A clear line divides craft beer and Bud-Miller-Coors. On one side, there is the corn-based, mass-produced yellow fizzy stuff made by corporations, and then there is craft beer, made by passionate, skilled brewers. Craft beer doesn’t only taste better, but it is better—breweries source locally, become embedded in communities and create one of the most collaborative, friendly industries in the country.
So by that logic, craft beer shouldn’t succumb to tired, sexist advertising and branding, hallmarks of big beer marketing.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
The subject of unnecessary, sexualized images of women on beer labels has surfaced before. In July, Clown Shoes’s Tramp Stamp and Brown Angel labels—both depicting mostly naked women—were the subject of controversy. In 2010 a woman, a shamanic healer, voiced outrage over Lost Abbey’s Witches Wit label of a witch burning at the stake.
The majority of craft beer labels and names are harmless, often clever and catchy. But then there are names—like Screw the Pooch Pale Ale, Beaver Stubble Stout, Red-Headed Bitch, Blonde Bitch, Blonde on Blonde—and labels of scantily-clad women as beer maids, or of just their head, mouth slightly parted.
“These labels are sexy, not sexist. They’re pay tribute to a beautiful woman,” argue those in support of the labels.
But the majority of women on labels are one-dimensional sexual objects, whereas when a man is featured on a label, he is shown drinking or brewing beer, as a respected historical figure, or partaking in some kind of adventure.
It’s time craft beer labels and advertisements fairly represented the industry’s growing female brewer and consumer demographic. Women brew, drink and enjoy craft beer and it would be nice, if every once in a while, a label showed a woman doing that—with all of her clothes on.
There are labels like this, but they are few and far between. Rogue’s Chocolate Stout features a (fully-clothed!) woman holding out her pint in a cheers, and their Somer Orange Honey Ale shows a strong, happy woman holding an overflowing pint of beer. (For what it’s worth, Rogue’s labels are designed by a woman, Penny Muire.)
More women than ever are working as brewers and in breweries, not to mention the many women who open breweries with their husband, boyfriend or partner. The number of female beer drinkers has also steadily been on the rise and with them, a spike in women craft beer groups—Girls Pint Out, Pink Boots Society, the Ladies of Craft Beer—which have surfaced in the last five years.
Craft beer, as a steadily growing market, has the opportunity to reach out to women who have long been excluded from a male-dominated beer drinking world.
What’s more, they have the opportunity to leave sexist marketing out of the narrative completely. Craft beer doesn’t need sex to sell it—the beer stands on its own. Leave the red, blonde and bitch references out, stop putting unrealistic, over-sexualized images of women serving beer on labels, and recognize women as the craft beer-loving, drinking and brewing segment they are.