No Sex, Thanks: The Craft Beer Industry Struggles to Move Away from Sexism

For a very long time now, the beer industry has been male dominated. That’s apparent everywhere you look, from the staff at most older beer brands, to the advertising they put out. Sex sells, and the beer industry has taken full advantage of that for a very long time, marketing their products in conjunction with scantily clad women, and tongue-in-cheek advertising jargon. The craft beer industry, while dedicated to being different from Big Beer, has also failed to avoid the same pitfall.

For years now, craft brewers have used sexist beer names and label designs to market their products. Names like Raging Bitch, PD California Ale (panty dropper), Tramp Stamp, Panty Peeler, Thong Remover, Double D IPA and many others are prime examples of this.

This was indicative of one thing – the industry was dominated by men, and the audience for most breweries was male. However, women today make up a significant percentage of craft beer drinkers, and they’re tired of the sexism.

Finally, things are changing.

The 2017 Brewers Association Initiative

For those not in the know, the Brewers Association represents 3,800 craft breweries in the US. No, that doesn’t account for all of them. We’re somewhere north of 5,000 by this point. However, it’s a significant percentage. All members are required to adhere to the Brewers Association code, as well. It’s pretty common sense stuff for the most part, but they just added a couple of important points in response to the growing problem of sexism in the industry. Those lines are:

“Materials should not contain sexually explicit, lewd or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video or other images that reasonable adult consumers would find inappropriate for consumer products offered to the public”. Those same materials “should not contain derogatory or demeaning text or images”, either.

In addition to asking association members to follow the new additions to its code, there would be other repercussions if a brewery were to use sexist language or other labeling/naming devices with their beer. For instance, according to a story in USA Today, “Under the Brewers Association’s new guidelines, beers like Leg Spreader could face higher scrutiny should they ever be entered into and win medals at the World Beer Cup or Great American Beer Festival awards.”

Essentially, all entries into those competitions would scrutinize the beer’s marketing collateral and determine if the brewery was adhering to the code or not. If not, then the brewery would be unable to use the Brewers Association in conjunction with marketing its beer in any way. 

Does that really hurt breweries, or penalize them in any way? Probably not, but it’s at least a sign that industry leaders are taking sexism seriously. It’s still going to be a long road, but the journey is at least underway.

The Growing Number of Women Drinkers

For a very long time, beer has been marketed as being a “man’s drink”. It was brewed by men, for men, for the most part, at least during most of the 20th century. However, things are changing here, as well. The newest estimates put the number of female drinkers at roughly 39% of the wider beer world and 25% of the craft beer market. 

In fact, more women choose to drink beer today than any other type of alcoholic beverage, and that’s largely due to the higher-quality products available thanks to craft brewers and their dedication to producing better beer. While not quite to the halfway point, that’s a massive share of the market, and breweries that take a sexist tack with their marketing materials and naming conventions are alienating a significant number of potential customers. 

The Rise of Female Brewers and Brewery Owners

Once, you would have been hard pressed to find that many women working at the average brewery. Today, they make up 29% of the beer industry workforce. No, that’s not a majority, but it’s a sign that things are changing. There are more and more women working in the industry as a whole, whether as pub owners, or within a brewery, but there are also many more female brewers and brewery owners. 

Down in Georgia, two prime examples are Abbey of the Holy Goats and River Watch Brewery. There are dozens of other examples all across the country. And, while they remain in the minority, it’s obvious that women are not only interested in brewing, but that they are increasingly deciding to take their brewing passion professional. 

The Future

While the future is anything but set in stone, you can expect more of the same. More and more women will discover the world of craft beer, and more women will take on the mantle of brewer or brewery owner. You’ll also find women making up a larger and larger percentage of the industry’s workforce, whether that’s owning a craft beer bar, working as a cicerone, or in another capacity. While it may take years for it to happen, they will eventually make up at least 50% of the industry.

Yes, sex sells. Yes, it can be done tastefully. The real question is whether or not it should be used at all. When you consider the fact that eventually 50% of the industry, and 50% of craft beer drinkers might be women, the answer is “no”. 

What about you? Have any thoughts on the sexism in the beer industry? Is all this just politically correct nonsense, or is mutual respect important?