Will women like chocolate beer?

Glass of stout beer

 While my personal jury is still out on putting actual cacao in beer, still…is putting chocolate in beer a viable way to encourage more women to drink and buy it?  Will women like chocolate beer? In a world where beer can come in pink cans and be flavored as Crisp Rose or Zesty Lemon, will Big Beer stop at nothing to make a buck?   So I asked our panelists this one last, utterly sexist question.

While I’m writing this I’m having Goose Island‘s Matilda (one of their Vintage Beers) with a wild mushroom quesadilla and steamed pea pods.  Matilda makes me think of berries.  It would pair well with milk chocolate, or maybe non-citrus fruit.  Its slight sourness and complexity goes well with the slightly oily cheese, and its tartness highlights the wild mushrooms beautifully.  Goose Island (the Clybourne brewpub, not the successful brewery bought by Anheuser-Busch) is a solidly Belgian house.  If you can’t deal with a hint of sour highlighting your beer flavors, they are not for you.  To me, champagne-split-bottled beverages sometimes almost don’t even taste like beer, but something else delicious – but never mind, I like Matilda and their Sophie a lot.

So, is it possible that chocolate is the secret ingredient of the beer industry’s attempt to grow the “woman market”?  Here’s who I asked:
Dave Schoon – writes passionately about beer and food pairings at www.beerchow.com

 Jay Ducote – southern Louisiana chef, radio host and TV personality; blogs about Cajun and Creole cuisine, international film festivals he attends, and other things at biteandbooze.com

Melissa Cole – international beer judge, beer expert, roving guest brewer, author of Let Me Tell You About Beer; blogs at letmetellyouaboutbeer.com.

Randy Clemens – formerly of Stone Brewing, now an editor at Los Angeles Magazine; author of The Sriracha Cookbook, The Veggie Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook, and The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.; blogs in a forthright manner at randyclemens.com.

So here’s the question verbatim:

Beer manufacturers want to bring women into their market in greater numbers, and have (so far) mostly failed at it.  Is pairing chocolate with beer, or putting chocolate in beer, a viable concept that might increase market share?

I liked Randy’s response best of all so, rather than making you wait for it, I’m putting him right up front.
Randy Clemens
Randy Clemens holding a beer
RandyClemens.com’s own Randy Clemens (who else?)

I think beer manufacturers have failed at bringing women into their market because they’re focusing on bring women into their market. Just make good beer, and interested people will come into your market… male or female. Talk of “increasing market share” makes me want to barf, and leads me to believe that the brewery is looking at their business as a potential cash cow versus a chance to share their love of beer with people. Every successful craft brewery should be looking at their business as a blessing; the fact that they’re able to do what they love and share their art with passionate fans is a gift, and turning that into something that focuses on increasing market share versus making beer you believe in betrays the opportunity they’ve been given.

If you want to put chocolate in your beer because you like chocolate in your beer, and you make a really damn good chocolate beer, then you absolutely should. If you’re doing it because you think some gender or segment of the population will enjoy it, then you’ve lost your way. Be genuine, and true to yourself. If you’re passionate about what you make, your fans will be too. They’ll increase your “market share” through word of mouth, which is the best kind of advertising. It’s longer-lasting, more reliable, and it can’t be bought at any price.
Right.  Score one for the craft brewing movement. 
Jay Ducote
I definitely think that finding ways to pair chocolate and beer together would be smart.  The bitterness of dark chocolate is an acquired taste, as is the bitterness in beer.  If you find a way to get somebody who appreciates bitter dark chocolate, then perhaps they can learn to appreciate beer as well.  Or they can have their eyes opened to different styles because you’d never pair chocolate with a light domestic lager.

Biteandbooze's Jay Ducote
Biteandbooze’s Jay Ducote
You wouldn’t do that, would you?  Would you??
Melissa Cole
Melissa Cole of letmetellyouaboutbeer.com

Melissa Cole

It can be part of the mix but, also, let’s not fall into the socially conditioned attitude that all girlies like chocolate! It should be part of the tasting experience or a particular event but I think it’s short-sighted to constantly make that your ‘thing’ for women.Today’s woman, more than ever before, is independent of thought and finance and looking for interesting & exciting ways to spend her leisure time, so if you are going to do a beer & chocolate evening, how about getting a representative in from a single estate chocolatier to talk about their product, that it shares fermentation in common with beer and to do honest tastings, Cadbury’s (whilst it has it’s place) won’t really cut it!Sing it, sister!
Dave Schoon

Dave Schoon of Beerchow.com
Dave Schoon of Beerchow.com
i think the casual female drinkers may have a bad taste in their mouth about beer (pardon the pun.) In the past men have dominated this beverage both from the consuming standpoint and the business end. Now with great tasting beers that are more readily available I think more and more women are interested and are enjoying craft beer. I don’t think chocolate is the gateway to beer for women, chocolate should be the gateway for the chocoholic’s into beer.
Like most fetishists, I suspect a chocoholic would quickly tire of the beer and go back to mainlining chocolate.
So there you have it: four people who have spent years between them thinking about food and beer pairing, the qualities and nature of beer, the best places and ways to serve and drink beer all say No to using chocolate as a way to lure women to the beer market.  Yo InBev, Molson Coors, SAB Miller, are you listening?
More and more women are being attracted to craft beers – they’re unique, full-flavored, and have the personal touch of a product skillfully made by small groups of people who really care about the quality of their product and check it personally.  The beer-and-food-pairing movement is helping, or course, and having street fairs with a variety of beers that taste, well, various also appeals to women.  (Miller and Coors and Bud all taste pretty much the same to me, and I don’t care for any of them.)  Craft beer labels and ads are for the most part less obviously sexist – craft brewers, like home brewers, tend to go for puns, and cleverness is attractive to some of us.
Women aren’t buying beer ’cause it’s sweet, or pink, or has fancy text on the can.  Women are buying beer that has a full, perhaps unique flavor, is often less bitter, and has a personal touch.  I don’t think you have a prayer of adding that personal touch when your output is 67 billion cans and 50 million pints every year in the U.S. alone.   As to the flavor…Big Beer sales are down, but craft beer sales surged by 15% in 2011.  ‘Nuff said?

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