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Monday, August 02, 2010

Women Are Craft Brewing's Future

I recently spoke to a journalist doing a story on the future of craft beer. (A worthy topic for a post, but not this one.) He was interested to know how much growth craft breweries in the Northwest might be expected to enjoy. A lot can be said there, but I highlighted one factor I thought has gone relatively unexamined. Per capita beer drinking has remained pretty steady over the years, fluctuating only slightly year by year. Different states consume beer at different rates, but the trendline for individual states remains steady, too. Therefore, all things being equal, if craft breweries want to increase market share, they must take it away from macros and imports.

Ah, but all things are not equal. The other way they can do it is find new segments who don't currently drink beer. And there's a HUGE one: women. They constitute half the drinkers in America, and they barely sniff the stuff. Ladies prefer cocktails and wine. I posted results of a Gallup poll last year showing that only a fifth of female drinkers cited beer as their preferred beverage. (Men, of course, prefer beer--58% will choose it over wine or liquor.)

I just got an email from Gallup pointing me to this year's poll. Guess what--it looks like we're already seeing some substantial movement.

Women Citing Beer as Preferred Beverage

__________________21%_____27% ___+6%
Under 49 years old
___25%_____35% ___+10%
Over 50 years old
____15%_____18% ___+3%
This appears to be real movement. The margin of error is 4%, and the trends are all consistent. While we can't be certain those numbers are exactly accurate, we have to assume the actual movement toward more beer-drinking is. Moreover, if women were taking to beer, you'd expect to see the trend emerge among younger women--and so it is. The really big finding: in the past year, younger women have made a serious move toward beer as their preferred beverage. A year ago, it was the third-most preferred beverage; this year it was way out in front of liquor, and only trailing wine by 4%. It's not unreasonable to envision a future when beer is the preferred beverage among men and women.

Gallup doesn't break consumption down by type, so for all we know, these women might be Pabst drinkers. Surely some are. But you have to imagine that craft beer is picking up a disproportionate share of that shift. The beer is better and more vivid-tasting, and the marketing is far more woman-friendly than the still borderline misogynistic macro campaigns.

If I were a craft brewery, I would be extremely aggressive about trying to market to women. You may convert a few Bud men to your Sang Noirs, but it's going to be a lot easier to convert pinot women.



  1. Well isn't it timely that I am a woman and I just started a blog about my love for beer So naturally, I couldn't agree with this posting more.

  2. Cheers Beervana - this is PRECISELY why Women Enjoying Beer exists - to help develop and serve - accurately - the female beer consumer. WEB data collected from women would echo this info - and yes, the beer community needs to listen. Some are - myths still need to be busted so there's plenty of work to be done. Genuinely earning female market share garners more enthusiasts AND does not cannibalize existing drinkers. Thanks! Best, Ginger

  3. In this vein, my local
    - has added a permanent tap in the bar for Wandering Aengus CiderWorks products. The Anthem Pear Cider particularly well regarded by women
    - has allocates a tap in the cafe to a transitional/entry level craft beer; eg, amber, golden, or wheat ale or pilsner lager.

    My wife is moving from wine to beer; her preference is a malt-forward pilsner that reminds her of the Ballentine beer her father drank in Connecticut, 1970s. Her favorite beer, Root Heather Ale, is no longer available.

  4. When I worked at a craft brewery, I found that women were often about the hoppy beers, and at first it shocked me pretty seriously. I feel that more and more women are craft beer folks, and not just because their boyfriends/husbands are beer people.

    I also see that more women are working at breweries across the nation - and brewing is traditionally a male-centered business. These women aren't just hussies in sheer clothing selling beer in bars, either. They're working on the bottling line, brewing and cellaring, and every other job you can imagine.

    If I were marketing beer still, I'd definitely develop campaigns towards women. Whereas this might not be the central focus of my marketing, there are various social media channels where an inexpensive campaign could be very powerful.

  5. Thanks! Let it also be known that, according to Morgan Stanley stats circa 2007, 31 percent of women drink beer, and 35 percent of women drink craft beer. Paul Gatza from the Brewers Association says the amount of women who prefer craft over macro might be because there's a bigger proportion of them than men who are supertasters. Of course, this might also be why some women are especially averse to hops at first, while men strive to drink the more brash, "manly" brew. That said, I know more female than male hopheads.

    Now the shameless plug for my organization, disguised as exposition for my next point: I'm part of a nation-wide organization called; I lead the Texas group. We're an event-based female beer appreciation group. We put on educational sessions, and fun, themed nights like "pints and pedi's" and "Stall Crawl," to find the nicest bathroom at the best beer bars.

    You'd think the craft beer industry would be happy that we're creating consumers, and that's generally the case. But it surprises me when people say something like, "Why are you trying to divide the craft beer community?" Or, "Plenty of women drink craft beer."

    To the latter -- yes, but not enough.

    The former question is what makes me laugh. If there's a guy's poker night, why can't there be a Girls' Pint Out? There is definitely a gap that needs to be closed. Women need to be socialized to enjoy beer -- but not in the same way that men have been.

  6. Great article! Hops 4 Honeys is a Birmingham, AL based beer education club if any of your female readers are from the area and looking for place to learn more about beer.

  7. Thanks for shining a light on this growing market of craft beer drinkers and advocates. A great case study is the official beer website Ladies of Craft Beer: Women from all over the nation are contributing to the conversation.
    Cheers! Micki
    @GourmetGlee on Twitter

  8. I would love to join the conversation! This is a good one. I was wondering what do you think that the craft beer industry can do to attract more women to beer?