On Gender and Beer: Changing Our Expectations of Women

Remember that? In 2003, this was the apex of  advertising for Miller Lite, who aired the ad during that year’s Super Bowl. The cause of the argument – “great taste” or “less filling” – doesn’t really focus on the beer, does it?

But that’s the point.

Until the recent surge of craft, we haven’t truly lived in a world where beer itself could handle the focus of a consumer. When product choices consist of various American light lagers that offer the same drinking experience, it’s important to use some smoke and mirrors to make a sale.

In this case, it’s the idea that female sexuality is more adept at capturing an audience than the otherwise boring product itself. This not only devalues women, but the product trying to be sold. That is, if you can look past the scantily-clad game that’s being played in front of you.

Which leads to this question: what happens to the role of females when the product does start selling itself in a culture built to the male ego?

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On Gender and Beer: Why Do We Think Men Are from Ales, Women Are from Lagers?

to_men_from_god_women

Conversations on Capitol Hill once again became focused on the equity of men and women last week, as the White House marked Equal Pay Day. Even in 2014, women are still fighting an uphill battle not only in relation to income, but workplace discrimination and advancement opportunities.

The little-known “holiday” has been marked since 1996 as a way to highlight the income gap between men and women. On a broader scale, it shines a light on continued issues facing gender equality in our country. We are making progress, but are yet to find a way to put men and women on equal footing.

It’s a discussion that can be applied to many industries and occasions outside of just pay, where forces work to push us toward what it means to be the “fairer sex” or embrace our machismo. “Boys will be boys” almost sounds like a rallying cry at times, as the growth and maturity of males becomes a product of our societal expectations of the gender-based paths we follow.

But that doesn’t mean our path is entirely laid out before us, even when discussing the beer industry and its stronghold on the psyche of the American male.

The rise of craft has shifted perceptions about beer – what it tastes like, looks like, and how it’s made. However, in an industry that doesn’t accurately track the number of women it employs (perhaps less than 1 percent) I fear we still can’t shake decades of implied masculinity and what that stands for, no matter how artisanal our beer may be.

beer_cans_bottles_wall_from_god men and women

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Why I Don’t Worry About (Beer) Journalism

old-time-reporter

I used to be a servant to deadlines – my ball and chain the ink-stained notepads and pens scattered across my desk. My boss? An editor who would take my writing and will it into submission.

My work days were long and relentless. I often rose before the sun peeked over the horizon and returned home well after it – and all the people it touched – snuck away into the darkness of night. I ate, but sparsely. Ill-prepared meals would be frantically eaten on the fly, either as I was walking to or away from my work area.

It was thrilling. I was a journalist.

pen-paper

Tools of the trade.

In another life, this was the norm. I had voluntarily sought out this daily grind. Like all the others scattered across the newsroom, I was made bold by the masochistic behaviors of my professional lifestyle. We answered to one master – Deadline – and prayed for forgiveness at the alter of AP Style.

For a long time, this was how I made a living, but it’s a life I left behind six years ago. Now I serve from 9 to 5. I can eat whatever I like, when and where I please. I no longer focus my conversations on my ability to write five more inches of copy.

Which is why I was particularly struck by my assignment for last week’s Session post, doled out by Heather Vandenengel of Beer Hobo. Based on the topic of beer journalism, Oliver Gray and I offered a pair of corresponding humorous posts on the triumphant birth and quick death of modern beer journalism.

But we can’t just leave it there, especially with a topic so near and dear to my ink-filled heart.
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Birth Announcement: Welcoming Modern Beer Journalism … “The Session” April 2014

Stork_bottle

ANYTOWN, U.S.A — Modern Beer Journalism was born June 23, 2012.

The parents, sub-humans who spend their day trolling the drecks of of the five Ws and a pack of unabashed cheerleaders, are yet to provide a full, Christian name. Members of the family said they looked forward to the child eventually joining the ranks of overbearing parents and New York sports fans in his growth to uninformed homerism.

Descended from famed author Michael Jackson, Modern Beer Journalism features a pedigree of insight and tempered beliefs on the artistry of brewing. His parents, however, don’t expect that to matter.

