Where’s the bierebabes?!

Wish I'd seen this for the last blog!

Wish I’d seen this for the last blog!

When I first started writing this blog, I made a conscious decision not to push the whole gender issue. I believe women of the world have enough inequality to worry about and for many their choice of beverage is a minuscule concern compared to other social expectations, threat of violence, the pay gap and so on. In the cozy English world I live in, I am privileged in that I can drink what I want. If you’re a woman and you don’t drink beer because that stupid advert offended you or you think nobody will fancy you and you’ll die alone, grow up. Seriously. In this day and age it’s only the twiggy real ale (see Pump Clip Parade) and boring big brands that use sexist advertising. None of this is relevant to what I drink.

I wanted my blog to be appreciated as a beer blog rather than a feminist statement and I stand by this but then I read Hardknott Dave’s recent controversial blog and was inspired to chip in. The title was ‘Beer Drinking Women Are Not Attractive’ and it turned out too hot for WordPress as he ended up taking it down. Unfortunately I only had the opportunity to skim-read it on my lunch break. I recall that I wasn’t that thrilled about his opinions, but at least he had some opinions which should be perfectly allowed and celebrated as a conversation-starter in this dreary world we live in. I wasn’t that thrilled to learn that he takes such pleasure in observing women in bars drinking beer and judging them on attractiveness. Then I thought about my own behavior at beer festivals and it turns out I can be just as bad – I challenge anybody to say they haven’t. You’ll see if you read on how generous I am about the appearance of the average CAMRA member. It’s what people do. Being looked at by the likes of Hardknott Dave as I sup my beer is the least of my worries as a female beer drinker.

Unfortunately, until recently, the realm of beer drinking just hasn’t been very appealing to women like me. I’ve always favored beer over wine as a social drink to have with friends and with food but I haven’t really felt like I belonged in the ‘pub scene.’  Despite all of its best efforts to modernize, the typical CAMRA chap still appears to be a beer-bellied, red-faced blokey bloke who isn’t accustomed to being nice or helpful to girls. How many women reading this have been elbowed and jostled out of the way at a beer festival bar by these guys, or even simply ignored? Who has had blokey noises made at them about girls drinking pints (I can seldom understand the words over the blokey noise). They can vary in attitude from slightly old-fashioned to downright patronizing. I’ll never forget the CAMRA GBBF where I went to the German bar and asked the server for his finest rauchbier. He was very quick to recommend his most favorite, then quickly started backtracking telling me I wouldn’t like it because the flavor was too strong! Same happened at one of the other bars at the same festival with another style of beer. Funny that my boyfriend doesn’t get the same advice. And then we’ll go back to the pump clips and beers with names that may well have been invented by a pre-pubescent boy. Not a world that’s relevant to me.

OK so ale this rubbish needs shock tactics to boost sales.

OK so ale this rubbish needs shock tactics to boost sales.

Thankfully beer has moved on a bit in recent years. Dave – you’ll find the good-looking girls, along with all sorts of other people at the nice craft bars and festivals. From my experience the real ale scene seems to be stuck with this weird chauvinistic crowd and that’s fine as long as I don’t have to look at it. Don’t get me wrong – I am by no means a beer snob and real ale is not the problem. I have a lot of love and respect for well-made real ale. I can’t speak for every woman out there but the problem with beer for me is the company more than anything. I don’t know what the answer is for the ‘old man pub’ scene but there seems to be a new generation of pubs and bars where everybody is welcome and that’s where you will find the beautiful women, balding men, men who look like their dogs, average women, women with beards, men who just stepped out of an Urban Outfitters shoot, all drinking beer. I’m not going to try to define it but there’s something new happening that’s accessible for all.



  1. hardknottdave · January 13, 2014

    Well, thanks for posting that, I can’t disagree with you anywhere.

    The first thing to point out is that I do find women who drink beer attractive. Probably more so – it shows an independent attitude devoid of the need to fit into some sort of norm dictated by society.

    My post was not supposed to highlight what I thought of women who drink beer, rather the way I feel society in general view women who drink beer. Somehow, through an expectation that I thought no one would really think I was that bad a person, I ended up being called exactly that, and worse.

