In response to “Women, Don’t Fear the Beer (Part II)

[This is the second half of a guest post submitted to us in response to “Women, Don’t Fear the Beer“. You can find the first half here. Thanks again to Andrea for this great submission! -J]

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.

Advocacy groups like the two aforementioned still exist… why? Well, for the same reason this post wasn’t titled “Newbies, Don’t Fear The Beer.”

Because men have never been taught to fear beer. Men don’t have decades of marketing to unlearn. Men have not been overlooked as consumers, creators, and connoisseurs. Men have very likely never been whispered at, “That has a lot of calories, honey.”

Women are fairly well represented in the craft beer world, but the “mainstream” drinking woman is still heavily favoring wine over beer (see stats above). And here’s the rub. How does one entice a wine or cocktails gal over to “our side”? Clearly not by insulting her current beverage of choice, or her intelligence. (And let’s all agree not to place beer in any kind of antagonistic position to either wine or spirits. If anyone suggested my bourbon, gin, or champagne was inferior to beer in any way, I’d laugh at them.) You drink what you want and what you’re in the mood for. I’m not here to judge anyone. So how do you gently suggest that someone, who might not otherwise be so inclined, try a beer?

Well, let’s start with the basics. First, you have to ask why they are not trying beer in the first place? If you ask a women – or a man, but let’s say a women here only based on our stats above – why she doesn’t like beer, 9 times out of 10, you’ll get the following answer: “I don’t like the taste.”

Fair enough. But whenever I hear that, I have to ask, “The taste of what, exactly?” There are, as The Brew Professor himself pointed out, at least 66 varieties of beer. When someone claims not to like the taste of beer, I always want to ask them to list the last five styles of beer they’ve tried. Chances are, if they are not well versed in beer, this might stump them – man or woman – a tiny bit. Because many, many people who answer thusly are, indeed, referring primarily to American adjunct lagers.

Fine. So let’s assume we’re talking to the average, non-nerdy, non-foodie, normal gal who only doesn’t like beer because she has not yet been introduced to the right kind of beer for her. This is a critical point. While I appreciate The Brew Professor’s guide to “introductory” beers in his follow-up post, he makes one tactical error. Saisons, witbiers, and lambics and all awesome, but he overlooked the fact that a) these all, to some extent, may not be different enough to grab the attention of someone who already isn’t sold on the malt/hops/barely combo (except maybe the lambics) and b) these choices don’t take into account personal preference. Instead of trying for mildness, why not figure out what a person already enjoys, and then see if you can find a beer to match their tastes? You might discover a non-beer drinker who absolutely loves arugula and other bitter greens, grapefruit and citrus, and the bracing scent of pine, and who will be blown away by an amazing American IPA. Why lowball her with a witbier? Why underestimate her palate like that? Or why force a saison on a dark-chocolate and coffee lover who would go crazy over an imperial stout?

Flavor profile, especially with women who are attuned to their own palates, will get you farther than trying unadventurous beers. Hell, I love salt and vinegar chips and whiskey sours. Guess how much I like Gueze Tliquin? Exactly. Start with the flavor profile, then guide the newbie – male or female – to the beer they’ll love.

But, again, your newbie is far more likely to be female than male. These are just the facts. Women have been fed so much unbelievable crap by marketers and women’s mags, it’s no wonder they’re disinclined to try beer. The worst, by far, of all these myths is that beer is somehow “unfeminine” and it will make you fat. Unfeminine? Bullcrap. That’s marketing, pure and simple. I have no way to fight that. In point of fact the only difference between beer and wine is that one is fermented with grain and the other fermented with fruit. If grain strikes you as somehow inherently masculine, then I can’t help you. Stick with your Cosmos, your vodka tonics. Because potatoes are super feminine.

See where I’m going with this?

Okay, now that we’ve established the utter idiocy of classifying foods as masculine and feminine, let’s address this whole “fat” thing. Women have been warned of the dire consequences of drinking calorie-laden beers. Indeed, one women’smagazine posts their best low-calorie holiday drinks, and beer is not among them. Plenty of highballs, mixed with diet soda, are represented, but no beer. Champagne, however, is accounted for on this list. Four ounces of champagne represents a mere 85 calories! Amazing! You know what else has only 85 calories per four-ounce serving? Basically any craft beer. Will the good folks at said magazine tell you this? Nope. Why? I have no idea. And if anyone on their writing staff wants to explain why to me, I invite them to drop me a line.

