Written by Chris Horton
Beer has of course suffered a long standing stereotype of being a ‘man’s drink’, though these days this representation is being challenged. A number of craft breweries are being headed by women – known in the trade as brewsters – and according to a recent CAMRA study, the number of women drinking ales has doubled over the last five years.
In Southsea, one of the original craft beer establishments in town, The Wave Maiden, is making its own headway on this issue. Headed by New York native turned Southsea resident Ali Lees and her husband Paul, they’ve been heading the craft beer movement in Southsea for the last 3 years. “I think people come in and are surprised that I’m a woman who knows a lot about beer” she says as we meet for a pint in the bar. “I think traditionally there weren’t many women drinking beer in pubs. It’s becoming more and more an acceptable thing. The craft beer scene has many progressive people in it – it’s not the old boys network anymore.” Ali’s enthusiasm and knowledge is clearly evident. “We have 100 beers available on the menu and I have made sure that I know about each and every one,” she states, “there’s so many levels of detail, from the graphic image to the story behind it to what goes in it. It’s all a labour of love.” This sense of pride and enthusiasm led Ali to create the Women in Beer night in May this year. “The night had a really comfortable, cool atmosphere. Everyone got involved, asking questions” describes Ali “I want to make beer accessible, many people come here and are not sure what to choose, or what they like, and I love going on that journey with them helping them find something they’ll fall in love with. My favourite customers are those who think they don’t like beer.”
The women-only night was marketed as being by women, for women with the aim of being a safe, inclusive environment, including an all female panel of industry insiders. Kelly Sidgwick from Bristol’s Good Chemistry, chats to me on the phone later that day. Kelly, who also went to the University of Portsmouth, highlights the reasons why the event was started “It’s very important for us to create events that empower women. In fact, they empower everyone as the whole idea is to present beer in a much more open manner.”
So, will there be similar events in the future? “Oh yes, definitely!” confirms Ali, “the job has only just started”.