Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Equality for Punks and Beer for Girls

I’ve been out of the loop, ain’t I, and I’m trying to catch up. The first day back at work today and I’m distracted by BrewDog vs CAMRA and beer for girls. My thoughts on these can be summed up as: AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!

I wanted to see BrewDog at GBBF because I wanted to drink their beers there because they make some of the best beers in Britain and GBBF should be about the best beers in Britain. Whether it was going to be cask or keg was irrelevant to me and would’ve been irrelevant to all but a small, albeit vocal, group – it was about drinking the beers because I like them. BrewDog will not be at GBBF now. BrewDog say CAMRA cancelled their bar but it seems that it was ‘cancelled’ because BrewDog didn’t pay for the bar, but whatever… To me it smacks of publicity grabbing from BrewDog more than anything else. CAMRA seem to have told BrewDog what to do to be involved and BrewDog haven’t done that, even if CAMRA did make some changes to what was initially discussed – if BrewDog really wanted to be involved they would’ve made it happen.

It’s frustrating to see this happen. I thought, perhaps naively, that BrewDog would be more interested in getting their beer in front of 60,000 drinkers than getting 60,000 hits on their blog. Are they being treated unfairly by CAMRA or are they trying to make problems?

What we should do, I think, is immediately forget everything and simply just look forward to the best week of British beer and drinking of the year. GBBF is a brilliant event and I always look forward to it and always enjoy it. BrewDog won’t be the only good brewery not there and there will be hundreds of great beers there to be drunk and that’s what’s important, right?


And then, unrelated, beer for girls.

Really? I do prefer boy’s beer, but I can have an open mind...

MolsonCoors have announced some new beers called Animee. They are made with malt, water, hops and yeast but that’s probably as close to ‘beer’ as it gets. Just look at them. They look like fancy flavoured water which wants to be more exclusive than it is (the packaging and the pale colour of it). They have fruit flavouring added to them (they come in standard, rose and citrus) and they are even low in calories. Calories!

Women don’t like beer because it looks like beer, smells like beer, tastes like beer and it’s fizzy and bloats you and it makes you fat. We all know this, right?! These new beers from MolsonCoors, a seven-figure commitment, answer with the developed negative of the stereotype of why women don’t drink beer. It’s black and white. It's patronising and regressive. And it’s bullshit.

I don’t think we need gendered drinks and I don’t think Animee will be a success (there have been two pieces on the Guardian about girly beer and Glyn has blogged about it, too - they seem to agree with me). The problem is a cultural thing specific to Britain; go to Europe or America and things are different. In fact, go to the top beer bars in the UK and things are different – women do drink beer, you see. Perhaps not as many as we'd like, but will Animee be the answer? 

If these beers are still being made and they are selling well this time next year then I will buy ten case of each of the three flavours and throw a massive party for a load of women at my own expense. I’ll even provide rice crackers as snacks and buy copies of heat magazine for us all to read.

If it does get more women drinking beer, if it’s these beers which they are drinking, then I still think that it’s a backward step because they couldn’t be much further away from being like virtually every other beer on the market, so what’s the benefit of that overall? 

I guess the trouble is that you can’t spend a few million quid on educating millions of drinkers; it’s almost impossible and it’s intangible. But it’s easy, with deep pockets, to develop tangible products like Animee. But it’s not the products themselves which we need because we already have them. We have thousands of delicious beers in the UK and there are many thousand more of them around the world. And there are millions of females who drink alcohol. Only education and a cultural mind-shift will likely bring the two together. These beers, I fear, will only push more people away and cheapen the appeal of good beer for a huge portion of the potential market. 

What are your thoughts on either of these? 

I double-teamed these two issues because I’ve written 498 posts and this will become 499. I want something a little lovelier than a derisory post about girly beer to bring up my 500th post. 

37 comments:

  1. Whilst I think it's mainly CAMRA to blame, I don't BrewDog are likely to agree with anything CAMRA says. Others have said, and I agree, that if CAMRA want the GBBF to be just about real ale, then they should rename the festival and not have cider and perry on tap either.

