“Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world.”
This popular quote, attributed to Kaiser Wilhelm II, suggests of a time when beer was viewed as a masculine drink, not often enjoyed by women. Look in an average pub today and it would probably appear that little has changed.
Breweries and brewing companies are well aware that females are the demographic with the greatest potential for an increase in beer consumption. In 1987, Swan Brewery targeted women with this commercial for their mid-strength lager, Swan Gold.
Later in 2009, National Distilleries, the company behind the Cruiser alcopop brand launched Cruiser Hummingbird Blonde Lager with the following sales pitch:
“Australian women drink over 44 million cases of beer a year but there wasn’t one beer made especially for them. Lower in carbohydrates, a smaller 275mL bottle, light and fresh tasting with a hint of citrus – Hummingbird Blonde Lager by Cruiser is something for the girls to enjoy.”
Unsurprisingly, women largely ignored the advertising messages and neither beer exists to this day. It seems female customers felt patronised by being offered their own ‘special beer’ – and justifiably so. Rather than telling women what they should drink, surely a more effective strategy would be to provide female drinkers with a wide variety of beers styles (not just low-carb pale lager), serve them in attractive glassware (not the ubiquitous pint glass with beer slopped down the sides) and let them decide for themselves. In smart piece of marketing, one WA craft brewery has recently been doing just that.
Earlier this month, Mash Brewing Company held two free, women-only beer tastings at their Swan Valley brewery. Happily, an exception to the gender rule was made and this writer was invited to the second evening on Wednesday the 8th of August. Hosting the event was the only other male in the room, Mash’s Head Brewer, Charlie Hodgson.
A self confessed beer geek, Charlie began home brewing in the 90s before leaving his job at the mines to work as a cellar hand for the Houghton Winery. After training with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, Charlie began working as an Assistant Brewer for Gage Roads, where he remained for the next five years, departing as a Senior Team Leader.
Since starting at Mash in November last year, Charlie immediately began putting his own individual touch on the brewery’s products. In addition to refining Mash’s core range of beers and ciders, Charlie has crafted several limited release ales, including a US-style brown ale, a Saison and Mash Deville, a smoked amber ale that picked up one of the few gold medals awarded at the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards.
Mash Brewing’s second Women and Craft Beer Tasting Evening was attended by about 30 women (and one man), all of whom appeared happy for the opportunity to drink, eat and learn a little about beer. Brewer Charlie introduced himself to the audience and quizzed them on their beer knowledge, before giving an explanation of the brewing process. Containers of ingredients were passed around the tables and the ladies were invited to smell the fresh hop pellets and chew on grains of sweet crystal malt.
Next, Charlie guided us through tastings of five of his beers: Freo Doctor (pale lager), Pale (American pale ale), Tank 8 (Belgian blonde), Rye the Hop Not? (Rye ESB) and Koffee Stout (Irish dry stout brewed with Yahava Koffee beans). Each was served in a large stemmed glass that was pleasing to the eye and allowed ample room for enthusiastic swirling and sniffing.
Between beers, the ladies were asked fill out feedback forms, where they gave their overall impression of each beer, as well as using their newly acquired knowledge to determine what key ingredients had been used. On the request of my hop-loving wife, the night was capped with a tasting of the brewery’s newest beer – an English IPA called Challenger. Despite the elevated bitterness of the IPA, most of the women found the beer to be quite approachable and loved its fruity, floral nose and marmalade palate.
Overall the event was a great success, with feedback indicating that the ladies enjoyed an average of three out of the five beers they tasted, not including the IPA. This is an encouraging statistic, considering these were full flavoured, full-carb beers that had not been brewed specifically for feminine tastes. It seems that in the real world, rather than opting for a watery lager in a pretty bottle made ‘just for them’, women would rather drink craft beer with real complexity and flavour. I couldn’t be less surprised.