    Craft Beer is thankfully devoid of gender stereotyping, and this is good. However, I feel that much of the rest of the beer world is not so.

    Just look at statistics, and generally people you know. Women who do like beer, know they like beer, and freely make that choice, are outside this. However, many more women claim to not like beer than men. Now, this might be down to a genetic effect, perhaps. However, I don’t like to believe that. There is no other food or drink where preference is shown so vividly in the general public than with beer.

    If it is not a genetic effect then what is causing it?

    I firmly believe that it is largely down to social conditioning. What I also believe is that if we are to make much bigger changes to that social conditioning we need to explore the fundamental reasons behind it. It really isn’t good enough to simply say, “Hey, there is something wrong, stop it being wrong” No, we have to explore the deep rooted reasons. To do that properly we need to dig deep and explore some uncomfortable realities. One of those uncomfortable realities is that men like women who they perceive as sexually attractive. Women, I think, although the last week has made me question this, like to be found attractive by men. Exactly how men think about that, and how women might want men to think about that, might be a little different, but there we go.

    Now, through various reasons, advertising, history, a subliminal sexist desire to keep it a strong male bastion, beer has maintained that masculine persona.

    I wanted to start to explore why. I seemed to have failed, and I’m quite upset about that.

    • bierebelle · January 14, 2014

      Thanks Dave. I recognize that a lot of women don’t drink beer and I agree that the reasons are cultural more than anything. Since starting this blog, non-beer-drinking female friends of mine have started asking to try what I’m drinking and been genuinely surprised that they actually like the stuff! So why is it always wine, spirits or ghastly alco-pops masquerading as cider for a lot of female drinkers?

    • yvanseth · January 14, 2014

      Hm, maybe a memory that others have too… sipping dad’s beer as a youngster. Yuck! Horrible stuff. Yet it is seen as “the drink of men” – so over time you sip a bit more, when the age comes you grin and bear it (usually with less bitter more “entry level” beers). And, in time, as you grow older and your bitterness threshold increases, you come to like it… This route, battling a natural dislike for bitterness, is strongly set down as part of being a bloke. Women just don’t have so strong a social expectation that they should drink and like beer… its a function of our society, social fashions, and entrenched gender roles. It’s just another version of bloody pink versus blue, dolls versus lego, etc… gosh, the problems run deep.

      Thankfully things seem to be improving in the beer scene… but outside of the more balanced craft-beer niche there is still a LONG way to go.

      (My early drinking experience is from growing up in Australia… but I suspect it may not be much different in the UK. This social split it possibly even stronger here as there’s much less fuss about a woman drinking beer back home – it’s not as unusual.)

  2. craigheap · January 14, 2014

    Perhaps market forces will solve the issue for us. Regardless of whether it’s defined or not, craft beer in the UK is growing as a drinking identity, and Pete Brown has recently pointed out that any big brewer that doesn’t tap it into in a genuine way will be idiotic.

    Advertising evidently has a big impact. Women aren’t flicking though Vogue and Heat magazine to be confronted with stylish role models wielding pints of beer. With the bigger brewers on board, advertising trends could shift and women could see beer drinking presented in a more favourable light in the media.

    Of course, that’s not to say I’m advocating we sit back and let the advertisers and media tell anyone what to do and how to think – it’s just a prediction as to how attitudes may change if we do nothing else in the meantime.

    I missed Hardknott’s original post so I can’t comment on that; all I’ve seen is the trail of flames and smoke left in the aftermath of him being shot down. Commenting on gender issues in beer is a prickly topic – you’re either perceived as a raving feminist or a male chauvinist, it seems impossible for anyone to claim the neutral ground without taking flak. So fair play to Dave for trying, he’s a braver man than I.

  3. yvanseth · January 14, 2014

    Ah, and CAMRA… I’m not so sure aiming blame *at* “CAMRA” is accurate, my experience is that internally to the volunteer/active scene CAMRA is better than the general public. If you look around GBBF, especially up in the “volunteers arms” the situation isn’t bad and is improving from year to year. The problematic relics of the past are there of course and I suppose all we can do is hope they’ll pass on in time, alas I suspect “re-education” is beyond them. Thankfully the relics are a dwindling minority – albeit a sometimes loud and grumpy one.

