Opinion: “Lady-beers” an insult to the women of craft beer

Photo via facebook.com/ChickBrewing

Kaleigh Dunn thinks “chick beers” set women in the industry back // Photo via facebook.com/ChickBrewing

Yesterday we asked: Is there really a need for women-targeted beer? Today, Kaleigh Dunn responded.

Kristi McGuire, I have only one question for you. If you’re a master brewer and 20-year veteran in the business, tell me this: What qualifies as “women-friendly beer?”

I’ll be waiting. You can answer me at [email protected]

And while we wait for her to get back to me (I’m betting on never, but that’s because she might be too busy commuting from St. Louis to Lakeland, Florida to brew these special lady-beers), let’s take a look at this phenomenon called “High Heel Brewing.”

If you haven’t read this article on USA Today, you should:

Mostly so you can see the shit-eating grin on McGuire’s face (HOW CAN YOU SMILE AS YOU HELP THE BEER WORLD SEEM MORE SEGREGATED? HOW?!), and also for the insights from other industry folk who also think this concept is a pile of garbage.

In a nutshell, the brewery is making beer for women. What’s wrong with that? A lot. Way too much. Everything. Everything is wrong with this idea. Let’s start with the notion that there is such a thing as “woman beer.”

Does that mean I have been drinking “dude beer” all along? Am I ruined because of it? Has it been hurting my delicate, flowery liver? WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MY OVARIES BECAUSE I’VE BEEN DRINKING DUDE BEER?!

I’m scared. Not for my ovaries, really, but I am scared because there is a woman in charge of a brewery who is okay with saying that there is such a thing as “beer for women.”

That’s the last thing I want for this industry. I want women to feel welcome in the whole wide world of craft beer, not cornered into this idea that there are signs on certain breweries and beer that say “NO GIRLZ ALLOWED.”

Women don’t need breweries making “woman beer.” We need people in the industry who care about women enough to remember that we order off the beer menu, too.

And now we have a face in the industry who is perpetuating the ridiculous notion that there is “man-beer” and “woman-beer”: Kristi McGuire. A woman, who has been in the industry for twenty years, who worked for Anheuser-Busch. Might I remind you all, that this is the SAME company who allowed this creepy, rape-y label to go to market:


Kristi McGuire worked for this company. Are you grossed out yet?

She’s also really good at contradicting herself. Consider this quote from the USA Today article:

“In the past, it was assumed women wanted sweeter and lighter beers and that’s just not the case,” McGuire said. “That’s not what you see at the pub or the craft beer store.”

Then consider the description of their flagship beer Slingback:

The Slingback Perry Ale is a beer with a fairly low alcohol content — 5.4% alcohol by volume — made with pear and passion fruit juices, along with chamomile and elderflower to add spice to the brew. Slightly more carbonated than other ales, with a light, refreshing finish, it’s akin to Prosecco, McGuire says.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Also, let’s look at the “stylish packaging.”

Slingback Perry Ale is one of High Heel Brewing's two beers that are specifically geared toward women // Image via @highheelbeer

You have got to be fucking kidding me. Stahp.

High Heels Brewing also named an IPA “Too Hop’d to Handle,” and I can’t put my hatred for that name right now into words so I’m going to just give you the description to read while I bleed out my ears:

The other beer, Too Hop’d to Handle India Pale Ale, is an “aggressive” 8.4% alcohol and higher than average IPA bitterness (rated with 89 international bitterness units or IBUs). Made with four different kinds of hops, the beer is citrusy and bold — and will likely appeal to men, too. The addition of Belgian candy sugar lessens “that little bit of malt linger that stays on your tongue,” McGuire said. “I think women will appreciate that.”


And I guess she thinks testicles have eyes, because they decided on the color scale of this packaging below because it is more “gender neutral.”

Too Hop'd to Handle IPA is one of High Heel Brewing's two beers that are specifically geared toward women // Image via @highheelbeer


In all seriousness though, this company is an insult to the women who simply enjoy craft beer. To the women who don’t want to be put in a corner to play with their “woman beer”. To the women who don’t want pink bottles, pretty packaging, or “female friendly marketing”. To the women who simply don’t care about anything except for what the beer tastes like.

High Heels Brewing is an insult to every woman involved in craft beer who has worked hard to prove to the world that beer isn’t just for the dudes. This company is perpetuating the idea that beer can be gendered, whether through marketing or through recipes concocted based on bullshit Nielsen surveys. This is not how we obtain loyal craft drinkers who are women — this is how we turn them away.

And I’m not the only one who believes this:

“We don’t need a beer marketed to women because we need to market all beer to all people based on benefits of the beer itself,” Engdahl said.

That would be Emily Engdahl, the executive director of the Pink Boots Society.

“Any time you isolate or shun half your audience,” [McCune] said, “it’s never a good place to be.”

And that would be Jimmy McCune, executive director of New York advertising firm EGC Group’s craft beverage division.

I want High Heel Brewing to know that they aren’t doing anything revolutionary trying to market to women. You aren’t starting a crusade to bring women into the craft beer market. Instead, you are deterring them from trying other beers because you will have created the idea that “other beers” aren’t “beer for women”.

Beer is for the people, goddamnit. All people. McGuire can take her High Heel and shove it.

This post originally appeared on Medium.com

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