Putting the 'ale' in female

21 November, 2013

The 2014 Good Beer Guide reported that real ale club Camra now has more female members than ever, with women making up 22% of its membership – an increase of 20,000 in the past decade.

And beer expert Roger Protz, the guide’s editor, believes that growth is fuelled by an influx of women into brewing, as more and more women are setting up their own breweries or becoming head brewers.

OLN asked some of the UK’s burgeoning population of brewsters if they know the secret to getting more women drinking ale.

Ffion Jones, SA Brain

Ffion Jones 

Assistant brand manager
SA Brains 

Ffion Jones was the first woman to qualify as a brewer at Welsh brewery SA Brains.

Do you think more women are drinking ale?

Yes. Awareness and knowledge of beers and ales and the varying flavours and styles available is increasing with non-ale drinkers of both sexes.


What would draw more women to drink ale?

It’s all down to educating non-ale drinkers on the flavours and styles available, dispelling some of the health myths around beer and showing its versatility, for example as an accompaniment to food.

What can off-trade retailers do to attract women to ale?

Educating the consumer on the versatility of beer is one way. We include food matches on our bottled beers’ tasting notes, which gives non-beer drinkers a familiar way of trialling a potentially new product to them.

Genevieve Upton, Marston's

Genevieve Upton 

Continuous improvement manager
Marston’s 

Marston’s Genevieve Upton got the brewing bug while studying yeast and fungus for her biology degree at Aston University. She joined Marston’s as a graduate and is now studying to become a master brewer.

Do you think more women are drinking ale?

Absolutely, because women are intrigued by the increasing choice of styles and flavours, improvements in quality control from the brewers and retailers, not to mention the personalities of the beers themselves.  

What would draw more women to drink ale?

Education is key. The women I know who don’t drink beer will say “I don’t like beer”, but when everything from lager through to the darkest, richest porter is categorised as beer, my response is usually the same – how can you say that when you haven’t tried every style? Getting more women to drink ale means encouraging them to try across a spectrum of colours and abvs. There really is a beer for everyone.

What can off-trade retailers do to draw women to ale?

Enthusiasm is contagious and most women wouldn’t object to a friendly member of staff talking about the options. It’s easy for staff members to make the assumption that all women would prefer a blonde beer, but if individuals can talk about the styles and the kinds of palate they suit, they become a more reassuring source of information. 

Sara Barton, Brewster's Brewery

Sara Barton 

Owner
Brewster's Brewery 

Sara Barton, a former production manager at Courage, started her own brewery in Grantham, Lincolnshire, in 1997. The microbrewery now produces cask, keg and bottled beers, and last year Barton was named the British Guild of Beer Writers' brewer of the year. She also established Project Venus UK, a group which promotes women in the brewing industry and tries to raise the profile of women making and enjoying beer.

Do you think more women are drinking ale?

More women are trying beer, partly thanks to the influence of good microbrewery beers and partly thanks to the variety of bottled beers available in specialist off-licences. The subjects of women and beer, and beer and food-matching, have been in the press more recently. 

What would draw more women to drink ale?

More positive advertising to women that is not patronising but includes them in the drinking experience. Better glassware. More media coverage – all weekend supplements feature wine but very rarely beer. Coverage on cooking programmes – again they feature mainly wine to partner food when beer would go equally well, if not better, with it.

What can off-trade retailers do to attract women to ale?

Offer sampling sessions, as often women are unsure which beers to try and are sometimes pleasantly surprised by a beer they thought they might not like, such as a pale hoppy or dark beer. Provide tasting notes – maybe similar to wine – to show the key characteristics of beer styles. Be on hand to offer advice on beer for drinking on its own or matching with food.





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