Women volunteers at CAMRA's National Winter Ale Festival

Guest Blog by Neville Grundy, Southport and West Lancashire CAMRA 

8th March is International Women’s Day, a good time to consider the relationship of women and beer. According to legend, beer was a gift from a goddess to womankind. Beer has been brewed for at least 10,000 years, and for most of that time women were the brewers. In the early 18th century, three quarters of brewers in this country were female.

So why is only 13% of beer in this country drunk by women, a far lower figure than in the USA or most of Europe? Dea Latis, an organisation committed to bringing beer to women (dealatisuk.wordpress.com), suggests it’s because of misconceptions that beer is ‘fattening’ (it’s not, in moderation), ‘all tastes the same’ (it doesn’t) or is ‘a man’s drink’ (it doesn’t have to be).

What also hasn’t helped is the sexist imagery too often associated with beer marketing. I remember TV adverts in which hunky Tetley Bittermen turned away from beautiful women to pick up their pints – the message being: ‘don’t let women get in the way of your beer’. More recently with the real ale revival, some brewers have deliberately chosen sexist names with suggestive illustrations on their pumpclips.

The most infamous – but by no means the only – example was Slater’s Top Totty with a pumpclip displaying a bunny girl in a bikini. It created a huge stir when it went on sale in the Houses of Parliament where it was eventually banned. The beer has since been renamed.

Dea Latis director Annabel Smith has said: “Women don’t want a beer made for women. Women just want the beer and pub industry to look at things from their perspective, and reconsider how beer is presented and positioned to them.”

One suggestion is that glasses and packages of beer could be smaller than a half pint, but with more interest and more flavours. Draught beer can be legally sold in thirds of a pint, but the availability of such a measure is not always obvious.

Unfortunately, there is room for improvement even in CAMRA itself. Only 20% of members are female and the campaign does insist in using gender-based terminology such as ‘chairman’.

My own observations are that the situation is considerably better than it used to be, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

► The national CAMRA website is at: camra.org.uk. The Southport & West Lancs Branch website is at southport.camra.org.uk.

Do you have a story for Stand Up For Southport? Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at: mediaandrewbrown@gmail.com

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