More Work Ahead

If you’re reading this and you’re a man, great. If you are a woman, even better. Not that I want to become the Germaine Greer of the beer world. I simply want to make it clear that beer is as much a woman’s drink as it is a man’s. Even though the wonderful world of beer may still be very much dominated by men.

In the past few years, our women-and-beer-project has grown immensely, with an overwhelming number of positive reactions from both sides of the gender line. When we were just getting our project off the ground, the world was a grim place where marketers believed that women only like beer when it’s sweet and fruity, a place where society in general was very sceptical of female beer drinkers and the hospitality industry didn’t treat beer as an equal of wine. Thankfully, I can honestly say that after only three years, we’ve come a long way.

But, yes there is a but. Although more and more women are attending beer festivals and events, and participating in beer tastings, the truth is most women still tend to choose a glass of wine over a quality Belgian beer. Despite our best efforts, we are still missing the boat when it comes to convincing women to give beer a chance.

And that is actually all it takes. After showing about 200 women’s organizations the beauty of beer, and letting them discover beer’s wide spectrum of aromas and flavours, the majority of women were pleasantly surprised.

There’s no denying there is still a lot of work to be done on the presentationand perception of beer from a societal standpoint. But the real mentality switch is made while tasting.

So if someone asks me why ‘women and beer’, why promote Apero National (a ladies-only beer event on 7 March), why brew Eva and Deliria with just women, I respond with more questions: How many women drink beer in your family? And how many of them would order a beer during a night out, instead of the usual wine or cava, let alone serve beer at a dinner party? If they can answer ‘half or most of them’, I would be satisfied. But I am fairly sure we’re not there yet.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to become guest editor for this issue of Belgian Beer & Food dedicated to women and beer. I’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day with a beer event for three years in a row now, but it’s not enough. Reaching women in the beer world is the easy part; getting more women into beer is the real challenge. And I can’t think of a better way to do this than through writing.

When will it be enough? The day I can walk into any Belgian bar or restaurant and see a lot of women and men enjoying beer together.

If you are a man and you’ve reached the end of this editorial, please pass it
along to your wife, mother, aunt or niece. And perhaps pour out one of your
favourite Belgian beers for them to enjoy while reading. Because it may be still a man’s world, but it would be nothing without a woman in it.

Sofie Vanrafelghem