companies on how to reach women:

  1. Stop pandering to women, just treat them like people.
  2. Stop the obvious sexism in most of your advertising.
  3. Stop ignoring your own involvement in creating the perception that beer is not for women.
  4. Stop assuming women won’t drink anything bitter; coffee is bitter and you don’t see this issue in the coffee industry, do you?
  5. Stop creating packages that you think will appeal to women.
  6. Stop believing that marketing is the answer.

Nicole Erny Becomes First Female Master Cicerone

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You probably already know about the thousands (just over 8,800) of beer industry professionals who have become Certified Beer Servers in Ray Daniels’ Cicerone program since it was launched in 2007. It’s essentially the beer equivalent of a sommelier. But did you know there are actually three levels of Cicerone certification? Until recently, only three persons had attained the third level, that of Master Cicerone, and one of them is Bay Area brewer Rich Higgins, who brews at Social Kitchen. Now a fourth person has earned the lofty position of Master Cicerone. It was announced today that Nicole Erny of “Oakland, CA earned the title of Master Cicerone® during testing in November.” That makes Erny not just the fourth Master Cicerone, but also both the first woman and the youngest person to reach that level. It also means that half of the world’s Master Cicerones are in the Bay Area.

Here’s more information from the press release:

Erny earned the certification through a series of exams culminating with two days of intense taste testing plus written and oral questioning about beer styles, draft systems, beer evaluation, brewing technology and beer and food pairing given November 9 & 10. The Master Cicerone exam includes 8 hours of written questions, 2 hours of oral questions and 2 hours of beer tasting and evaluation. Candidates needed an overall score of 85% to pass.

“During the Master Cicerone exam, Erny distinguished herself with her knowledge of all aspects of beer and her skill in tasting beer and creating interesting beer and food pairings,” said Ray Daniels, Director of the Cicerone Certification Program.

Since earning her Bachelor’s Degree in 2007, Erny has worked a specialty beer bartender, consultant and beer educator, putting on classes and beer and food pairings. She has sharpened her palate and beer analysis skills as a homebrewed beer judge and already holds the title of National Judge in the Beer Judge Certification Program.

Join me in congratulating Nicole on her wonderful achievement.

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At the Celebrator’s 20th Anniversary Party in 2008.