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Image and women

Earlier this week I got into some nice discussions with people on Twitter. I know that many people don’t like the 140 character service and I get that, but I like it quite a lot for reasons beyond the scope of this blog. The topic in question was Sam Adams’ announcement of a ‘champagne-like’ beer.

I thought there already WAS a champagne of beers!

There are a few quotes in there that resonate with me:

“Beer has all the same dignity and nobility that wine has, it just hasn’t been accorded the same level of respect — frankly because brewers haven’t treated it respectfully,” [Sam Adams founder Jim Koch] said in an interview. “Beer has been marketed with a lot of sophomoric humor and scantily clad women.”


“I’m basically just approaching this assuming that men and women both like things that taste good,” he said.

Amen to both of those. Though, good ol’ Jim and I disagree on a few points:

Firstly, I think that $20 for a 750mL is too much. Others disagree, including CBW’s own brewer Rudy. That’s fine; I understand that prices have on the whole been rising, and also that there are a number of high quality beers for a similar price that you can buy. I don’t have the ‘Sam Adams is big and sucks because of it’ bias that some do, but I would also prefer to buy a beer from The Bruery over Sam Adam’s any day. So maybe I am prejudice, a bit. Keep in mind that these are just the opinions of one man and not CBW as a whole.

As for changing or improving the image of beer, especially when compared to wine: on that I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve had a stick up my butt for some time now about the generally accepted notions that wine is high class and beer is blue collar. There’s nothing wrong with the working class, of course, but I would posit that there’s nothing wine can do that beer can’t. A specific example of this was when a good friend of mine told me that she thought that beer was for summer, wine for winter.

Porters? Stouts? Winter warmers? (Alternately, pinot grigio, chardonnay, soave)

Okay, I'm coming around to his position

I think the central issue here is that the wine movement has been going for some time more than the beer movement has, and so the ‘wine is a complex beverage to be enjoyed’ message has sunk into our collective consciousness already. Beer has only joined the fray relatively recently and so its time will come. And besides, there are some, like Dumbarton’s Beer, that don’t see a problem at all: ‘Beer doesn’t need to be like wine, champagne, or anything else.’ Right! Beer is not beer, or gin, or milk: it’s beer.

What gets me riled up, though, is the inevitable user comment on a post on a general interest site about beer: ‘beer is cheap stuff to get drunk on.’ It can be, sure. But — and I know I’m preaching to the choir here so I’ll try to be brief — it can also be so different from that as to be nearly a different entity altogether. It’s why I didn’t understand the outrage over Brewdog’s 18.2% Tokyo*: if you’re truly drinking to get hammered, are you going to spend £10 on a bottle of beer, or are you going to take a few shots of vodka? (or are you going to buy a can or two of goddamned Four Loko?)

Right, then. Our last stop on this odd exercise in stream of consciousness — or is it a series of commentaries on related topics? Choose depending on how full of crap you think I am — is the beer industry’s portrayal of women. This was brought about by a post at Zythophile about the UK chief executive of Molson Coors saying the industry needs to attract more women, and then also another post at Kegworks in response to their planned ‘beer for women’ campaign.

This has brought us around full circle, because the quotes from Jim Koch at the start of the post sum things up nicely: maybe, if you want more women to buy your product, you shouldn’t have your marketing be comprised mainly of that demographic in very little clothing? Bah. And yes, at the end of the day, I think that all things will be solved by two steps:

  1. Offer a quality product
  2. Keep doing #1, and eventually people will come around

6 comments on “Image and women

  1. Sara on

    As a woman, I love a beer that:
    1. Doesn’t talk down to or disrespect me in its ad campaign
    2. Tastes great
    3. I know comes from a brewery that agrees with me on #1 and #2. And I vote with my wallet on that, which is why I’m glad to pay higher prices for good micro and craft brews, despite being on a grad student budget. Can’t wait to spend my scant cash on CBW. 🙂

  2. Jim on

    I can’t make any points here without generalizing a bit. Forgive me.

    When it comes time to making alcohol choices, I think at least some of this boils down to carbs. It ends up on the minds of a lot of people.

    Once many of us reach ~30 a war with metabolism and intake begins. Beer – as in more than one or two pints in a 24 hour period – adds a lot of complication to this. I know, I know, I know: moderation, beer style, etc.

    But beer tends to be an undeniable source of fluffy carbs.

    Wine not so much, and liquor not at all.

    Did that stop me? No, but that’s because I was a bit dense about my intake for far too long.

    “Beer Belly” is a common expression. “Wine Waist”? You hear it, but not as much. I can’t think of one for liquor. There are light beers. Light wines tends to mean less alcohol, not less carbs or calories. There is no light liquor (or if there is it is very, very obscure). If a product has a “light” version, it automatically implants the notion that regular is somehow not very good for you. That’s a problem.

    Personally I have debated whether or not it is time to move my drink of choice to something easier on the waistline, and then I remember that I drink beer because it is enjoyable for me. I like wine, but it tends to make me feel terrible later. I don’t enjoy liquor all that much as it turns out. Light beers tend to be wretched, and even Sam Adams Light tastes bizarre to me.

    So I drink less beer. I do not want to hit 40 with the beer belly I’ve grown for myself.

    My intention is not to say that vanity dictates people’s (esp. women’s) choices universally. I am not a woman and haven’t polled any about this. But another generalization: the women I’ve known tend to be just a wee bit more careful about understanding the consequences of intake than my male friends.

    Of course, I’m not saying beer is unhealthy, and I am well aware that when consumed wisely even has benefits. But again: there is still a carb question that many of us are more or less required to pay attention to.

    … and if I’m wrong, and we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that beer will make weight concerns more difficult, well – there’s a little part of the image problem that breweries could help fix.

      • Jim on

        More Fun With Science: Of course, in the sidebar for this article there are more articles that say “yep, there’s a correlation”, but they also tend to be wishy-washy about it. Most dangerous is one of the conclusions in the article you cited, which more or less says “booze + smoking = not as fat”. I’m sure at the time some small paper ran a story that said “scientists say: if you drink, smoke too, and you’ll stay slim!”


        Studies aside, in my experience: when I was having a rough time and drank too much I plumped up. When I stopped myself and got a grip, the weight started to come off.

        Perhaps these studies only used Ethan as a subject, who has been the same size since I met him 22 years ago. Bastard.

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