There's really no question that beer has long been a man's domain. For decades, the industry wooed males in its advertising, with women either used as pinups or sidekicks. Even now, a walk into most breweries finds a skewed gender demographic, with more men brewing and drinking beer. So what does it take for women to choose a cold brew over a glass of wine?
Kristi McGuire thinks it's time for real beers that target the female demographic. The master brewer, who began her career at Alaskan Brewing Company and held high-level positions at Anheuser-Busch, believes that with all the craft beers out there, there's a gap when it comes to marketing to women.
So McGuire is launching High Heel Brewing, a line of craft beers for women. The beers will be brewed at Brew Hub in Lakeland, Florida, and will be available throughout the state beginning in June, with Republic National handling the distribution.
In the past, there have been some attempts at brewing beer specifically for women, such as Chick Beer and Three Cordilleras Rose from Colombia. McGuire, however, is not looking to make watered-down Barbie beer for the ladies. "I want to celebrate women and create more women beer lovers."
The brewer says she tested the beers for months, beginning with family and friends then moving on to the Brew Hub taproom in Lakeland, where her beers were pitted against established brands such as Cigar City. The beers, which weren't listed under the High Heel name at the time, received good reviews from both men and women. "The beers played equally well with all of the customers." McGuire says she was pleased with the result. "They're perfect for women like me who love craft beer, but I have a lot of friends who are male that are welcome to drink them."
High Heel Brewing's first two beers include an 8.4 percent ABV American IPA called Too
McGuire describes Slingback — a 5.4 percent ABV ale combined with pear cider, along with passionfruit juice, chamomile, and elderflower — as the prosecco of beers. "It's light and not too heavy. The sugar content is lower than in most ciders, and there's not a beer that I know made with this generous amount of fruit."
While the Slingback has a softer, more fruit-forward description, Too Hop'd to Handle is a traditional IPA brewed with Columbus, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops, along with a seasonal rotating fourth hop. McGuire points out that the 8.4 percent ABV Too Hop'd is higher on the International Bittering Units scale (IBU: 89) than Cigar City's Jai Alai (IBU: 70).
The brewer says she specifically started High Heel with two very different brews. "There's a diverse amount of beer on the market, and we really want to include more women in craft beer. I think there are still many women who enjoy wine and spirits who haven't experienced craft beer they like. You're going to have women who really do want to have something on the sweet side."
The big question is whether women need beer specifically tailored for them. Jonathan Wakefield, founder of J. Wakefield Brewing, thinks both women and men can drink from the same tap, so to speak. "I think [making beers specifically for women] is a backward step, not a forward step."
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The Miami brewer says that although the beer industry skews male, things are changing. "I have a female brewer [Maria Cabré-Delfino], and she's the only one in Miami," Wakefield says. "Is it becoming more accepted? Yes, but what is even more accepted is that more and more women are exploring different beers. I've seen a lot of growth of women drinking IPAs and women coming in for our aged-barrel releases."
Wakefield says he sees many women customers in his taproom. "That's just the way it is. I think all beers are made for everyone. Do we make beers women like? Sure. Do we make beers specifically for women? Never. We make a pink beer, and men and women both go absolutely crazy for it."
Still, anything that opens the craft beer market to women isn't necessarily a bad thing. As McGuire says of her High Heel beers: "I welcome the dialogue. We really just want to celebrate women and make the trail wider for them."
High Heel beers will be available in Miami beginning in June. A list of where to find them will be announced soon.