Modern Beer Journalism was born at your local beer festival, where his first words were a mewling question asking “what are those women drinking?” It caused an uproarious cheer from attendees, except for nearby women who were busy discussing the intricacies of a dry-hopped saison. Modern Beer Journalism reportedly asked someone to offer them a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, to which the women declined.

“He’s probably going to do this every year,” one of the women sighed.

Whereas Modern Beer Journalism is expected to spend a long life at newspapers, those in the know hint that he may branch out on his own online, where he’ll focus his efforts on beer reviews of rare one-offs kept only for his own enjoyment. The expectation is that despite a well-rounded early vernacular, Modern Beer Journalism will focus on key buzzwords, describing things as “hoppy,” “malty” or “malted hoppiness.”

Modern Beer Journalism’s parents noted the beauty of their son is his unflappable optimism about any and all beer-related topics. There is no need for breast-feeding, they said, as a bottle of IPA is preferred by both baby and parents.

Drinking will not be a problem for Modern Beer Journalism, as it’s rumored he’ll simply tell you when he’s had enough. That threshold may never come verbally, however. Despite an insatiable thirst for India pale ale, his young eyes light up at the simple mention of a barrel-aged Russian imperial stout. In the early hours of his life, the only thing that would help Modern Beer Journalism calm down from a frantic growth was holding a 15 percent ABV stout in its arms while being sung to sleep by cries of angry babies who didn’t get one.

In an odd turn of events, doctors reported record size for the newborn, which was recorded at 2-feet-10, 267 pounds and already sported a full beard.

baby beard

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BREAKING NEWS: Tragedy has struck Modern Beer Journalism. Oliver Gray at Literature and Libation has the story.

session_logo_all_text_300This post has been my contribution to The Session, a monthly collaborative blogging effort with beer writers from around the world.

This month’s topic comes from Heather Vandenengel at Beer Hobo who wants to know – more or less – what’s up with beer journalism? A lot, really, but thanks to Oliver for tag-teaming this topic. We both hope to address it soon in a more serious manner.

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Birth of a Brewery? Another Look at Sharp End Brewing

Sharp End Brewing-logo

If you’re getting into the professional brewing game these days, there are probably two things to know, and Drew Perez is fully aware of both of them:

  1. “Everyone and their mother is creating a craft brewery right now.”
  2. “Lots of people are into IPAs, especially imperial IPAs because they want bang for their buck.”

But there’s a third aspect that brewers with professional aspirations hopefully certainly realize. It’s what sets Drew and his friends with Sharp End Brewing apart.

“Even if everyone is getting into [brewing], not everyone is creating great beer,” he said. “I want us to be well situated in what we can do when we’re ready to do it.”

Sharp End Brewing-Crew

The whole Sharp End Crew (from left): Steve Aiello, Anthony Apollo, Drew Perez and Frank Apollo.

Last week, I introduced you to Drew and Anthony Apollo, two of the guys behind Sharp End Brewing, an enthusiastic group of homebrewers from New York working their way to commercial beer production. I heard about the pair through a friend, who told me about their “Brewing Bad” exploits and my interest was piqued. But what really got my curiosity was when I found out they wanted to eventually take their homebrewing operation pro.

Of course they do, you may think. In this age of Pax Beervana, it’s easy to get in the game when you’ve got a five-gallon system at home, a dream and a Kickstarter account.

But these guys are not naive, even if they are relatively new to the beer industry.

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Beer’s Eye View: March 2014 Beertography

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It’s the end of the month, which means it’s time for my regular roundup of beertography from the last few weeks.

Below you’ll find some of my favorite, recent shots, which you may also come across on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. All my shots are taken with my iPhone 5 unless otherwise noted. The space where I shoot my photos – around the house – offers somewhat limited opportunities for pretty backdrops, which is why I think this latest batch upped my inventiveness to create images that will stand out.

