One summer evening, over a pile of empty bottles, and the dregs of IPAs and porters and wheat beers, we decided: it was time us and beer got serious.
We were ready to commit.
But there were problems. Beer had to accept that we weren’t going to change.
Don’t get us wrong: beer and us have a great history. We remembered long Sunday drives with battered CAMRA guides in the glovebox; trying dad’s beer for the first time (and hating it); knocking back as many Kriek samples as we could on a school trip to Belgium. We put away pints of overpriced lager at festivals and crowdsurfed out of Placebo sets to pee; we got lime wedges stuck in Corona bottles in our university bars.
But then we graduated. We grew up, we moved to the Big Smoke, and we realised that we had to look after ourselves to get the most out of life. We embraced healthy living; we fell in love with sourcing unpronounceable ingredients for even more unpronounceable recipes, and with the buzz we got after a run or an isometric yoga session. But we didn’t want to say goodbye to beer. It was time beer worked for us. Beer had to fit into our new, grown up lives. Pint after pint of flavourless identi-lager – out of the question.
London’s craft beer renaissance could not have come at a better time.
We swapped hours quaffing weak ale for hours scrutinising beer menus. Beer became a world where drinking halves (or even thirds) was a smart strategy, not a killjoy. Supermarkets’ narrow slips of Wychwood ales gave way to shelves of own-brand single hop. You could grab a Punk IPA from Sainsbury’s Local. Beer became the focus of a whole new social scene – festivals and tap takeovers, pubs where the bar staff knew their stuff and wanted to share their passion, everyone trying each other’s drinks in the never-ending quest for something new, something exciting.
And we became beer evangelists. First to each other – trading labels in long wish lists – and then friends and family. The more evangelical we got, the more we noticed the harm done to lovely beer by decades of stereotype and assumption. Girls didn’t drink beer. The glasses were too masculine. It tasted weird. It made us fat.
We had a mission. We would wrestle the vodka-sodas; the white wine spritzers; the overpriced cocktails from the hands of our girl friends. We would tell them about beers so insanely hopped you felt like you were inhaling a field; so toasty you’d think you were drinking – well, toast; we would tell them about the caramel, the toffee, the cherries, the buttery biscuit, the spice and the smoke.
We’d tackle the sexism head on. Wanna fat-shame at your beer festival? Sure, but prepare to be shamed in return. Plan to use tired-old sexist cliché to sell your brew? Go for it – but we’ll expose you for selling out. We would cook with beer, analyse beer, run marathons with beer, do yoga with beer, and go on long walks for beer. We would prove that beer could be part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
And if, after all that, our girl friends were like: thanks, you raving alcoholic, but please restore to me my delicious piña colada, then that would be cool too, because feminism – and beer – is all about choice. But at least it would be a decision based on taste, not discrimination, or body anxiety, or worrying what a guy would think when you slammed down your empty pint glass and the dregs of your porter splattered on his trainers.
At least we would have tried. And we owed it to beer, and to all of the dynamic, creative, sistahs making it in an industry dominated by men. We owed to the notes of caramel and tobacco and biscuit that we’d discovered; we owed it to our mums and dads and those tiny sips of beer on childhood holidays. And, if all else failed, at least we would get to drink some cracking beers on our journey.