So you can see that women have been taught to fear the beer. Not all women buy into this. Some, like the brilliant constituency who drinks craft beer and reads this blog, don’t buy it. They don’t buy crap like “women prefer fruit beers” either. Because they’ve seen men elbow each other out of the way for a taste of Cantillon Zwanze and Founders’ Blushing Monk. But if we can understand that women in the mainstream are still in the minority when it comes to beer, and if we can approach women with respect for their individual palates, then maybe those numbers in the Gallup poll will equalize some day.

Andrea Janes lives, drinks, and writes in Brooklyn, New York. When not trying new beers, she writes horror stories and leads ghost tours of the city. Her story collection, BOROUGHS OF THE DEAD, is available on Amazon. She can be found on Twitter @SpinsterAunt and on Untappd (Andrea J).

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45 Comments

Filed under Beer, Opinion

45 responses to “In response to “Women, Don’t Fear the Beer (Part II)

  1. I appreciate the suggestion that asking about palate preference may yield more refined direction in a beer style selection. However, if you have drank Coors Light for the last 20 years I’m going to go out on a limb and make the bold assumption that your palate is limited to what is offered at a local buffet. Yes, another generalization not backed with scientific evidence.

    We are likely targeting different audiences with our approaches, and I’m not referring to gender. I suppose I may have chosen the wrong forum for my suggested approach but the editor didn’t seem to have any qualms with my message.

    Best of luck to all in moving forward with proselytizing our shared love of craft beer. In the end, we all win as advocates for quality beer no matter the route taken.

  2. I still have no qualms with your post. It obviously sparked a lively debate which I think has been good for everyone. While this blog probably isn’t for someone who is completely ignorant of craft beer, our readers probably do know people who are, and would like ideas to “convert” them. We all have strategies to do that and we all think our strategies are right, but none of them are backed up by anything except anecdotal evidence.

  3. Well done, Andrea. I really enjoyed part two.

    Whenever I talk to a friend (male or female) who drinks beer but doesn’t stray from a few options, I’ll always suggested a handful of brews available wherever we are.

    “Oh, I don’t like ___,” they’ll say.

    “Well, you just haven’t had the right ___,” I’ll reply.

    These decisions/assumptions are very much based on context and historical reference, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help change personal preference through exposure to all sorts of different options. I think this plays right into the marketing aspect of beer you’ve touched on.

    The appreciation and consumption of beer can be a very cultural theme, but here in America, at least, it’s a theme that’s changing rapidly for all sorts of demographics.

  4. smarks2327

    Andrea, excellent articles! Your writing is fantastic and your points were very insightful and well thought out. Thanks!

  5. Oswego

    Good post and an overall interesting exchange. I have to admit I’m not sure I understand why you take umbrage with Brew Prof’s approach to making specific recommendations. I think it’s very helpful, and starting mild is very logical. My wife loves arugula, grapefruit, and rosemary, hates hops (period!). She loves coffee and chocolate, hates dark beers (she has tried them!). She does, however, like mild sours and wheats (score!).

    And to your point about him not taking into account personal preferences: he did recommend for newbies to go to a tasting to start that broader self-discovery process. It was a blog post for a wide audience, not a one on one consultation (which I bet he would be great at).

    Fun dialogue and I especially appreciate Brew Prof’s courage to stick his neck out to offer help and a way forward.

  6. I’ve personally found that when trying to introduce people to beer, it’s best to hit them up in the summer months as well … for some reason, people find beer synonymous with hot weather and the beach. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Nicely written, intriguing article – and I might bring a nice craft beer to my next book club meeting!

    • must agree with this. as a woman who actually recounts, fondly and often, of the moment she “discovered” beer, I have friends who are self-proclaimed non-beer drinkers. However, certain events can nudge even the most resilient non beer drinker. BBQ’s, sporting events, beach days etc.

      I still have one girl who carries wine or red bull and vodka wherever she goes – WILL NOT budge!

