These days, women are heads of state, heads of government, Supreme Court judges, chief physicians and generals. But so far, the world of beer has remained a male domain.
That’s changing. More and more women are drinking the amber brew, often opting for the increasing range of craft beers. According to a recent Alcoholic Beverage DemandTracker survey on alcoholic preferences in the United States, 51 percent of men describe beer as their preferred beverage, compared to 54 percent a year earlier. Meanwhile, 26 percent of women said beer was their favorite libation, a rise of 2 percent from the previous year. In addition, 39 percent of women said they were drinking more beer thanks to “finding new brands," while the figure among men was 36 percent to 38 percent, thanks to “finding new flavors," compared to 31 percent among men.
Perhaps more importantly, many of the new microbreweries are led by women.
“Larger breweries are still largely a male preserve, but microbreweries are often run by a husband-and-wife team,” reports Sara Barton, owner of Brewster’s Brewery in the English town of Grantham and winner of the British Guild of Beer Writers Brewer of the Year 2012.
SABMiller, the world's second largest beermaker, even has a new female master brewer. Katherine Smart, a former professor of brewing science appointed to the job last year, is now in charge of developing new flavors and brewing processes.
“You can optimize the fermentation process, you can change the malting process,” she tells Metro. “I spend a lot of time talking to PhD students and scientists about things they’re doing that might be useful to us.”
Though Smart’s job description doesn’t mention increasing the 4,500-year-old drink’s popularity among women, that’s exactly the challenge breweries are facing.
“Traditionally, beer has been consumed by both men and women, and historically, it was women who made it,” adds Smart. “One of the things I’d like to see happen is more women drinking it.”
In fact, beer is going to see off challengers like liquor and alcopops – not to mention wine – capturing an even larger chunk of the female market. But, argues Smart, the solution is not the fruit-flavored drinks breweries have tried in the past.
“Saying that women like flavored beer is too simplistic," she said.
According to Smart, getting more people involved in the brewing process is essential. And at the farmer level, the brewing process is more about survival than fruit flavors: in some countries, 80 percent of smallholder farmers are women.
Yet SABMiller’s rival Carlsberg is investing in such R&D, recently rolling out Eve, a fruity beer-based drink with low alcohol content that’s served in a champagne glass. But, argues Barton, beer just needs to be marketed better, not infused with peach or raspberry: “The good thing about drinking beer is that it has all the health benefits of wine without the harmful effects of the higher alcohol content.”