Beer’s blokey image and the all-pervading mainstream lager’s light-bodied and bitter taste combine to make beer an unappealing product for many women.
Still, in a shrinking beer market the brewing industry jealously eyes the fifty per cent of the industry that shuns their products. Over time they have sought to attract women with a variety of lures. But traditional beer markets have proven a difficult sell and the wrong approach can feminise a beer brand making it the Barina of beverages and drive away its male audience.
Brewers have had some success in playing to the myth of ‘low carb’ to overcome female perceptions that beer is more fattening than other drinks or more bloating. Others have made patronising and ham-fisted attempts at creating beers ‘especially for women’ with Coors’ Project Eve possibly the most noxious of these.
As I bloke I don’t profess to speak on behalf of women, but somebody who is eminently qualified to both speak for them and to understand what they like is Australia’s first woman of beer, Kirrily Waldhorn. Kirrily, perhaps better know these days as the Beer Diva, has spent the last three years conducting beer appreciation classes and workshops and taking her love of beer to all people, not just women.
Kirrily has recently partnered up with an international group of like-minded women who are promoting good beer to women through a group with the brilliant name, Barley’s Angels.
Barley’s Angels is the consumer leg of the Pink Boots Society, a professional association of women in the brewing industry that aims to inspire, encourage and empower women to become professionals and advance their careers in the beer industry, mainly through education. As its outreach arm, Barley’s Angels is committed to involving women in the enjoyment of craft beer by creating environments where women can learn more about beer in a friendly, educational and supportive atmosphere. In doing so, the ‘Angels’ hope to create more women beer enthusiasts, and, ultimately, involve more women in beer-related careers.
Kirrily, who has just established the first Australian chapter in Sydney, said that she hopes the arrival of the group in Australia will encourage more women to learn about beer.
“I hope to create an Australian network of women who enjoy great beer, and then to bring these women together on a regular basis, in a friendly and welcoming environment to discuss the joys of beer,” Kirrily said.
“Ideally the group will include a variety of experience levels, from beer novices and probably rejectors right through to beer advocates. “
Kirrily said a big attraction of the network was that it was run by women for women.
“I’ve always believed women have been turned off beer due to two fundamental issues,” she explained.
“The first is the stereotypical image that has been driven in Australia for so many years, a stereotype which has really been created by a competitive duopolistic market, driven by brand shares and volume goals, rather than the industry encouraging category growth.
“Secondly, the everyday presentation of beer has done nothing to entice women. If anything it has turned women away from beer.
“I often refer to the schooner glass thrown over the bar, dripping all over your dress, there is nothing attractive about that proposition.
“Put that same beer into a nicer shaped glass, take a little more care with the pour and voila, that same beer suddenly becomes a more attractive option.“
Kirrily, who has seen the failed attempt to reach out to women, says this is very different.
“This initiative has been driven by independent women who are actively entrenched across the brewing industry, whose primary motivation is to provide a platform for women to participate or continue their involvement in beer and to encourage women to enjoy the wonderful craft beers available, as opposed to one brand only,” she said.
“This is also a not-for-profit organisation, with any profits being filtered back through to the Pink Boots Society, to further assist great women into the world of beer.”
Naturally, Barley’s Angels is only open to women and is any women of legal drinking age can join in on any of the events hosted by Barley’s Angels.
The Beer Diva Chapter launches on Friday 30th March 2011 at The Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst. The Local Taphouse venues (Darlinghurst and St Kilda) will be the official homes of the Beer Diva Barley’s Angels, with the majority of events taking place at these venues.
Kirrily hopes to see other chapters spring up across the country as the word spreads.
Barley’s Angels Australian Launch
When: Wednesday 30th March 2011
Where: The Local Taphouse, Darlinghurst