Men-centered beer commercials and college keg stands don’t make beer all that appealing to women.
Robyn Klinge, beer education manager at Vintage Brewing Company, thinks those factors have created the perception that women don’t like beer. And it’s why she started Females Enjoying Microbrews, a women-only beer tasting group that meets monthly at the Vintage, on Madison’s west side.
“What people assume women want is a light, flavorless beer with less calories,” she said, adding that women’s experiences with beer might be tainted by college parties. “(Some women) have no idea that there are coffee-flavored beers, chocolate-flavored beers, flowery beers, citrus beers — a combination of marketing and exposure is what makes people think women don’t like beer.”
FEMs met on Wednesday, June 13, with a tasting centered on sour beers. There were a number of first-timers in the group of 15 women, the biggest turnout since the inaugural meeting last November.
Although the term “sour” is generally associated with food and drink gone bad, the beer was anything but.
Klinge explained that the tradition comes from Belgium, where brewers leave beer vats open, allowing wild yeast to enter the fermentation process. It’s an uncontrolled process she described as “nerve-wracking,” but it is slowly becoming more prevalent in the U.S. Popular sours include lambics, gueuzes, Flanders red and Flanders brown ales.
Of the seven we tried, most featured barnyard flavors. Beer Judge Certification Program judge and beer aficionado Erika Jones shared her expertise with me throughout.
She raved about the Duchesse de Bourgogne ($8.50, 22 ounces), though she later admitted it was too sweet for her palette. A full-bodied Flanders red that tasted of caramel and red wine — the beer was also featured at FEM’s Beer for Wine Lovers tasting — it blends old and new lambics. “It takes the cake,” Jones said. She also brought along Russian Rivers Redemption ($4.99, 12 ounces), a grassy, traditional farmhouse ale.
For those easing in to the sour beer arena, the Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse ($6.99, 16 ounces) was a good transition. With a fruity aftertaste and champagne-like texture, it’s a great summer beer.
The Geuze Mariage Parfait ($14-$17.95, 25 ounces) was bubbly as well, but it tasted skunky. Klinge explained that beers in green and clear bottles taste this way because of exposure to light, which produces a chemical similar to what a skunk emits.
The sourest on our list was New Belgium’s La Folie Sour Brown Ale ($13.99-$16.99, 22 ounces), which featured a tart aftertaste with a toasty flavor.
We also had some local flavor with New Glarus Raspberry Tart ($8.99-$10.99, 25 ounces), which was a bit sweet for my liking after my palette had adjusted to more sour selections.
My personal favorite was New Belgium Brewing’s Tart Lychee ($8, 22 ounces). With a pleasant cinnamon smell, it had hints of vanilla and a floral aftertaste. It was the most balanced beer we had, and it was pretty sweet for being sour.
Next month, FEMs will taste English and summer beers provided by Vintage. Any woman over 21 is welcome to attend; entry for tastings has ranged from $8-$20. Search “Females Enjoying Microbrews” on Facebook for more information on the next event.