Friday, October 9, 2009

Beer pips Wine, Flatter and Healthier

It’s the weirdest thing. Pubs are shutting all over the place – about 40 a week at the last count – yet sales of quality beers are on the up. And it’s not just sales of bottled beer either, but keg and cask beer, too, which you drink in pubs.  I can’t work it out. My new favorite local brewer, Hepworth & Co in Horsham, is brewing around the clock in order to keep up with demand. Sales are soaring, up 18 percent on last year, according to the company’s head brewer Andy Hepsorth.
“We concentrate on making beer that a few people rave about, rather than beer that a lot of people don’t object to,” he says. “This seems to strike an chord with our customers, along with the fact that we source everything as locally as possible.
Even my wife, Marina, likes it, although commendably enough, she usually waits until lunch or at least midmorning before getting stuck in.
After all, beer comes in all manner of styles and flavors. It goes well with food, It’s fat free, cholesterol free and it has fewer calories than wine (and less alcohol), as well as being low in carbohydrates (a pint of beer has half the carbs of an apple). So what’s not to like? It’s almost as if beer was designed specifically with women in mind.
“Quite right!” exclaims Kristy Mc Cready of the Bitter Sweet Partnership, a multi million pond investment funded by Molson Coors Brewing Company to encourage more women to drink beer. “The difficulty is persuading women what a great drink it is. We drink more than26 million pints of beer every day in Britain, but only eight percent of women say that it’s their preferred drink, while 77 percent say they never touch it.”
Bitter Sweet’s research has shown that women see wine as aspirational and chic but beer as un sophisticated and unstylish. They believe beer is fattening and worry about what other women will think of them if they drink it. Apparently, women have more taste receptors than men and are more likely to enjoy the wide variety of falvours that beer offers, but are some how conditioned to think they won’t.
“Nobody likes their first taste of beer,” says McCready. “But for guys, it’s a rite of passage, a ritual, after which they’re all part of the gang. For women, there’s no such reward because all their friends will be drinking wine and they think they’ll stand out as unsophisticated and ‘chavvy’ among their peers, with the added risk of developing an unbecoming beer belly.”
The trouble is that most beer is made, advertised and sold by men for men. Women just don’t get much of a look in. Happily, though, that is starting to change as more women enter the brewing industry – and not just to pull pints in a low cut top. The head brewer at the St. Anstell Brewery is Paola Leather, who must surely be unique – a qualified female brewer from Colombia with an MBA to boot.
“Beer is my passion,” says Leather. “I never drink anything else at home and can’t understand why more women don’t do the same. There really is a beer for every occasion and I think the female market is largely untapped. Next year we’ll be bringing out our first lager specifically with women in mind.”