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Is the future of beer female?



If you say ‘beer enthusiast’, you’ll probably have an old stereotype somewhere near your thoughts. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re thinking about the old guard or the new hipsters, cask ale or craft beer – the image is likely to be male, have facial hair and a questionable taste in knitwear.


Obviously these stereotypes don’t stand up to scrutiny; beer is a global drink, appearing on every continent and with immense local variations. It’s relatively simple, cheap and quick to make and can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to drink it. Beer is a drink of the people.


The stereotypes still exist, however, and for decades there have been concerns that they’re turning people away from good beer. Declining ‘real ale’ sales from the 1970s were, in part, due to young men distancing themselves from the beers drank by their dads and grandads. Even today we still see Beers for Women launched every few months as marketing departments assume women see beer as the domain of beardy chaps in cardigans.


In truth, women have always been heavily involved in brewing, from 9,000 years ago right up until the Industrial Revolution. Making beer was just another household chore, although some women took responsibility for making sure there was enough beer for the whole community – effectively starting up the first local micro-breweries. It was only about 200 years ago that women started to be removed from brewing, eventually giving us the perception that it’s a man’s realm.


These days, we’re seeing more and better representation of female expertise with beer writers, bloggers, brewers and Head Brewers, beer sommeliers and grass-level enthusiasts, which is a positive step. The problem is that the aforementioned stereotypes still exist in a big way and there’s a potential that they’re having an unforeseen effect on the world of beer.


There’s a risk that beer’s perception as ‘property of the facial-haired bloke’ is not just turning people away from thinking that beer is for them, but actually reinforcing unreal expectations and limiting experimentation. The caricature of bearded beer fans is often assumed to be both knowledgeable and vocal, with beers judged against whether they’d appeal to them as anything too new or unfamiliar would be dismissed as “not what beer is supposed to be”. This can lead to breweries sticking to the same old formulas and styles, based on the expectations of theoretical drinkers and scrapping new beers for no good reason.


So where does that leave us? Green’s know many people still think that beer comes solely from barley or wheat; anything else is “not beer” – if they imagine that beardy beer fans wouldn’t like it, then it gets dismissed. There are, however, huge numbers of female beer fans who don’t identify with the stereotypes of old; women who judge beer on its merits and are a little more willing to experiment and try something new.


If women aren’t as restricted in their perceptions of what beer “is” thanks to out-of-date stereotypes, it means that they get a wider sense of what is possible with beer, a look at the bigger picture and – just maybe – that level of expertise could shape the future of beer and get rid of the ‘man’s world of beer’ assumptions forever!