    RE: Animee, I just did a blog myself on it, and I just can't get along with the idea. If it functions as a 'gateway' beer, it'll be because women drinking it will find it dull and seek out something far better (hopefully).

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  2. I've literally just finished reading a newspaper article on the Animee, so its interesting to read your take on it too.
    Heres my thoughts: There are so many different flavours & styles of beer that you don't need to dilute the beer until you can no longer taste it and then add flavourings in order to sell beer to women.
    I think a lot of the problem is that:
    a) beer has been marketed at men for so long (that Carling ad with the scantily clad women pouring beer all over the place whilst her helpless man drools on springs to mind)
    b) the beer that isnt mass marketed (i.e cask ale) suffers from the CAMRA image problems - old beardy man's drink.
    c) There is a lack of awareness of the "different" exciting styles of beer.

    My girlfriend wasnt a beer drinker until we started going out. I got her to try a bunch of different style & she quickly discovered that she loved IPAs, hated anything with roast malt in & has just discoved that wheat beers are amazing.

    I think its all about perceiption and awareness of the depth & variety of beers available.

    On the Brewdog - CAMRA debate. Well. I can understand why both parties might disagree with the others approach to beer. It seems to have descended into a lot of petty "he said" "she said" crap which I don't really care about.
    Its a great shame that Brewdog arent going to be at the GBBF. I love thier progressive approach & they've got some great beers.
    CAMRA are never going to like keg beer, its not what they are about. I don't think they need to change, I just think they are going to become less relevant as the beer scene moves forwards.
    I think the main issue is that the Great British BEER Festival is festival celebrating BEER. Personally I wonder whether that means that the GBBF is outgrowing CAMRA & their approach. Is it time someone else organised this countries flagship beer festival? I think so.

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  3. Surely CAMRA can call their festivals whatever they want to?

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  4. I'll tell you what I feel: completely bored and frustrated with the CAMRA v craftblogbrewdogblah pontificating, much like yourself.

    I think AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH is a pretty accurate reflection of my feelings.

    I'm bored by people wading in with redundant comments on blogs (er, much like I'm doing now) related to the subject.

    I'm tired by the endless, circuitous discussions that go nowhere, resolve nothing and paint a bleak picture for the future of a British beer scene divided down non-existent lines.

    Maybe we should just focus on the positives:

    1) BrewDog are one of the most exciting breweries on the planet, create some incredible beers and we are lucky to have them in the UK

    2) CAMRA are one of the most powerful consumer action groups in the UK, who have valiantly defended both British beer traditions and pub culture when there was no-one else prepared to stand up for these things.

    Nothing to get upset about. Don't debate, celebrate.

    (I just made that up now)

    As for beer for girls, that's about marketing and profit margins, nothing more.

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  5. Sorry, but just to add, I think Coors hits a nail on the head when they say:
    "aims to dispel the perception among women that all beers look and taste the same and that there is nothing to tell them apart."

    I think this applies to most people, not just women, and Animee is definitely not going to dispel this perception. It is however an important perception we should be striving to change.

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  6. "BrewDog won’t be the only good brewery not there"

    From a brewers perspective I can relate to that. My beer won't be there this year. It probably won't be there next year either. A brewer cannot sit back and do nothing about that situation.

    I don't know if BrewDog have ever been asked to supply beer in the past, but I don't believe they have.

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  7. What's annoying me about the whole thing is that people are referring to it as a "CAMRA vs. keg" issue. It isn't. The Bières Sans Frontières bar is arguably the most popular bar at GBBF and it's nearly all keg (or all keg - I haven't been for a few years). They aren't against keg, per se. And they certainly aren't against Brewdog, as they signed and agreement and wanted them to be there.

    If it wasn't for Brewdog wanting to take their beer in 30 litre keykegs I could imagine that none of this would have happened. Has any other UK brewer ever gone to GBBF in keg before? If the answer is "no" (and I'd imagine it would be) they would have made history. It would have been a beautiful thing.

    Unfortunately now it's been spun (beautifully, I must say) into a very vocal anti-CAMRA angle. It's like wrestling, except people aren't booing the bad guy...

