Meet the women on the frontline of the beverage battle
Many things that have a deep history of being gendered have been neutralised in the last few years.
Technology, science and architecture are just a few examples of industries in which women are starting to make their mark.
But regardless of the progress we’ve made when it comes to achieving gender equality, there are still some industries that continue to fail women.
Beer is one of them.
Like many great things in history, it was actually women who started brewing beer in the first place.
When water carried toxins and was largely unsafe to drink, women used it to brew beer so they could safely hydrate their families.
Naturally, men intervened in the 1800s when they saw the profitability of the alcoholic beverage.
This saw pubs, social clubs and brewhouses popping up across the country, and they became prime location for men when they finished work.
With women staying home to look after children, cook, clean and tend to houses, there was no ‘after work respite’ for them, meaning pubs and brewhouses were dominated by men, creating the stereotype that beer is a masculine drink.
Is it time women reclaimed their lost art?
Amelia Leonard is somewhat of a beer connoisseur. Having worked for one of Cheltenham’s premier beer suppliers for the last two years, she knows her stuff, but some male customers still fail to take her seriously.
Regardless, Amelia still believes that beer is a genderless drink:
“There is nothing at all that means men should drink beer and women shouldn’t. There is no reason that men can brew beer and women can’.”Amelia Leonard
Having experienced the sexism that women in beer have to put up with, Amelia now strives to encourage and implement gender equality in the industry, but it doesn’t come without its issues.
The beer industry is a challenging place for women whether they be consumers or employees.
Women who drink beer are hailed as unattractive and masculine by their male counterparts. Because, apparently, we are supposed to make all of our life decisions with the goal of male approval in mind.
Yes, that includes your beverage choices.
But for those in the workplace, being demeaned, patronised and ignored is just part of the job, as Amelia tells me:
“When a customer clearly needs a recommendation, I’ve asked if they require assistance. They have replied no and then immediately proceeded to ask a male colleague a couple metres away from me.
“I’ve also overheard a man say to a colleague of mine that they “hate it when some little girl who knows nothing about beer works behind the bar.'”
Amelia’s experience scratches the surface of what it’s really like for women who are trying to get their foot in the door of the beer industry..
In a four-part series on sexism in beer, Beervana recounted the experiences of women in the workplace, and the tales ranged anywhere from being ignored by customers right up to being sexually assaulted by male bosses..
Despite the struggle women are still facing in an industry that was created by them, Amelia was quick to reassure me that there is light at the end of the tunnel:
“Since beginning work in the industry I have seen a growth in the number or senior women in craft breweries, which is brilliant. There is a local craft brewery called Burkes, which is run by an amazing women who creates the recipes, brews the beer, designs the labels, bottles the beers and ships
them all by herself! Girl power or what?
“There is still much more to be done with gender equality in the industry but that can only be done as more and more women break down the stereotype, which can only be done if more women are introduced to the beer industry.”
Aside from the stereotypes that women suffer in the industry, a big problem for women who want to give beer a try is that they don’t know where to start.
For lots of women, when they think of beer, they think of lukewarm Carling from a plastic cup at a football match. In reality, there’s a beer for everyone, and Amelia is calling for more education to help women to find their niche:
“Many people believe that beer is either mainstream lager or warm, brown beer, neither of which appeal to a lot of people. Through education you can encourage women to try more styles, in which most people are guaranteed to like at least one beer.
“I have had many women approach me and say they don’t enjoy any beer but are willing to try a recommendation I have; I have never had a woman
not enjoy the beer I have recommended them.”
But alongside the education and open-mindedness, Amelia thinks more needs to be done by pubs and bars, too:
“Pubs and bars need to sell more varieties of styles of beers on tap and also to promote people having free tasters before they buy as nothing is more
disheartening as purchasing a drink you don’t like.”
If you’re interested in getting into beer but don’t know where to start, check out this guide to beer styles for beginners.