Women, Craft Beer and Centerfolds

By Julia Herz

Did that last word in the title intrigue you or possibly offend you? Either way, everything in that title is relevant to the growing conversation of women and beer EXCEPT for the word ‘centerfold’. Craft beer has shaken up the beer industry, helped beer reclaim its place at the dinner table and continued to take the beverage to a higher place in our living liquid history. The craft beer movement has helped shed some of the old stereotypes about beer, including those surrounding women and beer.

So, there is no talk of centerfolds in this post. Sorry if I disappoint, but since you’re here give it a read and crack open your favorite style to sip while you ponder these muses…

Yes, women are into craft beer. It’s a fact that this topic is hot! I’m getting more and more calls on the subject along with a related theme, which is women who brew craft beer. I think the two stories go hand in hand, because finally us beer loving ladies have professional women in the beer business to look up to.

Women in Brewing

Sebbie Buhler – Rogue Ales
Deb Carey – New Glarus Brewing Company
Meghan O’Leary Parisi – Cambridge Brewing Co.
Gwen Conley
Flying Dog Brewery
Tonya Cornett – Bend Brewing Company
Teri Fahrendorf – Pink Boots Society
Kim Jordan – New Belgium Brewing Company
Jamie Martin
Moosejaw
Penny Pink
Portneuf Valley Brewing
Lauren Salazar – New Belgium Brewing Company
Carol Stoudt -Stoudt’s Brewing Company
Jen Tally – Squatters Pub Brewery
Leslie Henderson – Lazy Magnolia
and SO many more!

These women are not only part of world class award winning breweries, but they are engaged community citizens who are involved in charities and worthy causes including spreading the gospel about their art, their passion and their love for making and enjoying great beer.

Women and Beer Statistics

  • In July 2010, Gallup poll stated the percentage of women who said they prefer beer over wine or liquor is 27%. That’s up 6% from their 2009 poll.
  • In April 2010, Nielsen Beverage Company said growth drivers for craft beer include 25-34 year olds, females, household income under $45,000 and above $100,000.
  • Nielson also reminds us that the majority of purchases in supermarkets are made by, guess who… women. Huge opportunity for the small breweries to get that we are the ones often purchasing the beer!
  • An interesting statistic from 2006: A Morgan Stanley report stated 37% of weekly ‘craft beer’ drinkers are women whereas only 31% of weekly ‘beer’ drinkers are women.

I can tell you as a homebrewer and one who has met many of the professional women brewers hard at work today, women brewers take pride in sharing the fact that it was originally the ladies who were brewing. Many men brewers also share this fact including Garret Oliver in The Brewmasters Table and Randy Mosher in Tasting Beer. In old England, the history states that as soon as the men in charge saw there was money to be made from beer they decided to legally limit women’s right to brew.

Today, in the U.S., out of 1,600 breweries I estimate not even 10% have women brewers. But, the numbers do seem to be growing with the efforts of many organizations and tasting groups. Especially Teri Fahrendorf’s Pink Boots Society which has 404 beer industry women on their roster as of August 2010. According to the Pink Books website, any woman anywhere in the world who earns at least part of her income and livelihood from beer is automatically a Member of the Pink Boots Society. The website has a great summary of the ‘Hymn to Ninkasi’ which has been reported to be the world’s oldest recorded beer recipe. It’s all about the Sumerian goddess of beer, Ninkasi, who was also a brewer and a great reference for anyone passionate about women and beer.

Sebbie Buhler has a most inspiring web list of professional women beer lovers. Her list is EXTENSIVE and I could not do it justice by repeating here. However, I would like to add a few.

Inspiring Women in Beer

  • Mirella Amato: Our resident Canadian beer expert,  beer judge and beer journalist. Read about her in Beer tours for women only
  • Anat Baron: The amazing lady behind  the ‘Beer Wars’ movie (2009), which addresses access to market challenges for small brewers and a behind the scenes look into the beer industry. You can watch this feature documentary via download or rent it from Netflix and on demand from Itunes.
  • Melissa Cole: Her thing is “Taking the Beard out of Beer”. She writes ‘A Girls Guide to Beer’ and is both an internet beer sensation as well as popular over in good ol’ blighty England, which certainly has amazing beer history and presence to learn from.
  • Stevie Caldarola: Twitter guru at  Ladies of Craft Beer, with almost 1,400 followers, is having an impact. Follow her on twitter #Ladiesofcraftbeer | #ladiesthathomebrew
  • Julie Johnson: Editor in Chief of All About Beer Magazine, an award winning journalist, beer judge, public speaker and so much more. Absolutely one who has helped fuel the movement for craft beer. – Added 9/6/10
  • Lisa Morrison: Resident beer goddess, radio hostess (on a beer show!), writer for All About Beer and so much more. – Added 9/6/10
  • Maureen Ogle: Author (Ambitious Brew), Historian (did you catch her in action especially at the end of Beer Wars sharing historic wisdom to mind?). She’s prolific on Twitter, and funny too. – Added 9/6/10

Women and Beer Tasting

With all the talk of the higher ABV (alcohol by volume) of today’s craft beer it’s not pointed out enough that wine, yes, the beautiful fermented juice of grape that stains you teeth and carpet—but delicious just the same—on average is 12% ABV when the average craft beer is around 5%. Yet wine is still turned to by so many more females. And we all know beer has traditionally been viewed as a male’s beverage, but I argue that craft beer is on a totally different playing field and one that is not gender focused.

Now it’s somewhat ironic that we women have a physical handicap when it comes to processing alcohol. Turns out women produce less of the liver enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, so to me that’s all the more reason to make every sip count and make sure it does have lots to taste and think about. When I imbibe I don’t plan to “throw back” a lot of pints, but instead merely to appreciate, enjoy and sip slowly. Whereas today’s larger brewers often add adjuncts such as corn or rice to lighten rather than enhance beer’s flavor my personal taste welcomes the malt and hop forward yet still mellow ABV craft beers being made by today’s small producers. Remember beer producers, women are into f-l-a-v-o-r.

Women Beer Tasting Clubs

Women Enjoying Beer | National | Ginger “The Tornado” Johnson
In Pursuit of Ale: Women’s Beer Club
| Philadelphia, PA | Suzanne Wood
Women Who Like Beer
| San Francisco, CA | Tiila Abbitt
Women in Beer
| Boston, MA | Suzanne Schalow
Left Hand Brewing Company Ales for Females
| Longmont, CO | Cinzia Wallace & Sue Smith Troy
All Ales the Females
| Washington, DC | Lager Heads: Tammy Tuck & Bruce Falconer
Oskar Blues Can Can Girls Club | Longmont, CO
Beer For Babes | Westmont, NJ | Tara Nurin
Girls Pint Out | Chapters in Arizona, Illinois & Indiana

Articles Featuring Women and Beer

By the way, to you ladies who want to homebrew, or already do, Queen of Beer is a girl-only homebrew competition held this October 23 in California. I really need to get motivated and enter this one year! Find great homebrewing resources from the American Homebrewers Association.

Got any other resources on women and beer that I’ve missed? Please share below in a comment, as my hope is to be extensive in the resources I’ve  provided. Cheers!

Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association, is a homebrewer, BJCP beer judge and Certified Cicerone®. Despite her extensive experience, she will always consider herself a beer beginner on an unending journey to learn more about craft beer.

Read more from Julia Herz