The most fascinating part, and the part I kept thinking about, was the role of and relationship to women in this group. I posted some comments on Enkerli's blog, and we started an email correspondence on the topic. He asked for my observations about women and craft beer. What follows are notes from our discussion:
RELATIONSHIP I'm married and have been working to get my wife more involved in the hobby for years. She's supportive of my hobby, but it's always been my hobby. There were certainly echoes of my own situation in your description of the interplay between husband and wife and brewing. I do have to consciously carve out time for brewing, but it has more to do with having two small children (3 and 6 months) than needing permission (because it was easier to devote the time pre-kids). I should note, however, that I was kicked out of the kitchen years ago.In addition, there were two other topics we touched on:
MALE-DOMINATED GROUPS We have a group of guys who meet each month or six weeks. It's basically a guys night out, but the premise behind it is beer appreciation. We each bring something interesting to drink and try. This summer we tried to get spouses, significant others, and families involved, so we held a summer picnic. There were a lot of families there, and I think we educated a lot of folks, but I think it was viewed more as a "let's see what the guys are doing."
WOMEN AND CRAFT BEER My wife is receptive to trying new beer, but isn't a beer drinker by nature--wine is more her speed. She does tend to like Wit beers, though, and generally prefers fruitier or wheat beers to IPAs, Belgians, and Porters (my favorites). I've been searching for a couple of years now to find a recipe that would elicit a request for me to brew it again. I don't think her tastes are atypical, so I'm surprised more brewers don't try to target that niche.
In fact, there are only an handful of women I know who have an interest in brewing. Most have never brewed on their own (but have with me or others), but they have excellent taste in beer and tend to drink a wide variety of beers, including those outside the realm of wheat and fruit beers.
An interesting related observation--every year, I go to an AleFest, in which about 300 different beers are available for tasting. I always notice two things--1) most of the folks there seem to fall between 25-35, which is a lot younger than folks in the two homebrew clubs I've belonged to (in Boston and in Dayton, where most folks are generally older). and 2) There are a lot more women than I expect. It's not 50/50, but it's probably close to 60/40 (in contrast, in the homebrew clubs I belong(ed) to, it's was more like 90/10)
WOMEN IN BEER MEDIA This is a pet-peeve of mine. I think your description about women in craft beer media as being protrayed as purveyors of beer is dead on. I subscribe to Brew Your Own, and the covers often annoy me. Often they have brewers or beers on the cover, which is fine, but about every 3 issues, they have a young, attractive woman filling the "bartender" type roll you describe. Also, check out the link to my local homebrew store: http://www.schwartzbeer.com. The pic at the top drives me nuts because it's so stereotypical. It's disappointing because the store prides itself on its excellent beer selection, then stoops to the lowest common demoninator for its imagery. Overall, big-chested women hawking craft beers cheaps the image.
LOCAL BEERS [KJG] In thinking about your discussion of regional followings (and hooray for you for the nod to the Sox. Too bad about this year, though), I realized that whenever I travel for any purpose, I make it a point to find a local brewery or try a local beer. Beer isn't the purpose of my travel, but it's a nice perk b/c I get to try beers that aren't available at home, get to meet beer folks with different perspectives, and get to see bars and piubs different from the ones I'm used to. In fact, I'm to the point now that I often do a BeerFly search on the location before I even book my flight! And I can't imagine I'm the only beer geek who does that.Please post comments--I'm interested to hear what y'all have to say on the subjects above.
[AE] The regional/local dimension is clearly one I want to look at a bit more. It's all about "glocalization" and the whole "think global, drink local" thing. Here's one of my crazier posts on the subject: http://enkerli.wordpress.com
/2006/02/16/glocal-craftinessBeer and travel go well together. For instance, most cities have a couple of good brewpubs and they are nice places to get a sense of the local environment. (Some people do the same thing with vegan -coffee-beer-music/
Before beerfly, people used to post messages on the HBD before going somewhere, in order to know where the good beer is. It's a fascinating thing as people discover other places through beer. This is one of the things the large breweries haven't understood. We want our beer to be local and we use beer to go local. Given the geographical mobility of a lot of Americans, it can have a real impact.
COMPETITIONS [KJG] In addition, as related to beer knowledge and status, I wonder if it wouldn't be worth mentioning the various competitions that take place, both on a homebrew and craft brew level. I know quite a few homebrewers who brew almost solely for contests. They do well, and acheive a certain status within the group.
[AE] Competitions are a big issue. As you say, some homebrewers brew for competition. Our brewclub, the MontreAlers, has organized some competitions and many members are certified judges. But it's a can of worms for me. It's related to the whole "German engineer" part of the equation, which is fine. But I tend to be more of a "Belgian artist."