Thursday 31 January 2008

A Little Less Conversation a Little More Action

I'm delighted to have so many new comments on the blog and, at the risk of blowing my new-found popularity (which is still bemusing me, I've never had so much feedback on one article!), I've been thinking about how to further explain why it's pointless 'marketing' beer at women when education is the way forward.

What prompted this train of thought is that I was talking to a mate the other day - in the run-up to Valentine's Day - and he was asking me for help buying his Mrs some underwear.

Now, after I'd cleared up that he wasn't expecting me to model it or such like, I started giving him some advice and I suddenly realised what was perfectly normal to me was in fact double Dutch and daunting to another section of society - because of a total lack of education!

I'm not saying he was thick- quite the contrary, actually, he's annoyingly intelligent - but when has anyone sat the average bloke down and said: "Look, this is what 38 means and this is what C means - but I'm only that size in these brands and in those brands I take a size bigger/smaller or I hate this type/colour/make - oh and don't forget the matching pants!"

Correct me if I'm straying into presumptuous territory here but I don't think it happens very often or my mates wouldn't be ringing me and John Lewis and Selfridges wouldn't have been running underwear masterclasses for fellas at Christmas!

Honest to god, I've seen the question 'what cup and back size is she sir?' bring blokes out in a cold sweat and who can blame them?

And it's the same terrified expression that I've come across when women are similarly panicked by the question 'do you want a beer or an ale?' because no one has ever told them that the damn things were different.

I imagine the thought process goes something like this:
Internal voice:"Isn't beer ale? Or is ale beer or... oh bugger it"
Externally: "I'll have a glass of wine please."

Back to the lingerie section and, if the shop assistant is feeling particularly sadistic, they could start saying: "Is sir looking for a balconette, or is madam a full cup kind of girl? And would you like matching briefs, bikinis-style briefs, g-string, shorts or French knickers to match?"

Which is kind of the underwear equivalent of saying: "What beer would you like? A hoppy beer - like a classic bitter or would you like something with more zing like an IPA? Or do you want a malty one? Porter, mild, ESB?"

It all comes down to the flow of information and, frankly, that's where the beer market as a whole and the cask market in general get let down.

On either subject the issue of support has a tendency to be key - so let's demand a little bit more of it!

BTW if any blokes reading this need advice, please don't message me - follow this link!


Anonymous said...

Surely ale is beer, although not all beer is ale!
I do agree that some mystique needs to be removed from beer (although it has never been as bad as wine), and ladies underwear.
By the way, I'm a balcony golden ale man myself with plenty of DD.

Anonymous said...

Interesting perspective. I'd never thought to compare beer to women's undergarments before, although I can't deny having spent much of my adult life trying to get women out of their panties and myself into a beer.

Anyway, at least on these shores, women no longer find beer so daunting. Many enjoy the same hoppy, challenging flavors as men.

I think where the undergarment analogy kinda falls apart is, when ordering a beer, a girl can take a blind stab in the dark and still walk away with something perfectly delicious, whereas if a man surprises his lady a racy camisole that's three sizes too big, nothing delicious happens for a very long time.

Melissa Cole said...

True, but both instances could stall a budding love affair!

Deege said...

Interesting comparison with the beer and underware! I have to ask though - are beers and ales different in the UK? In the US ales are a type of beer, as are lagers.

Melissa Cole said...

Hi Paul/Deege,
Absolutely, ale is beer although not all beer is ale!

It's the same in the UK as it is in the US - what I was trying to communicate is the confusion that this can cause, although I appear to have just caused more confusion - so much for being a professional communicator!

Anonymous said...

Coming from the US where women are more involved in brew-culture I do find that ale lovers are often quite patronizing to women who are into ale, and this can be off-putting. Also I'm always shocked at how it's often hard to get served in crowded pubs-- often being passed over at the bar for some bloke who's just wandered up.

Maybe the first thing is to dispel myths like-- beer makes you fat, beer is "common", etc.

Despite the lingerie gift metaphor-- meant to titillate I suppose-- women are buying beer for themselves and should be able to experiment! Probably more productive activity than doing pants postulations...

Melissa Cole said...

Hi Impy,
You clearly seem to be offended by this post and that's a shame because it wasn't meant to be a batty eyelid titilation 'oooh missus' moment - it was a commentary on the lack of communication about various subjects society-wide and was spawned from a genuine discussion with a male mate.

As for encouraging women to experiment with beer I'm not interested in just encouraging women to drink beer, I'm interested in encouraging all walks of life to drink beer and I'm doing that virtually every day of the week, whether it's during corporate tastings from lovebeer@borough or through writing for magazines like Sainsbury's - which, admittedly, has a predominantly female readership - or appearing on food shows like Market Kitchen.

I'm convinced that the only way we are really going to bring more drinkers to the beauty of beer is by writing in a fashion that demystifies this amazing brew.

In my published works, or even here on my blog, I rarely use terms like esters, or phenolics or DMS, not because I don't know what they mean but because I think it alienates so many people who might otherwise want to enter the beer market.

And I actively discourage people from just reaching for the BOGOF in the supermarket or judging a beer by its front label, I convince them to look at the individual bottles of ale and tell them to read the back label because that's where all the good stuff should be - and I also beg brewers every time I speak with/see them to provide more information on their labels because that's what people are crying out for.

I want to know what type of hop/malts they're using, I want to know what I can expect it to taste like and I want to know a little of the story behind it! The US excels at this so why aren't more of our brewers following suit?

And all of the above will encourage not only more women to drink beer, but all sectors of society to drink more beer - after all, knowledge is buying power.