    I think there may be something to be gained trying to use CAMRA as a vehicle working towards equality in the beer scene… and this gives rise to a thought. Have there ever been any active-pro-equality policies or AGM motions… and if not, perhaps it was about time there was. For the good of CAMRA’s “real ale”-baby widening the market and being more inclusive has got to be good thing. Should a motion make it through to the AGM and be voted down… well, that would be grim… and I’d expect to see an exodus of younger members irrespective of gender.

    I’d be interested in hearing ideas for what CAMRA could do at organisational and campaigning levels to be a force for good in this area.

    • bierebelle · January 14, 2014

      I don’t think I’m blaming CAMRA as an organization…maybe I am slightly. I have kind of reduced my opinion of the ‘scene’ down to the gut feelings and first impressions I have of events run by CAMRA and pubs that are frequented by their members. I really wanted to convey a sense of how it can feel as a woman to try to get into a male-dominated environment and sadly the real ale scene in the UK seems to be the worst offender. I know they can’t change the people and as an organization that has it’s attitude firmly set in the past when it comes to methods of production and dispense it won’t be easy to convince certain people of progressive thinking in other areas. One thing I would like to see change is the awful sexist names and pump clips which unfortunately are only to be found associated with real ale. It’s not just the sexism, they’re not clever, not funny, outdated and crass and it’s not a culture I feel I can relate to.

      • yvanseth · January 14, 2014

        I agree about pubs in general but the sort of “core CAMRA” pubs in the areas I know tend toward being less of a problem than average (North Hertfordshire & Cambridge)… I agree that the “real ale” pumpclips/branding situation is dire… I also agree that it is probably more of a problem in the “real ale” culture than anywhere else in the world of food & drink in the UK. I’m just not sure it is quite a fault of CAMRA nor representative of CAMRA at an active/volunteer level. Putting up with discomfort in the pub culture in the UK is a real annoyance of mine, it is rife with “-isms”… my own rant on the subject of gender/race issues in pubs and beer events is here: http://ale.gd/blog/2013/11/session-81-women-the-uk-beer-world/

        Back to CAMRA – I DO think fault can be found not being pro-active on the matter. This is where I see how CAMRA could play a role in the matter. CAMRA exists to promote “real ale” – there is an significant element of current pub/brewery culture that actively puts off 50% of the population. It is a good thing for “real ale” to rid the scene of this blight. CAMRA *is* guilty of not doing enough. There should be standards laid down for advertising in newsletters, pumpclip/point-of-sale material at fests/events, and a strong code of conduct for office holders and volunteers. And I wonder what else CAMRA could do as an organisation to put an end to the alienation of women by Britain’s brewing & drinking culture. Now… how do I go about proposing an AGM motion.

  4. Pingback: CAMRA – can it be part of the equality solution? | ALE.is.GooD
  5. Andrew Ramage (@MaxDamage01) · January 25, 2014

    I have to say Bierebelle that’s quite a scathing rant about CAMRA. You do make very valid points, CAMRA members generally are of a certain stereotype and you can’t get round that. It is also fair to say a lot of real ale pubs are not appealing to females. The problem with CAMRA is, and I’m on the committee of my CAMRA branch so I’m in a good position to comment, is that CAMRA is run primarily by volunteers of a certain gender and age. It can be very time consuming so the people who do it are generally retired or close to retiring. We have over 900 members in the branch and only 4 are below the age of 30. Most of the female members are usually part of joint memberships. Trying to change the attitude of that demographic of the population isn’t easy (the elderly male demographic). We would love to be more female and young person friendly but because of my reasons and your gripes that is practically impossible.

    I don’t agree with CAMRA’s stance on everything, they’re shooting themselves in the foot regarding craft beer for instance. However, they have laid the groundwork (unintentionally) for the craft beer revolution with all the campaigning they have done over the years to encourage brewers to brew real ale and for pubs to serve the stuff. Maybe you should contact CAMRA and tell them your views? If CAMRA and the real ale scene is to change then it needs people like you to tell them.

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