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No Boys Allowed


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Beer marketing and sales is so imbued with testosterone that it’s surprising that bottles don’t have hair on them. From the male-dominated slang (“beer bellies” and “six-pack abs”) to the marketing and sales (Swedish Bikini Team, anyone?), it’s a wonder that women ever get past the sexy sales hype and give good beer a try.

Granted, the paltry number of ads for craft-brewed beer, don’t tend to use sex as a sales tool. But breweries don’t court female customers, either.

But as has been the case when meaningful change has bubbled up in the world of craft beer, so it is with introducing women to beer and brewing. And in an effort to teach women about what has been a largely male-dominated beverage, a Longmont sorority has emerged to fill the void.

Ales 4 Females, a twice monthly women-only gathering hosted by Longmont’s Left Hand Brewery, has been meeting for more than two years now. Topics drill down into specific styles, ingredients (including honey and mead) and techniques. And while such a curriculum de cervesa can be found at most homebrew clubs, making the meetings the exclusive domain of women does much to change the dynamic of what would otherwise be a male-dominated topic.

“There is a lot less ego,” said MacKenzie Mushel, 28, a Longmont resident who has been attending regularly for about two years. “Women aren’t as comfortable asking questions with men around. Here, we can ask without feeling frowned upon and get our curiosities satisfied.”

The fact that there is no competition in such an environment—competition between men for a woman’s attention or between women for a man’s—is refreshing and comforting, say the women who attend. “If there’s a man in the room, the women will be competing for his attention, even subconsciously,” said Erin Linden-Levy, from Longmont and member No. 8 of the group.

Whether they’re pairing three versions of a given style of beer or talking about what different varieties of hops bring to the party, the focus remains on the educational aspect: teaching women about beer, its ingredients and the vocabulary of the pallet.

“The questions are the best part,” said Cinzia Wallace, who, with Sue Smith-Troy, launched Ales 4 Females in January 2008 as a way to educate women about beer. “They are greedy to know. It really sets the dynamic.”

There were 28 women at that first monthly meeting and 36 at the next paying $10 each to for the beer and samples of different foods that are paired with the offerings. As the year progressed, interest and attendance grew to the point where, half way into 2009 they were hitting their limit of 75 and had a wait list of an additional 75 women wanting to get in should any drop out (which rarely happens).

Given the unflagging popularity of the group, Wallace and Smith-Troy doubled down and added a second monthly meeting on the same topic. With the second monthly meeting added, Wallace also shrunk the size of each gathering to about 60 women that range in age from 21 to their mid-70s.

With no set formula, Wallace and Smith-Troy have been growing their venture by expanding on what works, reinforcing the sense of community the group has formed and always keeping the education element at the fore.

“It’s just a group of women, able to ask questions and not be intimidated or drowned out by louder voices,” said Martha Goebel, 40, of Longmont. “I never broke down the taste of beer and when my husband talked about it, I never understood what he was saying. Coming here has helped me learn the vocabulary of beer. Now I can talk with him and his friends about the beer they brew.”

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Lacy is an award-winning food writer and blogger. She lives in Westminster with her family. Google

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