You know what's jet-lag tired? The idea of chick beer. You know the ones: your Mich Ultras, Bud Light Lime, and Miller 64s. Beers that market to a vapid fantasy woman who only wears crop tops and jorts with taglines like "Lose the calories. Not the taste." The same beer brands banking on a retro notion that all women are naive drinkers sipping in fear that one extra bottle of Heineken will make their bodies morph into a cottage cheese mound of mutant man-repellent. Lame. And totally out of date.
As of 2012, women ages 21-34 made up 44 percent of craft beer drinkers, according to Statista, an online statistic aggregator. Men of the same age range made up only 32 percent. Hear that, Anheuser-Busch? Chick beer is actually craft beer. And the ladies I know who drink it not only wear full-length shirts (though they all can totally pull off crop tops if they so choose), they're really damn smart. They're the women of the Beer Social Club.
The first Beer Social Club invite arrived last October.
"Hi All, A little impromptu, but a couple of us were thinking of getting together this Saturday for a potluck and beer pairing at my house," Jenny Ferrara emailed. The idea? Invite 10 women to bring a dish and a six pack of beer to her house.
"I'd tried book clubs, and they never worked," says Ferrara, marketing strategist at Obviouslee Marketing. Truth was her friends read on their own and didn't need a group to encourage their literary intake. Instead, Ferrara wanted to hangout with like-minded women who shared a scholarly appreciation of beer. People like Erin Ziegler.
"I got into beer with Ted's Butcherblock's beer dinners," explains Ziegler, an associate at Sherman Capital Markets, at a recent Beer Social Club meeting at Seanachai Social Club. "When the ABV went up, we started going to Ted's. Then, once it opened, the Beer Exchange."
For Ziegler, a CP contributor, and her husband Alex, it was the kind tutelage of people like beer buff and Edmund's Oast co-owner Scott Shor who got her jazzed about saisons and session ales, varieties she not only enjoys but loves to learn about. Going to Ted's and Beer Exchange became a hobby. "We'd always bring friends to Ted's," she says. "Being educated was nurtured."
For others, like club member Liz Lantz, her husband sparked her initial brewski interest. "He showed me the way of better beers," she says dreamily. Now she's a full-throttle craft beer drinker.
And it was Lantz, a web developer at Le Creuset, who organized the Seanachai meeting. She arranged to have the Irish pub not only host a five-beer flight for the Beer Social Club, but also to pick the gals up downtown and drive them out to Johns Island in Seanachai's minibus, much to the their delight. ("Pub bus! Count me in," member and Eater.com editor Erin Perkins responded via email in advance of the departure.)
But even with a cushy ride, this is no pansy tasting. Casey Lee of Advintage Distributors starts with a Victory Donnybrook Irish Dry Stout, a beer only carried at two other bars in the state. A taste sparks comparisons. "Remember that imperial stout we paired with blue cheese," Ferrara recalls, taking a sip. "Delicious." The other women nod. Drinking and chatting, the table's conversation stays solidly on task. There's no sudden tangent to cliched topics like shoes or shopping or hair. In fact, the only asides have to do with brewing.
"Have any of you had Life of Don, a new beer by Freehouse?" Ziegler pipes up. "I think Tattooed Moose has it." A debate about hoppy versus citrusy notes commences as the women trade tips on their favorite brews before Lee gathers their attention again.
The next beer on the list is a sour, something most of the women are already very familiar thanks to a sour class Craftsmen's Philip Fisher hosted for them in the fall. "The is the gateway to gose," Lee tells the assembled, delivering glasses of Anderson Valley Brewing Company's The Kimmie, The Yink, and the Holy Gose. Gose is a tart, salty beer originally brewed in Goslar, Germany. Ferrara mentions its similarity to Westbrook's Gose and Lee explains that Anderson Valley was actually inspired by the Mt. Pleasant brewer. An appreciative "Oh," emits from the crowd. Everyone is fully engrossed in the lesson.
Lee switches gears to a Belgian pale ale by Avery Karma. "Have you all had something by Avery?" he asks. An echo of "Yes," makes the question nearly rhetorical.
By the time Lee introduces the fifth and final drink, a Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle, the ladies' opinions are flying. "It's so annoying," Ziegler says, "Smoked porters are so trendy."
Perkins chimes in. "I don't like porters. They're more sour than stouts," she says.
"I always said I didn't like porters," adds Lantz. "But that was because I had a bad hangover from one when I was like 20."
Ferrara looks on contentedly. This is the kind of conversation she'd hoped for.
"We want to be a place where intimidation or lack of beer knowledge goes out the window and everyone can gather, appreciate, learn, and have fun," she says. "We are the Beer Social Club after all."
Well, that and there is one more goal for the group: "To brew our own beer," Ferrara says. "The planning has already begun!"