Craft beer group offers women pint of camaraderie
“Real women drink real beer” — that’s the sentiment and mission statement of Victoria’s newest craft beer appreciation group, and the only female-focused hop sippers in the city: Sisters of The Tap.
“We have nine breweries in Victoria, and there are great women involved in the industry, but still no group celebrating that fact,” says Lindsay McQueen, events coordinator for Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, and Sisters creator. “I wanted a group where women can come and learn more with no pressure.”
Sisters of The Tap will cheer its inception with its first “Beer School” on Wednesday, June 20, 5:30 p.m. at Spinnakers (308 Catherine). No membership is required to be part of the group, and all women are invited to meet, sample 16 craft varieties and learn about the creation of each. After that, McQueen hopes to host monthly meetings, educational tastings, special events, even group road trips.
While international groups like the Pink Boots Society, aimed at industry professionals, and Barley’s Angels, aimed at consumers, were created with chapters all over to empower women to advance their experience and enjoyment of beer culture, Victoria has had a dearth of options until McQueen’s project, which will be the first Barley’s Angels chapter in the city and aims to “connect women who appreciate craft beer with others and to promote the education and enjoyment of craft beer.”
Start-up Sisters include McQueen, Spinnakers brewster Kala Hadfield, Salt Spring Island Ales co-owner Becky Julseth, Spinnakers general manager Claire Radosevic and sommelier Tanya Loeppky.
“There was a point when craft brews were edged out of the market, along the time that mass production beer became popular and aimed at the male-dominated working class,” says Salt Spring’s Julseth. “Being an owner of a brewery, this is an issue on our mind, and we work to attract a female market as well as a male one — that means sophisticated bottles and labels that people want to hold the way they do wine or spirits.”
Hadfield has grown up working in Spinnakers, but has been brewing herself for eight months, and says there is no real female-focused beer, but there are still plenty of misconceptions. Many of those myths, she says, come from being surrounded by generic, mass-produced beers.
“A lot of women are intimidated by beer, or don’t think they like dark beers,” Hadfield says. “But if you sit down and start out with a nice kölsch, and work into the nut brown ales, you’ll see drinking real craft brews is nothing like generic beers.”
Other myths are that dark beers have to be heavy, says Hadfield, or that all beer contains wheat (except for hefeweizens, craft beer has little or no gluten). Another myth is that beer is fattening, adds Julseth. Like any other food, it contains many nutrients, including protein and fibre.
“People have expectations of what they are going to experience when they drink beer, but tasting a chemically infused berry ale in a can is nothing like sipping craft beer made with real raspberries,” says McQueen. “It’s a whole other experience.”
Julseth says the key is to just jump in, then slowly broaden your flavour preferences. Being part of a group like Sisters of the Tap can open that door. “Beer is similar to coffee or wine — bitter flavours can seem scary at first,” she says, “but once you’ve warmed up to the idea, your pallet will really open to a whole new universe.” M