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Still Life with a draft beer by the glass.

Women and Real Ale – A challenge

“Hi, my name is Kat, and I like beer.”

No, I’m not a member of the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), this is how I usually introduce myself when I meet new people. Why? Not because I think beer drinkers are an identifiable group like Lambrini Girls, but because beer is what I love.

Talking about beer and writing about beer is my bread and butter, and it’s a passion I share with my nearest and dearest. Not that all of the ones fortunate (or unfortunate, however you view it) enough to be in my inner circle are as excited about all things ale, but I admit I have surrounded myself with people who share, or at least tolerate my love towards it.

Today, I wanted to discuss a topic which seems to take centre stage in my work environment and which is very close to my heart; women in beer. Or more likely, where are they? More often than not, in the pubs I frequent, the beer events I attend and when talking about beer, I notice a vast lack of female participants. Ladies who I do encounter in said venues are there to enjoy a cocktail, a glass of wine or a cider. I’m not advocating against these beverages and am myself known to enjoy a tipple of this kind every so often, but it does leave me wondering: why are more women not enjoying ale?

It’s not as if there is an actual void of women in the industry. There are plenty of extremely talented women brewers, accomplished authors and brilliant bloggers out there. Research it, and you find even more ladies who are professionally or personally inclined to talk and produce ale. Why can’t we see them in the pubs? Where are these ladies hiding? Historically, the majority of ale for both domestic and commercial use in England was brewed by women, the Ale-Wives. When the beer industry took off, men overtook the process. Take of that what you may but the fact is the majority of brewers at this time are male. That is not to say that there aren’t women in the industry, but why are there so few of them?

In my home town we do have a strong albeit small female presence in our pubs, and I have the pleasure of knowing the majority of them personally, or at lest to follow them on twitter. They know their IPA from their porter and are very vocal about their tastes. I personally have never experienced any form of dissing from my male counterparts about being the minority gender in beer, and can’t say anyone I know has either. In fact, this subject quite often comes up when discussing beer and those who drink it. It’s not a secret society or an exclusive club, this group of beer enjoying individuals. And as it is, getting a membership is as easy as… well, enjoying beer.

I am by no means saying that the ladies have to drink beer just to infiltrate a somewhat male dominated area. If they enjoy their wine and their cocktails, by all means, continue to do so. But what I would like to know is why is beer not appealing to them? Beer is not your average John Smiths or Guinness anymore, there’s an absolute plethora of different kinds available. We have light hoppy ales, fruit beers, sour beers, black lager, several types of stout and even champagne beer, to just name a few. If you don’t like one type, don’t fret! There’s always something else to try. Or are there some boundaries that just cannot be crossed? And if so, what are these boundaries?

I would call all ladies to break the stereotypes, to bravely go to the bar and order ale. Ale is lower in calories than wine, and can be matched with food with as much ease if not even easier than wine. Ale is not watered down like some more simplistic cocktails and can be enjoyed in funky, branded glasses as a whole pint or an elegant half. I call all ladies to give it a go. If you don’t like it, try something else. Maybe it’s not your thing at all. But how will you know if you don’t try it? And if you try it, you may like it.

And maybe next time I introduce myself to someone, they will respond “Me too”.

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