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Monday, July 18, 2011

Puckerfest, Women, and a PIB Follow-up

Quickly now, for I am short on time:

1. Molson Coors is rolling out a new beer for women: Animee. As the name suggests, it means "animated" or, perhaps, "enlivened." The virtues are three: 1) a "low-bloating" formula that apparently involves less CO2, 2) low bitterness, and 3) versions in plain, rose, and citrus. The company is also releasing a lighter, more lightly-carbonated beer called Carling Chrome, also aimed at women. Americanos, you're out of luck: the beers are only available in Britain, where apparently few women drink beer. I'm all for breweries catering to women for a change, but my question is this: do women clamor for these kinds of beers, and will it tend to ghettoize a strata of brew as "chick beers?"

2. It's Puckerfest at Belmont Station. Release the hounds. Tonight we have Flat Tail brewer Dave Marliave and three of his beers. Dave is apparently the new Nick Arzner, the guy who has managed to command the attention of beer geeks from his obscure brewery in Corvallis. This is one of the signature events of Craft Beer Month, and unlike some of the others, dog-eared in their predictability, Puckerfest remains on the cutting edge. Expect more exceptional beer than you can reasonably drink. (Unreasonable drunks are still in luck.)

3. PIB Wrap-up.
Speaking of predictable, the Portland International Beerfest was no less fun this year, but I was a little disheartened by the insane prices for bottled beer. The average for a four-ounce pour was about 3.5 tickets (SPE of $63). I have always been sanguine about this scheme, because I trust the bottles are pretty steeply priced. But I happened to notice that they were asking FOUR TOKENS for Orval, a beer that can be purchased at any grocery store for about six bucks. It made me distrust every other beer at the fest, and I stuck to beers I could get for no more than three tokens. Weirdly, the very rare Cantillon Iris was pouring for just three tickets.

(Another complaint that I and almost everyone there made: no water. That's just idiotic.)

Perversely, the exorbitant pricing schemes drove people to the domestic draft taps, where beers were cheap and extremely tasty. There was an 2008 imperial stout from Stone aged in Elijah Craig barrels that they were giving away for $2 a glass. Lompoc's 2010 vintage of Old Tavern Rat was a mere token (pint price: $4).

Nevertheless, I did walk away smitten. The Page 24 Hildegarde Blonde, a two-token biere de garde that was done by three on Saturday, was sensational. The actual name of the brewery is St. Germain, and the "page 24" thing comes from an apparently apocryphal reference in a book by the mystic Hildegarde of Bingen about beer. Hildegarde looked like clover honey in the glass. It had an herbal, wildflower aroma that carried over to the palate. It was a bit viscous but, amazingly, strangely light on he palate (I can't square that impossible paradox, either)--and it finished smoothly and crisply. It's a 6.9% beer, but packs a quality of moreishness unique to farmhouse ales. Apparently Belmont Station stocks their Ambree Reserve, so you might sidle over to the bottle side when you're at Puckerfest and score one.


  1. I was having trouble deciding whether beer for women is insulting or just plain stupid. Decided stupid. The same kind of people who drink crappy light beers would go for this - i.e. people who don't care about beer at all, but about brand and being advertised to.

  2. It is an odd situation--especially in Britain, where consumption by women is so low. Obviously, Molson Coors has a particular market they're targeting (different from, say, Meantime's), so they're going to make versions of the beer they already make. But I wonder, mighty they not be better off just going for a totally different style of beer, like a wit or something?

  3. I called out the festival organizer on Beer Advocate and received only a canned response. When I gave specific examples of their lies (particularly that they are losing money on bottles), there was nary a peep after that. So I guess I'm not surprised. This year had a couple egregious examples, the worst of which were the Orval, the J.W. Lees Sherry (6 tickets for 4 oz. A 9.3 oz bottle is 9 dollars), and Firestone Walker 14 for 6 tickets (A bottle is 21 dollars. For reference, Scaldis Prestige, at 7 tickets, sells for 45 a bottle.)

  4. Hi Kristy from Molson Coors - thanks for picking up on the launch of Animee.

    Jeff is right - the amount of beer drunk by women in the UK is just about the lowest of any beer drinking country in the world and 60% of women here don't drink beer ever. What's worse is as a beer industry we've effectively ignored women so the numbers should come as no surprise but we believe it's the right time to do something different.

    Animee has been developed based on 2 years of research of over 30,000 women (beer & non beer drinkers) and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. What it does is offers real choice in the beer category for everyone - that to me has to be a good thing!!

  5. I agree with Tracy - the kind of women who might be attracted to this Animee aren't the kind of women who drink beer anyway. Women beer lovers (and I think I can speak for them, since I am one) merely find the sort of marketing simple pandering.
    In fact, I was talking to a fellow female beer geek the other day who was put off from a local taphouse completely when one of their staff actually described a beer as "not that girly", as though certain kinds of beer are girly by definition (my guess is the adjective they should have used was "sweet".)

  6. Transatlantic serendipity: I'm sitting in Amsterdam where I just finished a bottle of Page 24 Ambrée that I bought in Paris yesterday. Good stuff, and I'm glad to read that it is available in Portland. Actually I bought the bottle in Paris because I didn't recognize it from home -- shows how spoiled we are.