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  8. On Brewdogs original blog post about attending GBBF, GBBF organiser Marc Holmes commented that the beer would be supplied in 50L keykegs, unfiltered, unpasteurised and with enough viable yeast etc. From what I've read today it seems the whole fiasco has been based on a disagreement about container size. From what I've been able to find out on the net about key kegs it seems that they come in a maximum size of 30L. The size James said on todays blog post that they had offered to supply. Seemingly agreeing to key keg in principle, CAMRA/GBBF have changed their position, based on wanting understandably, a larger container.
    It seems a bit uncompromising to agree to key keg in princple, and then demand it in a size that does not exist, and I can understand Brewdog with-holding final payment until this issue was resolved to both parties satisfaction. I'm sure CAMRA feel justified in their actions, but come on, things were starting to look up a bit on the whole CAMRA/Brewdog issue. It's just sad that this issue could not have been sorted out over a couple of pints of good beer.

    Ian Prise Equity Punk and was hoping to enjoy a Brewdog at GBBF.

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  9. Lilylaloulou via twitter. Ale drinker, girl, camra member and dedicated ale pusher!19 July 2011 22:58

    I can honestly say that I'd rather go thirsty than drink a beer such as animee. It doesn't look like beer... It doesn't even look like lager. It looks like a small bottle of Chardonnay!

    There are many female ale drinkers out there, but for every female ale drinker there will be a dozen female wine bar/ cocktail drinkers. Please, please, please brewers, focus on making lots of exciting ales for everyone to try instead.

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  10. Our friend in Oregon is going to have his beer at GBBF, for the second year running. In the 6 years we've been brewing we have never been asked to send beer to GBBF.

    We generally drink beer only from the BSF bar as the British contribution is often bland and unexciting. However the Thornbridge bar was so busy last year that I was roped in to help.

    Unfortunately I was very disappointed with the Cumbrian selection as many of the best Cumbrian breweries were not represented.

    To the many people who have asked me, unfortunately Hardknott has not been asked to send beer to GBBF.

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  11. Seems to me that the reason Animee is going to fail is that it's only ever going to be bought by (or for) women. London Pride, Jaipur or whatever will be drunk by both sexes but can you seriously see a man asking for it? I can't.

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  12. Having already blogged about women and beer, I consider that so yesterday:)

    As for today's beer controversy and knowing how these things work, I don't think Camra can shoulder much of the blame. Chaages to beer orders aren't uncommon, for various reasons, and it's never usually a problem.

    Not wearing the Brewdog-tinted spectacles that many bloggers seem to wear, it appears to me either that Brewdog really do believe their own hype and want special treatment. Or as many believed originally, it was all one of their tiresome publicity stunts.

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  13. Maybe Hard Knott haven't been asked because you've only just started to make a name for yourselves? Being at the NWAF was the first time I'd heard of you. Then when I tried to buy some beer online... nothing. It'd be a hell of a lot better if you distributed more. Cos Infra Red is GREAT.

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  14. "BrewDog are one of the most exciting breweries on the planet, create some incredible beers and we are lucky to have them in the UK"

    really? British brewing is lucky to have a bunch of petulant, publicity hungry kids running around dissing everything that is different from themselves?

    If British brewing is lucky to have any particular breweries it is Thornbridge, Meantime or Fullers. Consistently good beers without the histrionics and yawn inducing shark jumping.

    BrewDog really are rather average, especially when compared to beer from the American breweries they so openly wish to ape:

    http://www.fuggled.net/2011/05/brewdog-vs-world.html

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  15. Your "AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH" in the first paragraph summed it up to me, and i'm not even there as i'm on holiday.

    CAMRA (and brewdog) seem to be making life a little tedious with each other and this impacts on the discerning beer drinker as they feel they have to take sides, when really they only have to appreciate good beer.

    Animee seems like the Charge of the Light Brigade from the big brewers. they can't sway male, or for that matter discerning drinkers, from craft beer and wine, so they have to sell it to women. Glyn put it perfectly. Does a man drinking Russian River make it a man's drink. No. At my work, the, Euston Tap, many women drink beer, and many men drink Lager, even though Lager is seen as a womens drink by many. In short: i cannot stand this marketing bollocks.

