I’m sure if Toyota was to release a car for women with extra soft steering wheels (for delicate hands), a rear-view mirror with integral lipstick holder and extra thick bumpers to help you girls with ‘those troublesome little parking manoeuvres’ it would cause something of an uproar.
I’m pretty certain within hours of the news breaking bras would be burnt somewhere in the world and Gudrun Schyman would be on the TV sofa in combatant mood shouting scandal and calling for a worldwide ban.
So it surprises me – no, it actually shocks me – that the Chief Executive of Carlsberg, a Mr Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen (for yes, he is a man) could reveal in the UK Sun Newspaper over the weekend the mega brewery’s plans to develop a sweet tasting beer just for the ladies and expect the news to be met with anything other than disgust and derision.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no gender activist. I think things such as encouraging our children to abandon the idea of calling each other ‘he’ and ‘she’ and substituting the gender neutral pronoun ‘hen’ instead is just plain silly, and as loyal BeerSweden followers know I haven’t got a political bone in my body.
But I like to think I know when something is just plain wrong. And beer for women is wrong. No probably about it.
Let’s allow Mr Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen to put his presumably large manly foot into it a little more shall we?
“Females don’t so much like the very bitter taste you have in beer and you (Ed note: I assume that’s you as in you women) get quite bloated. It’s a big opportunity for us to get more female consumers into our portfolio of products.”
Really? So women don’t ‘so much’ like bitterness do they Mr Rasmussen? That would go against pretty much everything I’ve ever experienced in over a decade of public beer tastings in which women have enjoyed some of the most flavoursome, often downright outrageous beers I have poured up.
When you’re in a hole you really should stop digging, but Mr Rasmussen grabs his spade and continues, predicting that in 10 years time there could be sections in the supermarket aisles dedicated to beer for women. As he puts it; “a female sector, products with a sweeter taste”.
Mr Rasmussen’s ‘wooing’ of female drinkers rings even more false when you consider Carlsberg and several other brewing giants have spent the past few decades actively disenfranchising women by pumping out advertising stuffed with sexism. Look at this one and note the pretty girls with large breasts that serve beer to their men, and this one where the men get the beer while the women get the shoes (which admittedly pokes fun at both sexes and is very funny). I could of course go on. A very, very long time.
Of course the real motivation behind all this nonsense is profit. In an ever-competitive beer market the big breweries are constantly looking at ways to segment and conquer. Unfortunately history isn’t exactly on Carlsberg’s side here, with several heavily criticized ‘lady beer’ launches that have made little impact in the past, such as this one from Molson Coors, this one (‘Witness the Chickness’) or Carlsberg’s own Cardinal Eve, a malt and rice-based drink flavoured with “the delicate flavour of lychees” specially developed for the women’s market and launched back in 2010 with a mega advertising budget. Ever heard of it? I thought not.
In my opinion the whole notion of sweet beer specially designed for women insults not only women but beer itself. If it really is sweetness you’re after then you’ll already find it floating in a velvety rich scotch ale, clutching onto the topical fruit hops of a US APA and dissolved into the rummy body of a Belgium quadruple.
My advice to Mr Rasmussen and the Carlsberg marketing team (who I assume was having a day off when the memo about this barmy idea came around) would be to concentrate your vast resources on producing a great tasting beer and then market it to us beer drinkers in a way that makes everyone feel engaged in it.
Beer for Women? Surely that calls for some common sense.
Footnote: After writing this article I got in touch with some female BeerSweden followers and asked for their reaction to Carlsberg’s plans. If you’d like to add your own comment to this article (in either Swedish or English) then either send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just comment below.
Victoria Shulga (avid homebrewer): ”…the beer that started my craft-beer-junkie-journey was freshly poured glass of Jever Pilsener. The dryness and the bitterness of that beer did it for me and I never looked back.
”I know other girls that started their journey when they had a Tokyo by Brewdog at the Copenhagen Beer Festival or after their first taste of a gueuze at the local pub. Beers that are packed with layers of flavors!
”Imperial stouts and gueuze are definitely not the styles of beers that Carlsberg think, we as females, would like to drink.
”I personally think we just don’t want to drink plain beers”.
Linda Mannelqvist, Umeå: ”I already like the Carlsberg beer but I would definitely try the ‘girlsberg’.
”I am what you could call a cider/wine girl firsthand but every now and then a cold beer is absolutely the best. Most of the time I think the cider gets too sweet and the beer (is) maybe not too heavy but not fresh enough.
”I don’t just drink either one of them on a night out so a mix between them ( kind of… ) is something I think sounds great!!
Ylva Lindgren, Solna: ”Just checking my calender to see if might be April the 1st.. But no! As sad as that article, announcement and idea is it really gets me laughing! I’m not a judge of good taste or think I can pass judgement on peoples preferences… but It seems like Carlsberg can.
”From me and my taste buds point of view the thought of an even sweeter, watered down beer sounds quite horrible. As a marketing ploy to get women to drink more (bad) beer it’s balancing on the edge between horrific, insulting and plainly stupid.
”I just hope that no-one, regardless of gender, will fall for this, but I’m also aware that they are giving the people what the people want. No demand, no supply. I think that the group of customer they might be aiming for are the alcopop drinkers, but maybe even they have a sense of pride”.
Irina Carlén, beer festival supremo who works at the Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen: ”At first I got really pissed off, as always when stereotypes about female beer geeks is outed: then I decided not to make this ”just another feministic discussion”. Not as easy as it sounds, since that’s what it’s all about in the end.
”The thing is that the CEO referred to women not liking bitter flavours as if it was a non-questioned truth. The truth is just not that simple: women of today (and through out history) haven’t despised bitter flavors. Check out the commercials for dark chocolate or gourmet coffee, or for that matter red wine and olives. When it comes to stereotypes, who is the typical wine drinker? I think it’s hypocritical to apply the ”oh so sensitive female tastebuds” on beer, but totally discard the wine card.
I think that the project ”Girlsberg” might be a success when it comes to establishing themselves as old fashioned beer bellied men. They are losing millions to the craft beer industry, a more open and tolerant movement than the ”World of International Lagers”".