This week’s beer chatter, in something of a well-timed co-incidence, focused on Tuesday’s BCC Two Food Revival programme – on which, chef Angela Hartnett sang the praises of British beer (and Michael Caines did various things to carrots). Other than the welcome sight of beer – or ‘reoll ayoll’, as Angela kept calling it – appearing on the telly, the episode also featured how women can be introduced to the drink, and the perception of many of them that beer is strange tasting, gassy and gives you a belly. Marverine Cole was on hand to knock those notions on the head in one of her tasting masterclasses.
Barely twenty-four hours later, and Edinburgh had its very own event along those lines – as the Holyrood 9A (itself staffed by an all-female management team) hosted a celebration of women in the beer industry, with sampling sessions conducted by Marv’s namesake Melissa Cole. Both have made their reputations by explaining what beer is about, and debunking many of the associated myths, to enable prospective fans (of either sex) to discover the varieties of beer that are out there. The night was a great idea, as it revolved around beer made by women, and featured the attendance of several of the brewsters themselves.
There are many ways in which you can try to get people into beer. Carping at them from on high isn’t one of them. Giving them a chance to taste the different styles, at their own pace, is. Meeting the people involved is, also. The food-led TV programmes are full of clips of farmers standing in fields, explaining their philosophy of sprout husbandry to a wellie-shod celebrity chef. People are more open to experimentation if they are able to have a relaxed chat to the producer. This applies to beer too, of course – and having a night promoting the role of women in the modern beer industry would not have been the same if they weren’t on hand to chat to.
We’ve talked in the past about how to get more women interested in beer. The plain truth is, you need to give them a reason to want to try it. Perception (either positive or negative) is all-important. As British beer – ‘reoll ayoll’ or otherwise – continues to increase in popularity, becoming more inclusive in your outlook is imperative to breweries. There’s no need to market beer specifically for women – as Melissa Cole herself has said “There is a beer for women. It’s called beer.” Celebrate this growing industry by making the experience better and the choice more interesting. Events like the Holyrood’s Brewster night are a massive step in that right direction.