Another way to get your five a day
April 20, 2009

Crap beer: it’s a blank canvas!  Here is a terribly blurry picture of me drinking “Garlic Beer”–one of my guilty pleasures at Garlic and Shots.  It’s basically generic lager with crushed garlic floating in the head.  I consider it a health drink.

Lime in a Corona.  A wedge of lemon in a hefeweizen. If you’re a girl, these are probably the first beers someone sets in front of you.  Maybe a shandy, if you started early.  And this is one of the benefits of being a lady— you can put stuff in your beer and no one will look down on you for it.  I mean, any more than they already are.

When I used to teach on a Marine base sometimes we’d celebrate after finals with boilermakers at the local watering hole (off the base– for some reason the Marines insisted I never set foot in the bar on the base.  To this day I regret not checking it out.)

I would consider plopping a shot of soju into a glass of Hite–a Korean “beer bomb”.  I could also see myself adding some Jagermeister to a pint of Guinness.  I might add some whisky to my Sassquash mild to give it some lifeblood.  Do you ever put anything in beer either to get you happy faster, or to improve a mediocre pint?  Do tell.

Hey Laaaaady
April 9, 2009

Can you spot the laydeez?

Can you spot the laydeez?

I’ve spoken before of my love of the Ship Tavern in Holborn, and I visited there yesterday.  The celebrations of Cask Ale Week were definitely on: a Theakston Mild and Bitter being the most significant and tasty offerings. After a day of checking out dead things in jars at the Hunterian Museum, nothing satisfies like a lovely pint of bitter!

Two American friends were visiting and were drinking the mild. I tried to explain the philosophy behind Cask Ale Week but it was difficult.  While perusing the official website, I had little luck figuring out how to find a participating pub, or even what events were on, (don’t get me started on the picture of the well groomed college students on the site’s homepage.  It’s just odd.) I was guessing when I explained it was a way to celebrate a distinctive national beverage that has been coded as unfashionable.

In the US, the microbrewery revolution has changed the kind of beer most people I know drink.  The offerings at most stores are quite varied now. Many Brits who have never been to America think it’s still the land of Bud and Coors, but in metropolitan places this is not the case.  My friends ordered pints of mild without having to be coaxed to do it, and one of them was…wait for it…a woman.  That cask ale is associated with old bearded men was impossible to convey to them as we were sitting in the lively Ship, surrounded by all kinds of people who were drinking ale.  (It’s true the women were mostly drinking, you guessed it, white wine.)

My friend Laura picked up a flyer announcing the events of Cask Ale Week at the pub, one of which headlined with the pun, “femALE” day.  It addressed us as Ladies, and my friend said, “See, they’ve gone wrong right there.  Ladies?”  To an American ear the word lady is an insult.  It’s something Jerry Lewis yells.  No one wants to be addressed as a lady– which either means you are a granny, a member of the Christian Right or the recipient of some stranger’s anger.   Here it’s perfectly normal, and even polite, to refer to a woman as a lady.  I still vaguely resent it, and all the ideas that come packaged in that word–which is probably why I engage in such unladylike activities like beer blogging.

The flyer suggested we try some cask ale for £1 on the 15th of April, technically two days after Cask Ale Week is over.   Presumably we don’t have to wear a hat and gloves to partake of our cheeky half, just a pair of XX chromosomes.

Getting women to drink something not exactly unlike beer
March 27, 2009

Coors new ad campaign aimed at women.

Coors new ad campaign aimed at women.

Coors new brand spells it out for you: Yes, some beers make you burp. Yes, some do have a bitter taste. Yes, you can get bloated drinking beer. So we changed it. Their new lager is “ultra filtered” so that it’s completely clear.  And it’s flavored with green tea and dragonfruit.  The tasting notes for this prerelease are limited to “like an alcopop.”

Fancy being a beer goddess? The site asks me while giving me some handy facts about ancient mythology and “experimental cocktails.”  My first reaction when looking at the Bittersweet site was that it was some kind of joke. What if beer came in sexy easy-to-carry boxes? A girl can dream!

There is also much talk of glassware. On the “Views” section of the website someone, probably not a real person, suggests that if bars  “have sleeker slimmer or taller and slimmer or curvier glasswear, I buy one more proudly. Usually I really prefer a large dash of lemonade on the top too.”  (emphasis mine).

So really, not beer at all but shandy in a champagne flute?  This isn’t aimed at me.  It’s not even aimed at any women I know.  This campaign is patronizing and alienating and is doomed to fail.

The Beer Babe is running a “Beer for Women” ad design contest. On the contest page she links to a video where this issue is being debated on BBC Breakfast.  There is an image consultant (surely a vocation overly represented in hell.) who suggests that if a woman were to order a beer on a date it would turn the guy off.   She claims the drink you chose reveals who you are. She suggests a Manhattan, a “Sex in the City” style cocktail. I think all that really tells us is what kind of person she is.

What really keeps women away from beer are backwards, sexist attitudes that still persist in beer culture and marketing.  Take Skinny Blonde, a new Australian beer.  The label features a pin up girl whose clothes disappear as the bottle warms.   If we are to apply the image consultant’s logic to the male drinker, how would this beer augment his image? If you were on a date with a guy and he ordered this beer, would you be turned off? It might impress some moron friends of his but most women I know would see it as a red flag.

Some beers have managed to appeal to women quite effortlessly–think of Hitachino or Meantime–not a pink heart in sight. Beer culture does need to evolve, and perhaps advertising will be part of this, but I’m skeptical.  When has advertising ever really understood us as human beings? These femme campaigns are trying to right the wrongs of the macho mega-breweries but they have it all wrong. People don’t drink beer to impress each other, they drink beer to be together.

Carling Belong bus stop ad from 2006

Carling Belong bus stop ad from 2006

I’d be lying if I said this ad made me try Carling, but it spoke to me as a beer drinker who just happens to be a woman.