Beer and pubs have for a while been seen as the domain of men. However some statistics coming from the US shows that women are the fastest growing demographic of beer drinkers. Perhaps the stereotype of a beer drinker should be changing to something very different?
In 2012 some statistical analysis undertaken for determining the demographic of craft beer drinkers in the United States by age and gender. The results showed that there are roughly as many women drinking craft beer as there are men and that for people aged 21-34 there are more women drinking craft beer than their male counterparts.
I found this very interesting and it got me wondering about how, despite the lack of marketing to women in the industry, are they becoming the one of the fastest growing consumer demographics? As such I went out and contacting a variety of people who are female beer consumers to get their opinion on why this is the case.
From my research, the overwhelming consensus was that everyone, both men and women, loves the range of choice that is now available with craft beer and the social role that it has in our lives. Some of the reason for the rise of the female craft beer consumer can be attributed to groups like 'Ladies That Beer' and 'Barleys Angels'. These are social groups which enable women to meet up and go and try new pubs in a friendly and welcoming environment and allow the opportunity for people to go out and meet like-minded people without the awkwardness. Additionally, as women like to try more variety per visit, in essence each meet up becomes a mini beer festival! Feedback from members of these groups as to why they love craft beer has unanimously been the same reason why I love craft beer. It comes primarily down to one thing. FLAVOUR!
As flavour is the major appeal of craft beer, and as the saying goes "variety is the spice of life", I prefer not to drink pints anymore and in fact choose to drink more smaller measures such as half pints or 'Flights' to enable me to try many more different brews. With so much choice now becoming available in our pubs and bars, why would we want to limit ourselves to only trying three or fours options when we could have 6 or 7?
Other than flavour, what other things can be attributed to the rise in the number of female craft beer drinkers? There lots of answers to this question but the most common themes I received were as follows:
Glassware - As different glass types can enhance the aroma of the drink as well as make it look more appealing e.g. Belgian style glassware, which coincidentally is now my glass of choice, become more widely available, the stereotypical image of having a pint down the boozer is starting to die out and in its place a broader audience is being attracted to craft beer.
Knowledge - There is such a range of beers and styles now available and this can be very overwhelming if you are new to the scene. With brewers, distributors and the online community etc. writing about beer, there has never been so much information available for everyone about beer. This has helped to get people to understand beer types more easily, as well as making it easier for people to learn more about what they have been drinking.
Food Pairing - As currently women are typically the grocery buyers for the home; and as costs rise and incomes are hurt, craft beer is more affordable to pair with a meal than wine is. Also, carbonation lends itself uniquely to the experience. Effectively cleansing the palette and cutting through fats better than most wines.
Drinking Culture - Craft beer is not seen as the drink of choice for having 10 pints of on a Friday night before going out and causing some carnage. Instead the culture is very inclusive and is focused on both the enjoyment of the product as well as something to enjoy while catching up with people before heading home.
Sustaining the level of new people experiencing and continuing to buy a product is notoriously difficult, irrespective of gender or age. One way of doing this successfully is marketing. Traditionally within the beer industry women haven't been portrayed in the best of light and I believe that the use of images of women in degrading ways to do this is immoral and shouldn't be promoted. This view is also echoed by every women I asked. As craft beer primarily focuses on the quality of the product to sell itself, the number of offensive pump clips, bottle labels and brew names are not prevalent with this movement within brewing, as they don't need negative publicity to shift the stock. My personal feelings towards this are that there is no room in modern society for this to take place, and that if this does happen breweries should be forced to issue public apologies.
One of the over arching themes of my research was that women who want to drink beer don't want to be treated any differently to men, and I have found that I love craft beer for exactly the same key reasons, flavour, inclusivity and for the non-lad drinking culture associated with it. These are the major strengths of craft beer in that the UK and from what I have gathered this is also the case in the US. Additionally, as the movement is still relatively young it is much more willing to welcome everyone with open arms, and through a focus on flavour and quality of the product. As such it is gaining in popularity across all consumer demographics. I think this is definitely something we can all agree on and get behind.
Special thanks go to Sophie Atherton, Ladies that Beer, Christine Jump from Barleys Angels and CAMRA for their help and feedback.