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Women & Craft Beer: Breaking Stereotypes

Women & Craft Beer: Breaking Stereotypes

Published by Programme B

Society uncompromisingly labels beer as a “male” beverage. If women drink beer, they presumably choose sweet, a fruit-flavored drink like Hoegaarden Rosee or a light lager like Corona Extra. But generally, it’s deemed that an average woman’s choice is wine, cocktails, and liquor. 

In recent times, however, even beverage producers try to fight stereotypes and drastically change their targeting to a wider audience, making beer a more inclusive drink. For example, one of the recent Heineken commercials criticizes drinker’s gender stereotypes. All these women want today is beer, but waiters mistakenly serve beer to their male counterparts. However, ladies get cocktails and champagne instead, which they further hand over to men who actually ordered them. 

This humorous ad shows how absurd common perceptions can be. For sure, men like cocktails too, while women often enjoy beer, especially its delicious craft recipes. What’s more, women are not that far from the art of brewing as you might think before. Do you still think beer is a male drink in 2020? Then this article is for you. 

Women and Beer in History

If we get back to the roots of brewing, women were involved in this activity no less than men. The first evidence of women’s engagement in making beer is dated back to 4000BC, when Sumerian women were depicted on cuneiform tablets in the act. Egyptians even had the Goddess of Beer named Hathor, who was referred to as the inventress of brewing itself.

In the Middle-Ages, the first person to cite beer as hoppy as we know it today was the Abbess Hildegarda de Bingen. More known as a composer, polymath, and philosopher, she also wrote several scientific papers describing the properties of plants, animals, and stones. 

First brewers in America as we know it today were also women. Interestingly, some of them were enslaved women of color. Few know that the first unofficial America’s brewster was Mary Lisle, yet all credits usually go to Thomas Jefferson. In Europe, brewing was long considered another household duty, too. Thus, women stepped away only in the late 18th century, when what used to be household art was turned into a fully-fledged industry. 

What’s Changed Today

The early days of brewing, however, are usually forgotten. So, in the 20th century, women + beer pairing came up as a surprise, as the newer generations were seemingly never told the beer history. 

That’s how the beer industry is dramatically different from other male-dominated entertainment niches. Taking a look at gambling, the female gamblers’ community was just a small underground formation in the 19th century. Today, 44% of women gamble, 70% do that exclusively in web-based and mobile casinos. Same with video gaming get-togethers, which are often accompanied by drinking beer in male companies: women started to play actively only in the latest decades. 

So what we see here is a gradual exposure of female gamblers with a rising curve over time, while the involvement of women in brewing more closely resembles a parabola. In the 60s-70s of the past century, female brewsters got back to work. 

Jill Vaughn and Rebecca Bennett became top brewmasters at Anheuser-Busch, a company known for brands like Budweiser, Michelob, and Rolling Rock. I. Patricia Henry became the first African American head of a brewing company (Miller) and the first brewmaster to lead the entire brewing process. In Europe, sister Doris Engelhard was running a brewery for 40 years in Germany. Rosa Merckx became the first female brewmaster of Belgium when she took over Liefmans Brewery. 

In the 21st century, many more women came to the industry. The rise of the craft beer era is often associated with more diversity and better inclusiveness, in both tastes and people that create them. 

Are Women Drinking Less Beer Than Men? 

Let’s take a look at what numbers say about beer consumption among men and women. Speaking of overall alcohol drinking, more males in the population drink alcohol than females, that’s a common pattern. However, in Europe and Northern America, where alcohol consumption is much more common than in Asian and African countries, the average ratio is between 1:0.8 – 1:0.9

This study suggests that women drink 2x less beer than men while drinking 62% more wine. A newer poll indicates that craft beer has surpassed wine as the most popular alcoholic beverage for women aged 21-34. Thus, even if men still drink larger volumes of beer, it’s equally the most consumed beverage amongst young people. 

The same group (young people) are more prone to binge beer drinking and overall beer abuse. Men, in general, are 2x more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse during their life. 

The verdict? Well, women drink less beer than men. Do they like it less? No way!