21 April 2022

Myth buster: Beer’s For Blokes, Not Women

This month we tackle a myth which keeps returning like a bad penny – the idea that drinking beer isn’t feminine.

It’s the 21st century, women can drink whatever they want and everyone knows it. So why don’t more women drink beer?

Sadly one of the reasons, given by women themselves, is that being seen with a pint of beer is unfeminine. Other comments include pints not being the best accessory for a party frock; the idea that beer is only consumed by older – or blokey women (!) and that it’s not something you see elegant or posh women drinking. It also seems that even after all this time, beer is still associated with pint-swilling blokes, beer bellies and bloating*.

What to do? More on this below, but first something that doesn’t seem to help: beers ‘made for women’. Almost without exception these play on being less bitter, or sweeter, than traditional beer and/or lighter in body and lower in calories too. Packaging and marketing tends to lean heavily on cute and/or pink branding. Most such products disappear without trace soon after they’re launched, which helps demonstrate that ‘beer for women’ isn’t the way to persuade more female drinkers to give it a try.

Perhaps the crux of the problem is two-fold. The hard to break link between ‘beer’ and ‘pint’ and the fact that advertising and other representations of beer are still mostly aimed at, and portray, men. Obviously men are a major target market for beer that brewers and advertisers can’t reasonably be expected to ignore. Similarly, a pint of beer is a British cultural icon – something to be celebrated rather than abolished. But there is room for variety and diversity. That is to say, there is room for women beer drinkers and for measures other than pints.The simple answer then is to increase positive portrayals of women drinking beer and make attractive glassware, that stylish women want to be seen holding, widely available.

One of the justified criticisms levelled at those trying to sell all manner of products to a female market, after mostly selling predominantly to men, is known as ‘pinking and shrinking’. Letting beer fall into this trap isn’t likely to pay off. The ‘pinking’ part, as mentioned above, can be seen as lazily relying on sexist stereotypes. The shrinking part could apply to the pitfalls of an ugly half pint glass. Then there’s the risk of treating women as a homogeneous group – as in assuming that all women think alike. As well as getting tangled up with the sort of unhelpful stereotypes which led to the idea that beer isn’t ladylike in the first place.

What a minefield! But don’t despair. The good news is beer can be all things to all people. The key is choosing the right beer and presenting it in a way that appeals to your desired customer. Bear in mind that when it comes to portraying beer as more ladylike, you’re not trying to meet the expectations of all women. Instead you are specifically aiming to reach women who don’t want to be seen drinking the alcoholic equivalent of ‘builder’s tea’ from an oversized mug splattered in paint flecks and bits of plaster. With that in mind here’s a few ideas for putting some style into beer.

Ideas for busting the myth that beer can’t be ladylike:

1. Glassware and size. As much as we love the Great British pint, the world won’t come to an end if we admit beer is still beer if served in smaller measures or more elegant glassware. Why should stemmed glasses only be for wine or gin? If theft is an issue, try stocking glasses for sale. Pilfering is sometimes more about coveting than wanting something for nothing!

2. Food pairings and more. Research suggests women who feel judged for drinking beer, or who see it as unfeminine, could be persuaded by beer and food pairings that make having a beer something special.

3. Low and no alcohol brews. Reasons why aside, many women are calorie and carb conscious and will be put off beer for that reason. Low/no alcohol beer is generally lower in calories and carbs, as well as alcohol. Despite huge growth in this area, many are still quite bland so it’s worth seeking out the most flavoursome and making a feature of them.

4. Season’s greetings. Whether it’s a brewery’s occasional beers, following the lager for summer, dark beer for winter rule of thumb, genuine seasonals like green hop beer, or getting creative (think smoked beers for bonfire night), making an occasion for beer can be a persuasive selling point.

5. Staff training. Even a short session to equip your staff to talk about beer and make it sound appealing can pay dividends. Women often respond to recommendations from other women, so be sure to train female staff so they’re at the top of their beer talking game.

6. #BeerStyle. If we want feminine and fashion-conscious women to feel they look good drinking beer, we need to show them other such women doing the same. Why not call on your stylish, beer-loving female customers to pose with their favourite brew and share the pictures to social media with the hashtag #BeerStyle.

*See The Beer Agender report, produced by Dea Latis for more on women’s attitudes to beer. 

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