  7. I used to be a beer hater until I went on a local micro brewery tour. I got to see how it’s made and taste test everything currently in production. I found that the brown ales and reds suitable to my taste. Now I look for new favorites everytime I’m out. So, ladies, next time you go out to dinner ask the server for the local micro brews available, you might find a gem hidden in the taps of the bartender.

  8. I’m one of those girls who doesn’t drink beer because I “don’t like the taste”, but wow I wish you could take me out beer tasting!

  9. Forgive me for nit-picking, but when comparing calorie counts between champagne and craft beer, you have to take into account that a drink of each would be of different serving sizes. A flute of champagne may well be just four ounces, but a bottle of any beer (craft or otherwise) is usually 12 ounces. Thus, a serving of any beer would be 255 calories.
    *I’m defining serving size by that old middle-school saw, 1 liquor shot = 1 wine glass = 1 beer mug.
    Lastly, congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  10. Bottoms up to the beer drinkin ladies. I perfer beer to anything else. There really is so many varieties- something for everyone. Girls. You gotta give it a try. I agree with trying it in the summer months. And if its really “crafty” less than 12 oz in a little tumbler is sufficient. My mouth is watering now. Thanks for sharing.

  11. This reminds me of a Simpsons episode when they go into the Duff brewery and there’s three taps filling three different lines of bottles; regular Duff, Duff lite, and Duff dry. All three taps were coming from the same one vat.
    Which means they are all the same beer, with different labels on the bottles.

  12. One of my female friends was telling me when she was in Europe – espeically in Ireland and England, that it was not proper for a woman to order the largest sized beer available (a yard of beer, maybe?) – but she was not one to be constrained by social norms and ordered the largest Guinness she could have.
    I don’t drink beer b/c I’m allergic to alcohol and hops – so I feel I’m missing out on some really delicious beers out there…

    Congrats on being FP’d!

    • Rutabaga, we British serve beer in pint and half pint units, ‘pints’ being 454 ml and ‘halves’ – 227 ml respectively. If a woman ever finds that a barman refuses to allow her to choose her own size of drink, she should be aware that this is an extremely unique and frowned upon attitude. It happened in some establishments up until the 1980’s, where the landlord may also have been distressed if women revealed their ankles…or rode bicycles…but it is unheard of today.

      If this arrogant and priggish nonsense is ever encountered, the woman should simply order two halves plus a pint of water, pour the water out of the pint glass and pour the two halves in.

      The ‘yard’ of ale is reserved for rugby club teens, trying to impress their jock friends. A three foot long glass tube with a bowl on the end is filled and then raised by the drinker. 90% goes over the floor as the bowl suddenly empties and the other 10% goes over the shoulder of the big guy who you really ought not to soak with beer.

      Cheers!

  13. I am an unapologetic beer girl. And, shock of all shocks, I actually use the caloric consumption argument as justification. As in, I only get a set amount of calories to consume, and I’ll be damned if I waste it on something I don’t truly enjoy. While I’m partial to Belgian beers (I love the citrus undertones), I’ve been known to crave Beamish. Yes, CRAVE. I love the stuff.

  14. I am one of the women that truly loves beer! I would in no way call myself an expert by any means, but I love a good craft beer. I mixed and matched a bunch of bottles last week at the liquor store where my only requirement was that the beer had a holiday or winter theme… corny and ridiculous, but we sampled a bunch of new beers and had a blast!

  15. Beer is amazing! Cant live without it. You just need to see what type you like. There are so many different tastes

  16. Well done. Cheers to making Cincinnati look good with Freshly Pressed.

  17. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Apparently I am in a minority when it comes to alcohol, because I am a young (age 24) woman who loves beer and will seek out the most unusual craft beers available. I get frustrated when a bar doesn’t really have much variety; light beer is just NOT my thing. I do also love wine and liquor, and a cocktail is nice. Maybe I just love alcohol. I don’t know. But the world of beer is soooo wide and I love the adventure that comes with it!

