The Session, a.k.a. ‘Beer Blogging Friday’, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. This month’s topic is from Nitch at Tastingnitch who has chose the topic, ‘Women and Beer: Scary Beer Feminists or a Healthy Growing Demographic?’. Let the battle of the sexes commence. Or not. Check out Nitch’s blog at http://tastingnitch.com/
Here we go again. If you have been awake during the last ten years of the craft beer revolution then you can’t possibly have missed the growing narrative around women and beer. Be it the failed launches of beers aimed at women; be it the Second Coming of the Female Brewer (should I say, ‘Brewster’?); be it the hefty punch carried by many female beer bloggers; be it our first female Beer Sommeliers.
In truth, I’m tired of it: not as a bloke, but as a lover of beer. It’s a no news story.
Let’s take the first side of the topic: ‘Scary Beer Feminists…?’ Well I’ve met some Scary Feminists. And in the world of work, I’ve met as many nasty, bile-filled and spiteful alpha women as I have nasty, bile-filled and spiteful alpha males. That’s life. But in the world of beer where beer is celebrated, not just a big bucks business: the craft, cask, micro, flavourful, blogging world, all I’ve met are enthusiasts. Men and women, ardently pushing their case; why their beer is the best beer ever brewed; why their town or region is the hottest of brewing hot spots. Sometimes this ardentness pushes into the female:male gender debate – for example, why the growth in brewsters is simply a rebalancing; getting back to a pre-industrial time when women did the brewing, and therefore this is a good thing because women are regaining their rightful place at the ‘brewing table’. Well, it is a good thing, but a good thing because sufficient numbers of women are now interested enough in good beer without all the stereotypical, schmaltzy, nostalgic arguments that run along with them.
To the second side of the topic: ‘…or a Healthy Growing Demographic’. Women are just over half of the population worldwide. It tends to be slightly more because women live longer than men, so let’s just park that right there.
The ‘issue’ with beer and women isn’t about demographics. It isn’t about blokey advertising, although I’m sure that hasn’t helped. It isn’t about the ratios of male to female brewers. It most definitely isn’t about the taste of beer; I dare anyone who encounters the salami and smoked roast meat flavours of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier not to find it extremely challenging when they first try it. I dare anyone not to find an American double IPA a full-on experience when they first try that. What I do see is many, many women trying beers like these and more besides, just as they would a new spirit, or a wine, or a coffee. Why the hell not?
No, the issue is culture. Take the UK: whether it was agricultural labourers or factory labourers after the Industrial Revolution, what you were selling was hard, physical, graft. No holidays, long hours, miserable conditions. Women worked in the fields and they worked in the factories: my gran worked in the Cheshire cotton mills all her life, almost lost her sight through a flying shuttle and her fingers cleaning out the looms which they did without switching them off or slowing them down, weaving the cloth at full pelt. But overall, it bred a working population dominated by men, unburdened by the travails of childbirth (if I think my gran had it tough in the Mills, she was one of 14 siblings – spare a thought for her poor mother, two decades in almost continual child birth). It was a society of exploitation: of long hours and pitiful wages; homes were poor, often cold and dirty. The man would come home; eat; then go to the original ‘Third Place’ – a pub or club, to drink. And drink in quantity.
I don’t believe the change with regards to beer and women has much to do with the craft / cask revolution. I do believe it has a lot to do with our post industrial society and the behaviour that it breeds: approaching equality in many more aspects of our home and work life. Is it too big a leap to expect beer to follow? Is it too big a leap to think how creative people don’t see beer as an opportunity and are getting after it, be it as a brewer, a sommelier, a writer or someone who just wants to try new things.
As far as I see, the healthiest thing for beer would be to make this a non-issue and move on. Celebrate it all. Gender. Creed. Beer Apostle or Beer Atheist. Man, Woman or Vogon. That’s what I intend to do.
© Beer Tinted Spectacles, 2013