How to Drink Beer Like a Lady

The Beerded Ladies are out to undo craft beer’s reputation as a boy’s game.

It’s ladies craft night at Bed-Stuy’s Glorietta Baldy, but the focus is more on hops than embroidery hoops. A mixed crowd of men in Buffalo plaid and women in ‘90s-era 90210 florals have come to test their knowledge of craft beer with hosts Meredith Heil and Hayley Karl, also known as the Beerded Ladies.

“Brewing in this country has always been sort of a boy’s game,” Heil said. “It’s not to say that brewers are sexist, but it’s the kind of environment that might be intimidating to women.”

The Beerded Ladies are out to undo that, not only at a beer trivia night that commences with a high-five before diving deep into the finer points of the German Beer Purity Law, but also at their bi-monthly series aimed at women in the beer industry, Sisters in Craft.

“Women aren’t expected to drink beer or be interested in beer. Women aren’t expected to do some of the physical things you have to do as a brewer, like lift 50 pound bags of grain. [We’re creating] the kind of space for them to talk about their experiences and also celebrate the hard work that they do,” Heil said.

The Beerded Ladies met while bartending in Brooklyn and bonded over their mutual love of beer and a desire to get more women to drink it with them. Heil, a freelance beer writer, started a blog and asked Karl to come on board as a collaborator at the end of 2012. Popular events with $5 draught specials followed, and what began as a website developed into an IRL web of who’s who for women in the beer world. That means Sixpoint’s brewing manager Heather McReynolds, Lauren Grimm of Grimm Artisanal Ales, and Mary Izett, who made the leap from homebrewer to pro this year with the launch of Cuzett Libations with Chris Cuzme.

“When we started doing Sisters in Craft, a lot of the people we invited were saying it was so great to be in that kind of space and something they didn’t really even think about until they were in it — how valuable it was to be with other female brewers,” she explained.

As craft beer continues to grow, so do the women in its ranks. The Brewers Association announced that craft beer claimed 11 percent of the total volume of beer sold in the U.S. in 2014, up from 7.8 percent in 2013. Their goal is to grab 20 percent of the market by 2020. Heil has started to see an increasing number of women at homebrew events. “Almost every brewer got their start as a homebrewer,” she said. “That’s paving the path toward more women in leadership roles in the brewing industry.”

The Beerded Ladies also do all beer novices the service of an education that’s as fun as it is delicious, teaching neophytes that beer doesn’t have to only taste like Budweiser or a super-hoppy IPA that smacks you over the head with its bitterness. Heil, who used to lead pub crawls in Williamsburg, noticed a pattern when she introduced drinkers to a wider array of craft beers. At the start of the tour, women often stated a preference for lighter, sweeter beers, like Blue Moon or a hefeweizen.

“By the end of it, I’d ask them their favorite beers and nine times out of ten they’d say they liked the biggest, darkest stout I served them with the craziest ingredients. Once you start introducing different styles and different flavor profiles, people’s minds kind of get blown.”

What To Drink Now

“I’m a big fan of drinking saisons this time of year,” Heil said. Originally from the French-speaking part of southern Belgium, saisons were brewed in the winter to be enjoyed by farm workers in the late spring and early summer. “For this part of the country, at this time of year, it’s got a really nice balance between being medium-bodied, spicy, a lot of depth and flavor and character but not being super dark and intense and belly-warming. It’s got a lot of complexity, but it can be really easy drinking.”

Try Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. The Sorachi Ace hop gives this saison a “nice buttery and lemony edge that’s unique.”

Midwesterners rejoice! Kansas City’s Boulevard just entered the New York market. “Their Tank 7 is also an excellent example of the saison style. A bit boozier, a bit more intense, but really nicely done.”

“Everyone’s freaking out about Other Half, and I’m no exception. They’re really masterful at showcasing all the things hops are capable of doing in beer while also not having it be unbalanced somehow. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s pretty amazing.”

Finback in Queens is doing some pretty exciting, exemplary stuff now — some really creative beers with ingredients you wouldn’t expect.”

“Everything Grim Artisanal Ales does is just really awesome and really pretty, too. The artist that does the Grim Artisanal Ales labels is really awesome. If you ever see those bottles they’re super cool.”

Photo credit: Clay Williams

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Sarah McColl

Sarah McColl has written about eating, drinking, cooking and farming for Yahoo Food, Bon Appetit, TakePart and House Beautiful. She’s got a soft spot for Prairie Breeze cheddar, French breakfast radishes, and bourbon. Always bourbon.