As a beer writer, I find it extremely hard to deliver negative criticism. Partly, that’s because there is so much positivity in the craft beer world that it’s really easy to focus on the good stuff. There are times, however, when a little honesty is important, and needed.
In order to illustrate this point, let me share a little about our recent trip to New England. We visited six breweries – some old favorites, and some brand new to us.
We’ve toured Harpoon many times, but since our last visit, they’ve had a massive expansion, including adding a canning line, increasing the size of the brewhouse, and building a massive, beautiful beer hall. The hotel we were staying at happened to be within walking distance, so we popped into the Beer Hall on a very busy Saturday afternoon to check it out.
The wait was sizable when we arrived. At first we thought it was just people waiting for the tour, but no, it was just folks trying to get in. The line moved quickly though, and before long we were joking with the salty Boston doormen and walking inside.
The vibe at the Hall was vibrant and the staff was pretty friendly, though you could tell they were a little harried from the extreme busy-ness. We ordered some beer right away – the cask conditioned offering, an unfiltered version of the Harpoon IPA, dry hopped with Centennial hops (it seemed a little ‘catty’ for me), and their 100 Barrel Series, a fantastic citra-hop bomb. I love visiting Harpoon because they always have special edition beers you can only find at the brewery.
Beer is in the midst of a cultural shift – the craft beer industry is booming and beer tastes are changing for men and women. Despite some growth in the female beer market, it remains that only 25 – 29 percent of American ladies like beer.
Historically, brewing was considered the responsibility of women. Back then, brewing was mainly done in the home. Starting in the 18th century, beer became a major business, and quickly became dominated by men. Despite gains, beer continues to be seen as a man’s drink and business. This fact is perhaps most evident by the way beer is marketed, aka the sexy pin-up or Bud Girl. Most often when beer is marketed to women it is low-calorie, “lite” beer. Even the craft beer industry is guilty of this kind of beer sexism. Take, “Tramp Stamp,” a Belgian IPA brewed by the venerable Clown Shoes out of Massachusetts. If the name and label isn’t telling, the description is even worse: “Like a stamp on a tramp, this beer is about not so subtle seduction. Soft but complex malts, Chambly yeast, sweet orange peel, Columbus, Amarillo, and Centennial hops have merged to create a bodacious Belgian IPA.” Not only is the beer clearly intended for men, this wreaks of “not so subtle” female objectification. This is only one of many examples.