Women get crafty about specialty beer

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A friend tells me he likes to attend beer-tastings because it’s the only time he can drink without raising a fuss from his wife. Somehow, he’s convinced her that, rather than boozing with his buddies, he’s educating his palate.

Maybe she’s dense or maybe he’s just kidding himself. But I have some sobering news for guys like that: The ladies have discovered our brew, and they want the opener, too.

For generations, beer and women pretty much have been reduced to three words: Swedish Bikini Team. Check out the posters at your distributor. Or crack open a 40 of Colt-45 like Billy Dee Williams, and you’re guaranteed to have an anxious lady at your door. Don’t get me wrong – Joe Sixpack is an enlightened kind of ’90s guy. But until recently, I was convinced that the four main ingredients of beer were water, malt, hops and breasts.

The craft-brew revolution seems to be making room for women, though.

It’s not uncommon to see as many women as men at some beer-related events, like the Philly’s Best Beers event two weeks ago at Samuel Adams Brewpub. And I was surprised to find women attending an advanced brewing class at Center City’s Home Sweet Homebrew last week.

The corner bar is still male turf, but craft beers are starting to redefine beer-drinking. It’s no longer just a macho exercise of chugging till you drop. Instead, it’s a chance to enjoy distinctive styles. This notion that beer can actually taste good, that it might actually be fun to sample unique brews, is an attractive option for women who might be turned off (God knows why) by an evening of pounding brewskis and watching football.

This makes sense if you subscribe to the hunter/gatherer theory of gender.

Most hunter guys – those who have not evolved beyond Budweiser – are on a daily mission to seek and kill. They seek cheap beer, they kill a case of Bud.

The gathering gals, still sowing for tomorrow’s harvest, pick and choose. They sample the fruity lambics, the bitter ales, the malty bocks. It’s fun, like shopping for shoes.

Where is it all headed? Will women take over the beer scene? Will half-naked guys someday jiggle across the TV while the ladies ogle their behinds?

I know some women who could spend a long afternoon contemplating such things over a cold one at their favorite pub. And, more to the point, I know that such distaff matters will be the subject of discussion, next weekend in Fairmount. It’s the first Ladies’ Beer Tea at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 6, at Bridgid’s (726 N. 24th St.).

Bar manager Anne Cebula, who is trying to organize a ladies’ beer club, says the tea will be an opportunity for local women to talk about the brew scene. “I’m not sure where it’s headed,” Cebula said, “but I think it’s time women had a chance to talk about some of these issues.”

Yes, they’re calling it a “tea,” but beer – lots of it – will be served.

From tea to wine, I’ll direct your attention to something more immediate on the local beer front. It’s tomorrow afternoon’s head-smashing gathering at Sugar Mom’s Church Street Lounge (225 Church St. in Old City) – the second annual Split Thy Skull barleywine tasting, from 1 to 6 p.m.

The event, run by Beer Philadelphia publisher Jim Anderson, will feature a collection of the strongest beers in the world. Despite their name, barleywines are beer, not wine. They are heavily malted high-alcohol wonders (9 to 14 percent, compared to 5 percent for most brews) that are typically aged for months before they are released.

Anderson has rounded up about 10 different brews, including cask-conditioned Young’s Old Nick from London and a 1996-vintage Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale.

Admission is free (must be at least 21 years of age), and beer is sold by the glass.

One other item on the beer horizon: The first annual British Bike and Pub Crawl, which is part of next weekend’s Great British Bike Weekend. Organizer Michael McGettigan will lead an entourage of three-speed cyclists on a tour of local taverns for a taste of refreshing pints.

The tour starts at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at the above-named Sugar Mom’s.

McGettigan hopes the event will promote the use of traditional British bicycles as an appropriate means of transportation in our city. “They’re the kind of bike you want for traveling from pub to pub – sedate, well-balanced, nothing flashy or trashy.”

Personally, I think some of those Ladies Tea Club members should get an early start at the Split Thy Skull barleywine tasting and then pedal around with McGettigan’s crew.

Beer-drinking biker chicks rule, man!


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