Some might open a bottle of wine for Thanksgiving dinner or crack open a cold one for the football game. If that drink is a craft beer, there's a good chance the person enjoying it is a woman. Recent surveys have shown a major driver of Alabama's growing craft beer market is women in their 20's and 30's. One Birmingham group is tapping into this growing interest among female beer drinkers.
Kelly Hughes makes her way across the crowded patio at Hop City Beer and Wine in Birmingham. She pours beer into the glasses of some very grateful women.
She's a certified beer expert and sales rep for Alabama Supreme Beverage. Tonight she's also a teacher.
Hughes is a guest lecturer at this meeting of Hops for Honeys, which is a women-only craft beer education club. The group teaches everything from food pairings to brewing. Co-founder Melinda Sellers and a friend got the idea for Hops for Honeys four years ago, after their husbands founded Birmingham's Good People Brewing Company. As the men experimented with new tastes and flavors, their wives would recruit friends to sample the brews. These taste tests soon turned into monthly get-togethers and eventually Hops for Honeys.
"It just blossomed from people we know to all of a sudden getting emails, friends of friends wanted to come, and then we've had several meetings where we didnât know anyone at the meeting," said Sellers.
Since then Sellers say Hops for Honeys has developed an internet following in the hundreds including 75 registered, dues-paying members. Even though many members are craft beer enthusiasts and brewers, the club has kept the same friendly, come-as-you-are feel as those original meetings. Sellers thinks that adds to the group's popularity.
"We are targeting the woman who wants to ask any question that doesn't want to be intimidated by a room full of home brewers," said Sellers. "That's a much more inviting scene for a wine-drinker or a 'I'd rather have a margarita kind of girl.'"
Hops for Honeys' meetings are not meant to convert drinkers to craft beer. However Sellers says most women end up being surprised how diverse and flavorful the brews can be. She thinks this range of taste is why craft beer has been so successful in attracting new female drinkers.
"Women are really into cooking and into flavors and spices. There's scientific studies that show that women have more honed in palates then men," said Sellers. "As they learn about craft beer, they're really turned on to it and have trouble going back to things that has less flavor."
Kelly Hughes, the craft beer representative lecturing at tonight's meeting, agrees taste is what draws women into the craft beer scene. But she thinks the appeal goes deeper than just flavor. While big beer companies such as Budweiser and Coors advertise specifically to men, craft beer's selling points are more gender-neutral.
"Craft beer opens up a lot of doors for women to make a move in," Hughes said. "It's artful [and] being that it's smaller, it's often community driven. All of those things play a factor."
Community is what brought Shira Voegle to tonight's Hops for Honeys meeting. She says she sees craft beer as part of the local goods movement that's taken over the city.
"I'm really into Birmingham itself. So buying local food, anything that's local," said Voegle. "Since we have this craft beer industry all of a sudden just bombarding Birmingham, it's so exciting to try things that are made by local people."Sellers says Hops for Honeys' next step is starting chapters in other cities. She's already received requests for meetings from women living in Mobile and Huntsville. It's just a matter of finding the time and the right place to raise a glass.
~ Hollie Parrish, November 26, 2013