Saturday, 30 July 2011

Not for girls?

Brewer Molson Coors have just launched a new beer called Animée which is specifically targeted at female drinkers. This has been widely criticised as patronising and sexist, and unlikely to succeed, and those critics are probably right. But, on the other hand, it can’t be denied that beer as a category has a serious image problem amongst women and, as the article says, only 17% of beer in Britain is consumed by women. It’s not enough just to respond by complacently saying “if you can actually get them to try Old Volestrangler they really like it.”

Beer is widely perceived as gassy and bloating, and also as something that will make you fat. Neither of these objections are really valid – the first one is easily answered by choosing cask ale, and the second isn’t really true. Strength for strength, beer has no more calories than other forms of alcoholic drinks. But they are still widely believed.

Beer in general still has a laddish, pint-swilling, footy-chanting image which continues to be pandered to in many marketing campaigns. Many cask beers adopt a kind of rustic, bare-boards, back-to-nature imagery which may appeal to fans of The Good Life, but doesn’t exactly come across as well, very sophisticated. Plenty of women do drink beer, but in many cases they do it for precisely the reasons that deter others – because it comes across as a touch rebellious and not in the least “girly”.

What is needed, surely, is not dedicated “beers for women”, but a marketing strategy which avoids any hints of machoness but instead portrays beer as a modern, authentic, high-quality product that can be enjoyed by both sexes in a social context. You may not think much of the beer, but the recent Kronenbourg “slow the pace” campaign was a good start.

And its presentation needs to be looked at. If it is to seem smart and contemporary, utility Noniks need to be ditched in favour of stylish branded glassware, and those glasses should ideally be oversize so you don’t run the risk of spilling beer all over your clothes.

Perhaps even the much-loved handpump, powerful symbol of cask beer though it is, needs to be called into question. After all, you wouldn’t do your washing with a mangle or specify a car with running boards, so why in the 21st century should you be dispensing beer using a manually-operated device dating back to the Regency period?

10 comments:

  1. I cannot believe you are saying this cack. Smart branded glasses! FFS! Oversized glasses will cost the publican even more. Profit margins are already being squeezed. What do you suggest as a replacement for beer engines then? Gravity dispense? I agree that Craft beer does suffer an identity crisis, my solution would be do what they do in the bars in NYC namely sell top class keg beer of a huge range of styles and big it up. See the Pony Bar for example.

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  2. Perhaps you answer your own question there, Anon ;-)

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  3. Anon: gravity dispense isn't the only other option.

    When I began drinking in the 1970s, handpumps were rare, and most real ale was served using metered electric pumps into oversized glasses. Handpumps look nice, but when pubs began ripping out electric pumps and putting back handpumps, we ended up with the problem of the short measure. As Tandleman would say, the law of unintended consequences.

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  4. As I've said before, I'm a great fan of the now-vanished electric diaphragm pump.

    It's easy to fall into the trap of imagining "what women want" which is why I'm only asking the question.

    But is dispense using a clunky, rather phallic-looking piece of 19th century engineering really the best way to attract the female customer?

    And I didn't even venture on to the subject of sexist real ale pumpclips...

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  5. Better not, Curmudgeon - I did that recently on Tyson's blog and he dismissed what I wrote as being my 'bugbear'.

    I agree completely that much real ale is marketed with no regard to 50% of the population. Brewers are missing a trick.

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  6. I may have been a little harsh. As you said you were only asking a question. I do see no problem with handpulls though. When I started drinking 20 years ago the pub I drank in served Bass by metered dispense. Soon after they introduced handpumps. In my opinion they are more aesthetically pleasing. Females will always feel that cask ale is male orientated. CAMRA on the whole don't help themselves with misguided promptions like Ninkasi. The problem is stereotyping. Well brewed interesting beer should appeal universally.Steel City brewed a 8.5% vanilla stout which was lapped up by my wife. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is another beast that appealed. New wave bars like Port St Ale House et al go some way in attempting to attract female drinkers.

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  7. Nice one Mudgie - this would make a rather good magazine article dont you think? Not perhaps in Curmudgeonly mode but a rather longer piece perhaps?

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  8. It would be very interesting to see the research behind this and what were the actual reasons put forward for not fancying beer.

    However, you have to be careful with such surveys, as if you ask people who realistically are never going to drink beer anyway the answers are unlikely to be particularly helpful. You really need to ask people who only drink beer occasionally why they don't drink it more often.

    Othwerwise, it becomes like those surveys you used to see in the popular press where the thing people would most like to see in pubs usually turned out to be "a cup of tea".

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  9. My sister took up beer after a dentist advised her to. The Britvics were destroying her tooth enamel. Th's actually a pretty good reason for drinking beer rather than fj.

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  10. WHat about fruit beers? I'm sure there are some of those that might appeal to ladies if they prefer the fruitiness in them.

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