“IT WASN’T so long ago that the only women you saw in the beer world were either wearing bikinis on TV or posing nekkid in pinups on the walk-in box at your local beer distributor.
The pinups are probably still there, but I’ve noticed a big jump in the number of women working for small breweries – mainly as sales reps, but as brewers, too. I chatted with several of them recently. Here’s what they had to say.
Is beer still a man’s world?
Wendy Domurat (sales rep, Dogfish Head Brewery): Absolutely not! Perhaps it was when the choices were limited to the mass-produced, domestic, light lagers. Women, with their superior palates, might have only begrudgingly drank these.
Whitney Thompson (quality assurance, Victory Brewing): On the consumer end, if you look at the statistics, beer is definitely a man’s world. A Gallup poll in 2010 determined that of women who consume alcoholic beverages, only 27 percent prefer beer!
Is it tougher to convince a woman to drink your beer?
Megan Maguire (sales rep, Duvel-Moortgat): I find it very easy to approach males and females. They mostly want to know: How did you get that job?
Suzanne Woods (sales rep, Allagash Brewing): I could imagine that it’s easier for a woman to be swayed by another woman.
Thompson: What women don’t always realize, or haven’t been exposed to, is that craft beer actually isn’t yellow fizzy lager.
Maguire: Some women might’ve thought they didn’t enjoy beer, but these days, there are so many different varieties that many are discovering they actually enjoy it.
Is there something that you bring to beer that a guy doesn’t?
Woods: From a tasting standpoint, it is said that woman have 10,000 more taste buds then men.
Domurat: A woman hosting a beer dinner or tasting event is somewhat of an advantage, especially to potential female customers. Once they assess that you are not a hoochie promo girl in high-heeled boots and short, short skirt, they are open to discussing what you have to sample and hear.
What’s the toughest part about working in beer?
Carol Stoudt (founder, Stoudt’s Brewing): Lifting half-barrels, if you have a bad back. But we do have hand trucks, forklifts and other helpful devices.
Domurat: I am on the road a lot, and that doesn’t always allow for the healthiest eating habits.
Thompson: When I was still brewing, I threw out my back moving kegs, achieved a number of steam and chemical burns on my skin, and managed to take a couple tumbles up and down stairs. That never deterred me from my passion for brewing.
How has the beer world changed since you started in the business?
Woods: I see more and more women’s beer enthusiast clubs forming around the country.
Thompson: Here at Victory we started a quarterly event specifically to reach those women. Our last “Girls Just Wanna Have Suds” event was a beer dinner that brought in close to 100 women.
Stoudt: When I started there were just a handful of micros and pubs, and it was a tough sell. No one understood flavor.
Maguire: There are so many different varieties of beer to offer women with discerning palates today. Where they might have thought they didn’t enjoy beer, now it’s not uncommon for them to discover they actually enjoy it.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Midatlantic Restaurant (3711 Market St., West Philly) is hosting “The Women of Beer Dinner” at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The women interviewed above will be joined by Jodi Stoudt (Stoudt’s Brewery), Karen Noonan (Victory) and Sebbie Buhler (Rogue Ales), who will present eight courses of food-and-beer pairings. Tix are $150, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Philadelphia affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Info: 215-386-3711.