Lucky for you, March was able to provide inspiration for two of my all-time favorite beertography shots. I hope you enjoy them too…

Lagunitas Cappuchino Stout – Late Night Jolt

Lagunitas-Cappuccino stout-beer-beertography

Saranac Chocolate Orange Ale – March Madness

Saranac-chocolate orange-syracuse-march madness-beer-beertography

Brewers Art Resurrection – Zombeerfied

resurrection-beer-beertography-redemption-martland

Goose Island Sofie – A Beer at Magic Hour

sofie-goose island-beer-beertpgraphy-chicago-2

As always, you can go back to see previous beertography posts:

I look forward to brainstorming some new images for April. I’m always looking for tips, tricks and other suggestions for beertography, so fire away below!

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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Zombeerfied: If Walking Dead Characters Turn, What Beer Would They Be?

walking dead header-beer

SPOILER ALERT (or is that nerd alert?): I’m a zombie fan.

In fact, I’ve been a Dead Head (not that kind) long before I became a Hop Head.

The obsession started years ago, when I first saw the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead on USA Network, which prompted me to check out the 1968 original, which meant I had to watch the other movies in George A. Romero’s trilogy, which made the genre stick to me like a rotting carcass on a sidewalk on a Georgia summer day.

Hell, this book has a permanent place on the backseat floor of my car, in case I need reading material:

zombie book

All this is to say, I’m a big Walking Dead fan. I have been since I first picked up the comic in 2003 and when the TV show started airing four years ago.

With the latest season of AMC’s smash hit coming to a close this Sunday, I thought it was the perfect time to mix a couple of my passions: the undead and beer. But not by putting brains in my beer.

What follows is my attempt to find the perfect pairing: each main character of the show is matched with a corresponding beer to represent their “turned” self. The rules were simple: The beer has to be readily available, a year-round offering and adhere to the traits of each character.

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Birth of a Brewery? From ‘Breaking Bad’ to Breaking Pro: An Introduction

Today we meet the guys of Sharp End Brewing, an enthusiastic group of homebrewers from New York working their way to commercial beer production. Next week, we’ll delve a little deeper to highlight some of the details and steps they’re taking to get there.

Breaking Bad-Brewing Bad-Sharp End Brewing

 

The chemistry called to them.

It started with cooking batches in backyards and wherever space was available. The hope was that it ended in their own laboratory, with shining, stainless steel equipment all around them as recipes bubble away.

The parallels between the friends of Sharp End Brewing and hit TV show Breaking Bad are hard to ignore. But from the beginning, that was kind of the point.

“We were all sitting at this bar for Oktoberfest and talking about the show and beer we would brew for it,” said Anthony Apollo, one of four homebrewing friends with Sharp End who hope to eventually take their hobby pro. “It was around the time Breaking Bad was wrapping up and we thought ‘let’s make a couple beers to commemorate it.’ “

Led by Drew Perez, the most tenured homebrewer of the bunch, the friends brainstormed recipes and came up with their “Brewing Bad” six-pack, parodying names of characters and other thematic aspects:

  • Mike EhrmanStout – Chocolate coffee stout
  • Holly (Walter White’s baby) – Winter warmer
  • Chili P – Pale ale with chili powder
  • Walter Weiss – Belgian wheat
  • SchraderBock – Eisbock
  • Los Pollos Hermanos – Mexian-style lager

However, after starting on the series of beers, Anthony and Drew, along with Anthony’s brother, Frank, and friend, Steve Aiello, decided their operation to simply create the one-off beers to share with each other might provide them a greater opportunity: to make it in the beer industry.

Opening a brewery isn’t an uncommon business proposition anymore. At the end of 2013, there were 3,699 active ‘permitted breweries’ by the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. That includes 172 in New York, where the friends are spread between New York City and its suburbs.

Sharp End Brewing-brew day

From left, Steve Aiello, Frank Apollo and Drew Perez watch wort boil during a brew day.

But what separates the ambition of Sharp End from other upstart brewers is their realization of their situation and the industry at-large. At a time when some are rushing to get in, they’re waiting.

There’s no Kickstarter campaign and no meetings with banks for loans. There’s just hope that in three to five years, they’ll be in a position to follow their dream.

“Right now, we’re creating as many beers as we can come up with and competing them as often as possible because that’s the best way we’re going to test our process and recipe creation,” Perez said. “Every time we bottle something, we bring it to a local bar and have all the staff taste it and be as critical and mean as possible so we can find out if it’s any good.”