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  16. This is why I don't understand Camra. There should be breweries like Hardknott and The Kernel and other small interesting and unique ones being displayed to show how effective real ale is. However they stick to the same formula with occasionally something awesome like Thornbridge coming along.

    Last year I drunk at BSF and I intend to do the same this year as well as halfs of Thornbridge beers.

    As for marketing women believe beer will make them fat. It's obsurd but I can't blame them when they associate the beer scene with the beard and guts' society. It would be nice for more people to realise the benefits. I've seen a lot of women at Rake and Euston Tap.

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  17. If not Brewdog, check out some Maryland (US) Beers...Flying Dog, DuClaw, and Stillwater should pick up the slack in adventurousness and attitude.

    Not all in one, of course, rather spread over the course.

    Cheers,
    A Man From Dundalk, MD - not the place they brew Harp.

    Some highlights:

    Brewers Alley:
    Oatmeal Stout (6.7% ABV)
    Rich and luscious flavour, complex beer with lots of caramel and roasted malt notes.

    Clipper City/Heavy Seas:
    Big DIPA Double IPA (10% ABV)
    Triple hopped during the brewing process with 5 pounds of hops per barrel. Very well balanced with an earthy hop aroma and strong malt backbone. This cask has been dry-hopped with Simcoe, Amarillo, Centennial and Palisade.


    Loose Cannon Hop 3 IPA (7.3% ABV)
    Triple-hopped American IPA: hopped in the kettle, in the hopback, dry-hopped in conditioning tank and finally dry-hopped in the cask. Well balanced with a rich hop flavour, citrus aroma and smooth finish.


    Plank 1 English Style Olde Ale (8% ABV)
    This English Style Olde Ale is matured on thermally modified Poplar wood. The cask has been additionally dry hopped with Northern Brewer and Fuggle hops. The base beer used in Plank I is special in and of itself, utilizing 8 types of specialty grains.

    Devil's Backbone (former Wharf Rat/Oliver Brewing brewer Jason Oliver):
    Barclay's London Dark Lager (5.6% ABV)
    Collaborative brew with beer historian Ronald Pattinson re-creating a rare London 1930 Barclay Perkins dark lager using a copy of the original brew log. Deep ruby brown in colour with rich malty notes. A recreation of an early English lager before they became pale and bland.

    DuClaw Brewing:

    Double Dry Hopped Venom Pale Ale (5.6% ABV)
    A moderately bitter, but heavy flavour and aroma hopped American-Style Pale Ale.

    Flying Dog:
    Snake Dog IPA (7.1% ABV)
    An assertive American IPA bittered with Warrior and featuring Columbus hops in flavour and aroma. This cask is dry hopped with Amarillo enhancing the tropical fruit and citrus aromas of these varieties.

    Franklin's Restaurant, Brewery, and General Store:

    Brewmaster Flash and the Furious Five Hops (8% ABV)
    IPA with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus

    Oliver/Pratt Street Ale House:
    Strongman Pale Ale (Single Hop Sorachi Ace) (8.3% ABV)
    A bold, assertive pale ale, generously hopped with Sorachi Ace but with a firm malt backbone for balance. Dry hopped in cask with Sorachi Ace.

    The Raven:
    Special Lager (5.6% ABV)
    An amber German style lager, brewed in honour of Baltimore's literary genius, Edgar Allan Poe.

    Stillwater Artisanal Ales:
    Cellar Door (6.6% ABV)
    Starting with a base of German wheat & pale malts this crisp slightly hazy foundation was then accented with a blend of Sterling & Citra hops providing a intricate blend of herbal grass & tangerine citrus flavours and aroma.

    White Marsh/Red Brick Station:
    Altbier (4.8% ABV)
    Modelled after traditional Dusseldorf Alt biers. The beer has a clean malt aroma and flavour with a hint of hops in the finish.

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  18. String - I agree about the diluting comment. It is about trying things and being guided in the right direction, but it's difficult to do en mass! As for GBBF, interesting comment about it outgrowing CAMRA... Maybe so, maybe there's also space for another big beer festival on the calendar?

    Dave - Punk was there last year, I think (but I may be wrong - the festival is a blurred memory!). Yours was one of the main examples I was thinking when I wrote that bit. There will be others missing too and I'm sure there will be a few duds around too.