  18. I wish I could drink beer. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper to drink beer than the fruity drinks I usually get when I go out with my husband and his brother. I have yet to find a beer that I can stomach. Since I was in high school (I know, how bad that sounds), I have not been able to stomach beer. I can do shots of Jager and hold my own against my BIL who outweighs me by nearly 100lbs, but I get sick to my stomach when I drink a beer. For me, it comes down to taste and smell. Every time my husband tries a new beer, he makes me try it too. IF (big IF) I can get past the way it smells, the taste still doesn’t do much and leaves my stomach flippy. Funny thing is that I can’t drink wine or champagne either… I guess I’m just a shot glass kinda girl 😉

    • It’s possible that your digestive system is very sensitive to the yeast that is in beer and wine.

      • Possibly, but do they make “yeast free” beers? (Oh great, now I sound like one of those people on an “ingredient-free” diet. lol) I would like to find a beer I enjoy, but fear you may be right… I might just have to stick to my shots and mixed drinks. Nothing wrong with a Rum and Coke, so long as it’s not diet. If you’re gonna drink, do it right. 😉

  19. A picture here and there might have made it more inviting to read.

  20. Isn’t beer the only kind of drink in the Queen City and nothing else, especially during Octoberfest!

  21. Fantastic writing, witty and informed. My own feminine self fears no beer as long as it is a stout, porter, or otherwise potent brew dark enough to induce an eclipse and thick enough to suspend a fork. My tastes have evolved over the decades from “Fat Tire rules!” to “Fat Tire is water!” to “Why do all overly hoppy beverages taste like rotten pineapple all of a sudden?”

    Thank goodness I live in the Pacific Northwest where good craft beer is a food group and the beer aisle in the supermarket goes on forever. (Talk about being a kid in a grown up candy store!) I have sampled two dozen stouts in the last year alone, the empty bottles line the top shelf of my kitchen like hunting trophies. Widmer Brothers Milk Stout is winning but Southern Tier’s Choklat is too close to sex in a bottle to rule out completely.

    Yes, it is imperative to keep sampling the world. There is delicious variety out there and it only waits for your bottle opener. The only opinion that matters, in the end, is your own. If we all had the same tastes, there would be two beers: regular and light, in a generic label. Oh, the horror! Case in point, I was discussing seasonal brews with a very young beer steward at Whole Foods last summer, trying to explain to him my preference for stouts that I had arrived at after years and years of grueling (Yeah, right!) experimentation. His personal preference was obviously uber-hoppy lagers. When he figured out that I was there to buy beer, not stroke his ego, he replied, “Well, if you don’t like hops, it’s obvious that your palate just hasn’t fully developed yet.” After a brief discussion with his boss, I walked out of there with a free bomber of stout.

    Stick up for beer. Toast the slain bodies of your enemies with a cold one.

  22. Trust me, Canadian women do not fear beer.

  23. I have to say: I have a lot of love for a good glass of wine! And even before I became Paleo, and stopped drinking beer, if there was a well considered wine list at a restaurant or bar, it would have been a challenge to tempt me with beer. With that in mind: I’ve always had good success with the “what don’t you like about it?” question too. As this article points out well: there are a lot of different kinds of beer (really? 66? That’s a lot!) so there’s plenty of variety to help overcome the memories of the cheapest beer available, in large quantities, at college parties. It’s a challenge, yes. But it’s worth it, and there really are some great beers to drink, once the college parties are forgotten!
    Thank you Andre Janes; keep up the good work!

  24. Just the other day I heard a guy call beer a “straight man and lesbian” drink. I was very confused.

    As far as the whole not liking the flavor thing goes, it is one of those issues where I can relate in that I used to say that, too, but, yes, there is so many different varieties of beers. I still don’t like things that are very hoppy (is there a better term for that?), but over the last two years I went from the person who never drank beer to the person who orders it 75% of the time,

  25. Wow, Andrea. You took that guy’s terrible piece and turned it into a legitimate conversation. I like looking at the subject in a way where you questioned the reasons behind the gender disparity between the numbers. Bravo.

    The first time I ever got drunk was on craft beer and I rarely stray unless its Dos Equis on the beach.But, I come away thinking that there is no need to convert anyone. Advocating passions among a small (but growing!) subculture is great, but going on a ‘mission’ is fraught with danger. People drink what they want to drink; we have to accept that. Whether its a bro that loves cherry lime wine coolers, or a lady that loves to moonshine straight from the bottle, people have their right not be looked down upon just because it takes more time to attain a drink from the bar during a packed sporting event, their drink has less calories, or doesn’t fit an enlightened palette’s ideal profile.

