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Memphis Flyer Babes and Brew

One woman's fight to save beer for women everywhere.

By Mary Cashiola

MAY 24, 1999:  The Brew Babe, like all good superhero types, keeps her real identity a secret from the outside world. Thus unencumbered, the Brew Babe can go about her life's sworn mission: to enhance the image of female beer drinkers and encourage women everywhere to develop an appreciation for beer.

In real life, the 32-year-old lives in St. Louis, has a Ph.D. in English literature from Vanderbilt, and works in "education policy." She's just a regular gal. But put her inside a bar with some good ol' brews and see what happens.

"Over the years, it dawned on me that every time I'd go out and order a beer, because I drink darker beers or imports, I'd become the center of attention," the Brew Babe says. "Every time I drink stout, guys tell me how great it is [that I'm drinking it]. I doubt a guy has ever been told it's great that you drink beer."

The Brew Babe hails from modest beginnings. Like many of us, she started drinking beer in college and grew to like the taste. Then she joined the Homebrew Club, an organization for those who brew their own beer and later started a column for their newsletter about being a woman beer drinker. The Brew Babe was born.

Due to the positive response the column garnered, the Brew Babe wrote more columns. Then a bar she frequents got information on Wynkoop Brewery's 1999 Beer Drinker of the Year Contest. Being the Brew Babe, she decided to contact the Colorado microbrewery's contest organizers.

Like her, "they were tongue-in-cheek. They wanted a four-page beer resume," she says. "They weren't just interested in quantity, but knowledge, creativity, beer philosophy."

Although she was one of 10 finalists (a third of them women), only three contestants were invited to the final round of judging, which included an in-person interview. All three were men. The Brew Babe was outraged. "I'm not saying that's wrong; I'm just saying I think they need to rethink what constitutes Beer Drinker of the Year," she says.

The Brew Babe's next challenge is a seminar titled "The Brew Babe Wants You to Learn to Love Beer" being held at Boscos Pizza Kitchen and Brewery on May 22nd. The seminar was held once before in Nashville and coincides with appearances by Ray Daniels, 1998 Beer Writer of the Year.

"At the Ray Daniels event [in Nashville], there were going to be male beer drinkers and we thought we'd have something for their wives," the Brew Babe says, explaining the seminar's beginnings. "The idea was simply to increase women's exposure to beer. What ended up happening was there were 20 people in the audience, four of them were women and three of them drank beer."

Instead of going with her original plan, the Brew Babe talked to the audience about why women don't drink beer. She thinks it has something to do with the fact that most women's idea of beer is a fairly tasteless lager.

"People tend to think that beer is beer," she says. But she explains that a darker brew, usually less bitter than commercial beers and something that women seem to stay away from, might be just the beer for them.

The Brew Babe also engages in what she calls "pseudo-scholarly deconstruction" of female beer drinking in our society. "It's a very male thing. It comes in a six-pack; it opens with a loud pop. You gulp it down and then you belch afterwards. None of this is particularly attractive to most women," she says.

She also cites a college basketball game where the pitchers of beer flowed freely and there was an easy camaraderie between the men and women -- until half-time.

"The Bud Girls slithered in with their chemically engineered bodies and their cling-wrap outfits and suddenly, it's a very male environment," says the Brew Babe.

"Where are the Bud Boys? Where are the buff boys with washboard stomachs wearing Speedos that say Budweiser across the butt?" she wants to know.

The next part of the Brew Babe's quest to quash the double standard of beer drinking is a series of articles about breweries around the country. Using a Triple-F rating system (Female Friendly Factor), the Brew Babe will give a rating from one to five "pints" based on beer selection, atmosphere, and how comfortable she feels going in alone.

And she'll continue to fight for women's growing appreciation for beer. For other women and for herself.

"I'm tired of being the only woman in the Homebrew Club."

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