For most of recent history, beer drinkers have been predominantly male. However, things have changed in recent years, and women now make up 25% of those choosing to imbibe beer as opposed to wine or other alcoholic beverages. That shift in percentages has not been lost on brewers either. A casual glance at the beer industry today will show you marketing targeted specifically at women. However, you’ll also find other changes too – the rise of “women-centric” brews.
What Defines a Female Oriented Beer?
The rise of beer types geared for female drinkers begs the question, just what identifies a particular brew as being “for women”? Is it something to do with the color, or the flavor? Is it the packaging? Perhaps it’s the alcohol content. Actually, it’s a little bit of everything. Here’s a quick rundown of some things that you’ll find:
Women-Specific Formulations – This is probably the newest option on the market and the least numerous. There are only a handful of beer formulations that are designed to appeal to female drinkers as opposed to men, and they’re marked by some pretty specific characteristics.
Less Carbonation: While the typical man might sniff at the prospect of drinking a beer with very little carbonation (who wants a flat beer?), some breweries are taking their offerings for women in this direction. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that these types of brews offer “less bloating” and will make women more likely to pick up a 6-pack from their local store. Lower carbonation would certainly reduce burping and bloating, but it also changes the drinking experience and there’s really no conclusive evidence that this appeals to women.
Lower ABV: Another tack that brewers are trying seems to be reducing the alcohol content of their brews. Of course, this is also in keeping with the shift away from extreme craft beers toward session brews, but quite a few female-centric brews are now proudly touting alcohol levels of less than 4%. Overall, that’s probably a good thing for everyone (men and women) because it allows you to drink more without getting wasted.
Colors: This trend might have been sparked by the idea that women are fond of wine and related drinks, though no one can be sure. What is certain is that quite a few options on the market are now lighter in color and body than what was previously available. The notion that women prefer a less complex, lighter beverage is one that can be found in many other industries and isn’t confined to brewing alone.
Fruit Flavors: For those who’ve been in the craft beer world for a while, the addition of fruit flavors to beer isn’t anything new. Brewers have been using fruit and spices to add some zing to their offerings since time out of mind and that’s been revived with the craft brewing movement. However, the big boys are latching on to this idea and adding beverages to their portfolio that feature fruit flavors in order to make their beer more appealing to female drinkers.
Low Calorie: Diet drinks are certainly big business and brewers have been offering “light” versions of their brews for a long time. National leaders like Bud Light and Coors Light are prime examples. Overall, you’ll find this trend intensifying in the industry, with several “0-calorie” beers available. This is probably a bit of overkill, as a good beer is often light in calories to begin with (take Guinness for example). However, it’s definitely one of the hallmarks of brews designed to appeal to the female segment of the population.
Less Bitter: Perhaps one of the most common reasons for women to opt for something else over beer is because they dislike the somewhat bitter aftertaste that many brews leave behind. Several companies have started offering options with sweeter, milder aftertastes than what most people are used to in an effort to draw in female drinkers.
Going Beyond the Beverage
While changes to the beverage within the container are becoming more common, so are changes to the container and packaging. The idea here is to make brews more eye-catching for women. One prime example can be found in Chick Beer. The cardboard package is bright pink and black, designed to resemble a handbag. The bottle labels feature the same colors, but are designed to be reminiscent of that “little black dress”.
Chick Beer also incorporates other trends in the industry, such as lower carbonation and a lighter flavor. The offering is still pretty new on the market, so it remains to be seen just how well women will take to the beverage, though there are some very mixed reviews to be found out there.
Mixing Beer and Food
While pairing beers and food has been done for an incredibly long time, some brewing companies (AB for instance) have taken this to another level. Going beyond the simple listing of food types that pair well with different beverages, AB has actually released a cookbook that includes beer pairings, beer in recipes and more (featuring their beverages of course).
Where Does It Leave Us?
The various (and sometimes strange) ways that brewers are trying to catch the attention of more women can be a bit confusing. Where does it leave us? What will be the final fallout? Will we be left with flat beer with no alcohol content in pink packaging? Not to fret – discerning female beer drinkers will continue to opt for brews that offer appealing flavors and tastes, and most of the pretenders will go the way all fads eventually do.
However, if there is one thing that’s clear from the efforts of various breweries to capture the interest of this market segment, it’s that there is plenty of room for brands to establish themselves and try something new. Female drinkers are a lot like their male counterparts – offer them something real, something with good taste and something enjoyable and you’ll have them hooked and coming back time after time.