    Maaaaaaaaf - I'm not sure about all beer in keg at BSF. All the US stuff is cask and don't know the specifics of the lager vessels. I think CAMRA have tried to spin the anti-CAMRA angle but I also think that they make the same jabs too often and too willingly. I'm sure there was a way to solve the issues amicably...

    Ian - It's a complicated one and I'm sure there's more to it than we all know. And it's definitely a shame that it couldn't get sorted!

    Paul - No man will buy Animee seriously. I did have an original paragraph in the post (I edited it out) with a few reasons why I think it sucks and that was one.

    Chwi - Cheers for the suggestions, I'll be spending most of my day at the US and Czech bars, for sure!

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  19. Brewdog or no Brewdog, im going, im going to drink great beer and have a great time!!

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  20. Clear bottled beer has been big for years, as Corona is now in static growth, we are seeing other brands cash in on the women & Beer market. Yes its controversial and it seems many 'beer bloggers' have written about it, and controversy creates buzz then people want to try it.

    Remember that Yellowtail introduces many people to Wine.. well Americans specifically, but then over time they buy other wines from California & Australia. & Yes eventually even Yellowtail Reserve! Clear beer does the same trick, bring drinkers over to try new beers!

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  21. "If it does get more women drinking beer, if it’s these beers which they are drinking, then I still think that it’s a backward step because they couldn’t be much further away from being like virtually every other beer on the market, so what’s the benefit of that overall?"

    This is an interesting question and one I'd like to tackle. I'm assuming that as MC have invested seven figures in creating this product and brand, they intend to ensure it stays around and is popular, with female drinkers becoming loyal to it and promoting among their friends.

    As such, as long as this stuff sells by the truckload, do MC really care if it doesn't get more women drinking other beers, especially not theirs? If this becomes the female Carling, job done, market dominated.

    I'd also like to agree with other posters that awareness is key to getting more women drinking beer. If ladies can detach themselves the 'lads night out' advertising MC and others use to promote their top sellers and actually try beer, there's enough variety that they'll inevitably find something they like and can drink regularly.

    So while I question the overall claim that this product is about getting more women drinking beer and not just about selling this stuff by the truckload to recoup MC's investment, I do hope it is successful in raising awareness and encouraging women to discover the wider beer world and all it can offer.

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  22. @Velky Al

    Yes, I would rather focus on positives.

    Fuller's are my favourite brewery in the country I reckon, but I'm not a fan of their marketing.

    That's an opinion I'll only ever express here for the sake of making a direct comparison.

    Too much good in the world of beer to be dragged down by the stuff that's not so good.

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  23. "Whether it was going to be cask or keg was irrelevant to me and would’ve been irrelevant to all but a small, albeit vocal, group – it was about drinking the beers because I like them".

    Agree that most people woudn't have cared. I don't think it's irrelevant though, I think it's crucial depending on the beers they decided to bring.

    Overall though I think I'm with you - you know Brewdog would've pulled something special out the bag for GBBF and above all it just feels like a real shame that they wont be there.

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  24. Someone needs to lock Camra and Brewdog in a room and let them fight it out until they realise they could use each other. Camra need to grow up and move with the times. It doesn't take anyone clever to realise the Good Beer Guide as published by Camra doesn't publish good beer in pubs, instead it publishes very often publishes pubs which serve boring pints of GK IPA or similar. Surely a good beer guide should direct you to pubs which serve good beer?

    Which brings us all back to Brewdog / Camra. I like Cask Ale too but hey, its more inportant to me that the beer tastes nice and not like piss.

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  25. I'm not sure either BD or CAMRA was negotiating entirely in good faith. If the GBBF was initially asking for a size & type of vessel that doesn't exist (a 50L key keg) it surely wouldn't take BD seven weeks (and a day) to find this out & suggest an alternative.

    I think we can see how silly all this has become by asking the question "why not just take some cask beer instead?". We all know that BD would see that as completely unacceptable - despite the fact that they make some excellent cask. Which tells me that ultimately they're in it for the marketing, not for the beer.

