Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Girl" Beers

If you’re looking to annoy me, talk to me about “girl” beers. You know, the ones that are fruity and sweet. GIRL beers. Duh.  However, if you’d like to have a conversation with me about beer, let’s talk about what beers I like and don’t like. I expect that our tastes won’t always match – whether you’re a man or woman – but there are likely to be some similarities.

How about a history lesson, boys and girls. According to beer historians, women were the original brewers. In Egypt, the goddess Hathor invented beer and was known as “the queen of drunkenness and dance and the inventress of beer”. That’s right, Hathor, not Bud from AB In-Bev. In Europe, women were the predominant brewers of beer. A survey during the 1700s determined that 78% of licensed brewers were, gasp, women. Me thinks that if women were brewing beer, perhaps they also drank said beer. Double gasp.

Let’s talk science. Most women have more taste buds than most men and as Linda Baroshuk’s research showed, 35% of American Caucasian women are supertasters compared to 15% of men. So what does this mean? Women are often more sensitive to sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavours. Hey – those are often beer flavours! Well colour me surprised. Yes, this could mean that the additional sensitivity creates a heightened dislike but the reverse can also be true. Personally, I love sour and bitter flavours.

Research by Linda Baroshuk showed that among the human population, there are supertasters, tasters, and non-tasters. Taste is enhanced for super-tasters, normal for tasters, and subdued for non-tasters.

On average, supertasters have 425 taste buds per square centimeter on the tips of their tongues, compared to 184 for tasters and 96 for non-tasters. It is estimated that about 25% of the world's population are supertasters, 25% are non-tasters and 50% are tasters. For American Caucasians, about 35% of women and only 15% of men are supertasters.

The controversial male vs female beer is just plain stupid, in my opinion. Would you classify food in the same way? Women like chicken, men like steak. Me caveman, me like steak. Well guess what, I like my steak rare and you also like chicken. There goes that theory.

How about wine? Are there certain red wines that only manly men drink and women shy away from? Nope. Wine seems to be equal opportunity.

Fat cat vs bikini babe

What this all boils down to is marketing. Many beer companies, especially the large conglomerates, advertise to men. Bikini-clad women serving manly men ice-cold beer in the rugged outdoors. Oooh, sign me up for one of those tasty, ice-cold beers! Yeah, not appealing to most women.

It’s estimated that approximately 30% of American women drink beer as opposed to 78% of men. Is it because women don’t like beer? Perhaps but I’d pose the following questions:

1) Has she tried beer or just assumed she didn’t like it?

2) What kind of beer did she try? If it’s a macro, lite, tasteless beer I can’t blame the sister as I don’t like those either. Don’t judge beer based on that crap.

3) Has she tried a craft beer, full of flavour and aroma?

4) Does the marketing towards men dissuade her from trying beer?

Bottom line, it’s all about perception. Some people assume women don’t like beer or if they do, they only like the sweet and/or fruity ones. Maybe these are the women they hang out with thus, it’s all they know but to generalize and say women only like fruity/sweet beers is a very narrow view. Women may not even bother trying beer given the male-dominated advertising and thus, haven’t had a chance to decide their preferences. I’ve always been a beer drinker but often drank wine before I got into craft beer. Now my drink of choice is always craft beer as the styles and flavours are so varied and downright delicious. Hops > grapes…

If the naysayers want to hang out with me and my female friends they’ll see us drinking hoppy IPAs, double IPAs, imperial stouts, saisons, sours, quads and everything in between. Try to keep up with our taste buds, manly men. What you won’t catch me drinking is super sweet or lightly flavoured beers as that just doesn’t appeal to me.

Perhaps one day the marketing geniuses at the big beer companies will realize that 50% of the population are women and hey! maybe we should advertise to appeal to both genders. Free tip, it will increase sales if you do it properly. Thankfully I don’t see craft beer breweries advertising in this way although they do like to have the beer babes pouring at festivals. Make good beer and a monkey could pour my beer for me (so long as the monkey has washed his hands) – a good looking male or female doesn’t make me want or like your beer more.

Beer doesn’t equate to gender. Men and women should have an open mind about drinking it and your taste buds can thank me later.

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