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).