  26. mrs talkinghangover was not a beer fan til i introduced her to it. Tho she mainly drinks it in summer or when we’re abroad somewhere warm so her dedication is not equal to mine. the main thing i’ve found with beer in the past few years is how much bad beer is around. the city that i live near has loads of pubs/bars but about 80% of them i wont go in cos the beer is so bad! laws need to be made.

  27. Andrea Janes

    Hi everyone, I’m the author of this post and I’m so, so excited that everyone was into it! All the insightful and wonderful comments from both men and women here are just making my day, and I’m virtually toasting all of you! Many thanks to the Brew Prof. for starting this conversation and to Josh for publishing it. And one quick shout out to the Canadian woman who posted her comment: I grew up in Ontario and, yeah, Canadian women do not fear the beer! Go Canada (and Vive le Quebec…. mmmm, Unibroue)!

  28. aschmid3

    I HATE the calorie stigma attached to good beer. I hate that Bud Light is the top-selling beer in America, and three of the rest of the top five are also light beers. I hate that the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series offers finishers one stinking Mich Ultra or MGD 64. Don’t wanna ruin all that calorie-burning you just did with a beer that actually tastes like something more than water, oh no! Even the people (men and women) who DO drink beer gravitate to the “low cal” swill.

    I just ran a small half marathon in Rehoboth Beach, Del. 16 Mile, a craft brewery in nearby Georgetown, Del., had unlimited kegs of an IPA, English ale and golden ale for finishers, and we were right across the street from the Dogfish Head Brewpub, where all of my (female) runner friends and I had dinner that night, which included a couple more craft beers each. And no one got fat! Just delightfully inebriated.

  29. Great post. I teach cheese pairing classes and find more male participants on the beer end. Would love to do a female brewer tasting to sway some ladies over and your link is going to be extremely helpful.
    Cheers, Wendy

  30. “Clearly not by insulting her current beverage of choice, or her intelligence.”

    Thank you for this–it’s nice to read not only a critique of marketing toward women but a real solution that doesn’t insult the taste or intelligence of women or men.

    And from Cincinnati, no less! I grew up there!

    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  31. While my sample size is scattered, possibly biased, and completely unscientific, all my gal friends who use that dreaded line (“I don’t like beer”) generally don’t have a very good answer when I ask what kinds they’ve had. Natty Light by the gallon at frat houses across the South? Ah, there’s our problem. Frats need to start serving up the good stuff.

    Congrats on the Freshly Pressed bit, and here’s to being a woman who does not fear the beer!

  32. Great post! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  33. Reading the original article and the two follow-up posts reminded me of an ex-friend of mine (female, and a self-declared feminist at that, at least when we met at college) whom I used to enjoy many beer-drinking sessions with. We pretty much lived in each other’s pockets for a couple years, whereupon contact became more sporadic as uni and jobs got in the way, before reconnecting properly around ten years ago when we decided to move together to a new town and share a flat.It quickly became apparent that my friend and I weren’t quite so in tune any more – on a number of fronts, but pertinent to this post, she had foresworn her ale-drinking habits in favour of whisky and cokes, and G&Ts because ‘it’s more lady-like’, and she felt it improved her dating success. And this from a feminist? Anyway, it’s just one story and I’m not suggesting one ought to make any general inferences from it, just a micro-example of gender stereotypes around beer and drinking. Oh, and the epililogue to this short anecdote is the reason – well, the final reason in a list of many – why we’re ex-friends: proving that she wasn’t averse to transgressing gender stereotypes after all, she made inroads into the traditionally-masculine arena of interpersonal violence when she beat the shit out of me at a party about six years ago; after, I note with wry amusement given the context of this post, a gutful of wine and cocktails. Ouch, and congrats on being FP.

    Andy.

  34. Women, newbies… Nobody should fear beer! Beer is great! Also don’t fear whisky, vodka, rum, cognac, wine… well you get the point! Let’s get shitfaced! Cheers!

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