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  26. I've made a post that I hope makes the issues a bit clearer on my own blog:

    http://bit.ly/nYrUn1

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  27. Ultimately, had this happened to a different brewery it would have been sorted in minutes.

    "A 50 litre keg?"
    "Yes"
    "Excellent"

    If Marc accidentally used the word "KeyKeg" on their blog then this whole thing is nothing more than a misunderstanding. As he said, BD were the ones who brought up the idea of and offered to take 18s. They make it sound like CAMRA forced them into it.

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  28. Mark, in terms of another big beer fest I was thinking something like a Winter Craft Beer Fest.
    Making it winter means that you're not going to be competing with GBBF & means there may be some delicious winter ales around.

    There seem to be loads of great beer bars popping up around London, Rake, Euston Tap, Cask, Craft Beer co etc, as well as some great breweries. I'm sure between them & their respective suppliers they would be able to come up with a killer beer list....
    Who do we need to talk to to make this happen!?

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  29. @StringersBeer Not until now...!!

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  30. If girls start drinking beer, then who is going to cook us me dinner, wash our clothes and clean our houses?

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  31. Hi Mark - sorry for not commenting sooner, as you can imagine it's been a busy week ;o)

    For someone keeping an open mind I'm surprised you'd be so vehement about something you've not yet tried and so adamant it's not a beer. It very much is a beer, surely one of the things we all love about beer is the versatility and the inclusiveness that comes from so many styles and flavours? Animee is adding to that choice so more women choose beer - in a category that's facing 40 years of decline that can only be a positive thing in my book. While we know craft beer is in growth it's still a very small sector of a declining market - in order for breweries to keep on investing in craft beers we need a healthy and vibrant beer market, whilst we keep losing drinkers to wines, spirits and ciders it's bad for all of us.

    Animee has been developed over 2 years and from talking to over 30,000 women (beer and non beer drinkers) and with women at every step of the process to feedback on the beer, the packaging and the upcoming advertising. If we hadn't done that then we may have launched something patronising but given our deep understanding of women's view of beer then Animee is something that we know women want and will make them choose beer.

    All women? No - clearly there are lots of women already drinking beer (I've been known to have an occasional beer myself) but the sad fact is that a massive 79% of women never or rarely drink beer - we have to do something different to change that and Animee is just one answer.

    We're also looking at a number of other things that we know keep women out of beer (and men too) - advertising, serve, glassware, packaging and education. Only if we address all of these things can we get the category back in to growth.

    @bierfesten you make a great point about Yellowtail and we hope Animee does the same for beer.

    @tabamatu the launch of Animee is absolutely about getting more women drinking beer and like you we hope it raises awareness of the beer world for women.

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  32. Kristy - I don't genuinely believe that this will make more women drink beer but if it does then good for Animee and I'll take everything I've said back. For me it seems to derived from the research; it's exactly the feedback given by people used to create something, and while that's good I also think it's missing the point a bit and creating something too methodically.

    If you were to be in charge of a beer tasting for 50 women and you can choose five beers from any in the world, without restriction, and without your corporate hat on, I don't think you'd choose this beer in one of your five. You'd pick five varied and interesting beers to show what the world of beer can be like.

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  33. With my cheeks I've never been one for hats - I'm yet to find one that doesn't make me look like a newly fed hamster!!

    I often do beer tastings and have been to many where the organiser seems to have a perverse delight in putting the hairiest, chewiest beer in front of non beer drinkers and when they don't like it tell them why they're wrong - that's never going to get more people choosing beer!

    I would absolutely include Animée and will be doing as soon as it's on sale. One of the most regular placed criticisms from non beer drinkers is that all beers are the same. What better way to demonstrate the variety of styles and breadth of possibility in beer than to line up Animée next to an imperial stout with beers in between?

    You would never get that diversity in wine or cider so it's great way to show just relevant beer is across a wide range of occasions.

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  34. It's not about choosing the craziest, most esoteric beers for people, but it is about showing a range - a lager, a pale ale, a fruit beer, a stout. Animee to imperial stout might be a broad journey but I'm still not on the pro-side of Animee!

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  35. Great article.. but what to choose!?

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