Sharp End Brewing-Crew

The whole Sharp End Crew (from left): Steve Aiello, Anthony Apollo, Drew Perez and Frank Apollo.

The Sharp End group isn’t shying away from certified feedback, either. After winning a silver medal for a winter warmer in an American Homebrewers Association competition through the Philadelphia Homebrew Club, the friends are entering three beers into this year’s National Homebrew Competition: their Eisbock, an Irish red brewed with raspberries, and “Blood Rage,” an imperial IPA made with blood oranges.

Perez, who has been homebrewing since 2010 and spent three months apprenticing at Chelsea Brewing Company, said Sharp End’s eclectic range of contest entries is helping to fine tune the niche of what the group would eventually like to create. In the long run, he said Sharp End would have one flagship beer, four seasonal offerings and two rotating one-offs to offer variety. What those beers will be is yet to be decided.

For Perez, the key is immersing himself in beer knowledge, from reading Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer over and over, to listening to every podcast created by the Brewing Network. He also studies previous award-winning homebrews to guide his own recipes.

“When I get really passionate about something, I study the crap out of it, so I’ve been lending the books to everyone else and making them read them, too,” said Perez, who works off a 5-gallon all-grain system and is teaching Anthony, Frank and Steve to brew. “I want to be able to have them ready to make the same beer if I’m not available, even if it’s important that we each have our specialty.”

Sharp End Brewing-Brew day 2

Sharp End Brewing and others gathered in February to brew their blood orange IPA for the National Homebrew Competition.

For Apollo, that’s numbers. While each member of Sharp End continues their normal “day-to-day” – from graduate studies to consulting and chemistry – he’s slowly planning the means to set up an initial nano-brewery as a proof of concept before considering outside funding.

In the meantime, it’s about creating batch after batch in backyards and driveways, working toward their dream of opening Sharp End Brewing.

“Once we decided we had this opportunity, it was one of those moments where everything in life came into focus for a brief period,” Apollo said. “Now we’ve got plans.”

Have questions about Sharp End Brewing and their future plans? Post them below to have them answered. You can also visit their Facebook page to receive updates on progress and view photos of brew days and more.

Related: Birth of a Brewery? Another Look at Sharp End Brewing

Sharp End Brewing-logo

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

 

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Defining the Definition of ‘Craft Beer’

craft beer-beer-word cloud

We are living in Pax Beervana – the golden age of beer enlightenment.

You may have noticed that 2013 was another record year for craft beer, a seemingly never-ending display of growth that has seen barrel production nearly double from 8 million barrels in 2009 to 15.6 million in 2013. Craft sales, which make up 7.8 percent of the beer market, is now a $14.3 billion industry. Our pint glasses runneth over.

As us beer enthusiasts tend to do, this news is best consumed as part of a pairing, which is why we shouldn’t ignore the Brewers Association recent decision to alter their definition of “craft beer” to include Big Boy producers like Yuengling and August Schell. But the reason why this matters isn’t because of hypocrisy on part of the Association or the continued debate of “craft vs. crafty.

The reason both these pieces of news are important is because as craft beer continues its momentous climb, more people will officially become craft consumers, even if they don’t realize it. When they do, they’re not going to care about what officially defines “craft” in terms of adjuncts or barrels produced.

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Taste Test: The Downside of Labeling?

cow-taste-test

Where the taste test happens.

For those of us who are curious about what goes into our beer beyond hops, malt and yeast, labels only tell half the story … or is it the full story?

A while ago, I wrote about the use of natural flavoring in beers, explaining what it means and how it benefits brewers. An important outcome of the use and how flavors are labeled, however, may have the impact of setting expectations for a consumer. “Natural flavoring” as opposed to listing a specific taste or flavor, allows some flexibility for a brewery:

Why the term “natural flavoring?” I’d guess it straddles a fine line between impacting a consumers perception of a product and the legality of what is required to tell a customer. If you put a specific flavor front-and-center on the label – perhaps “lemonade” on Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy – there will be no doubt in a customer’s mind what they’ll be tasting. For a summer-specific beer like that, it makes sense.

So what happens when we are presented with specific labeling and the expectations that come along with them? I held a small (unscientific) experiment this weekend to get a better idea.
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