In proud partnership with Carlton and United Breweries
When we meet Tina Panoutsos, head of beer knowledge at Carlton and United Breweries, for a drink in a buzzing bar, it quickly becomes clear who we’re in the presence of. While we go for our usual drink, a house white (sometimes a pinot), Tina focuses on a section of the menu that only 15 per cent of women really take a good look at, and when they do, it’s pretty infrequent: yep, we’re talking beer.
This stat is from a recent survey conducted by Carlton and United Breweries. The results show that although 44 per cent of women between the ages of 25 and 34 drink beer weekly, under 10 per cent of women in general identify as beer lovers, a tag which many men wear with pride.
Tina’s job on a daily basis is to test and review each and every beer product made available through this leading brewer. That includes well-known and iconic brands that don the hands of many beer enthusiasts: Carlton Draught, Victoria Bitter, Stella Artois, Pure Blonde, Hoegaarden, Corona and Carlton Dry, to name a few. While you may think a lot of beer tastes the same, Tina says there are many levels of complexity and flavour in some of the brews we have available to us.
Tina’s role is a high-pressure and complex one that requires expertise, experience and, of course, the ability to know a great beer. “Australians certainly have an appreciation for beer and we work hard to make sure every sip is reflective of the beer we intend it to be. The flavour profiles. The colour. The body. It all plays a role in how that beer feels to drink and the way we responsibly interact with it,” says Tina.
As we sip our drinks, our focus shifts to the relationship women have with beer and the recent survey results. Tina believes things could very well change. “It’s interesting to see figures like this that reflect on us as women and how we see beer as a drink socially,” said Tina. “We so often get together and enjoy conversation and experience and, in many ways, get into habits of enjoying the same types of drinks that perhaps have just become the social norm.”
There is no getting away from the reality of what we see in our bars, corner pubs and at BBQs at home. Jane has the wine while John enjoys the beer. But we have to ask: what makes this drink appeal to men so much more than women? Are we really that different when it comes to the beverages we enjoy?
Tina believes the answer lies in our personal experiences and social conventions. “It’s habitual and comfortable, and I suppose it begs the question of whether we should step out of our comfort zones to explore and examine this drink that is so often associated with men.
“There’s no real science behind why we like what we like or why we see this gap between genders when it comes to beer,” adds Tina.
“In the lab, we have both men and women reviewing and critiquing the product and the taste and response doesn’t correlate with gender at all.
“The desire to enjoy beer comes from opening our views to what this drink really is. I love beer. It is beautiful and complex and sophisticated and, much like what we so often see with wine culture, beer has so much to offer.”
We have a sudden need to take a recommendation from Tina on the next order – this time, it’s of the amber variety. As we take our first sips, Tina continues.
“Beer deserves to be embraced and enjoyed by both men and women. It’s at times delicate and soft and at other times bold and strong, but that’s like us as humans. We can be so many different things to so many different people. I think we will see more and more women embracing beer in the years to come – and I would cheers to that.”
One by one, we review the beers on the list and Tina reveals the notes behind each brew that she had first tasted in her lab coat. We leave the bar having learnt a ton about the science that goes into brewing a great beer, but we’re also left with a lingering question: why are men leading the thirst for beer?
Article first published in Latte magazine.