Bitchin' Beer Blogs with Queen of Craft

Thursday, March 17, 2016

  • Photo by Hilary Hung, TheCannon.ca

    Photo by Hilary Hung, TheCannon.ca

  • Photo by Hilary Hung, TheCannon.ca

    Photo by Hilary Hung, TheCannon.ca

  • Photo by Hilary Hung, TheCannon.ca

    Photo by Hilary Hung, TheCannon.ca

Written by Pegleess Barrios

"I won't charge the girls to get into the kegger", my friend said the other day, "girls don't even like beer, right?"

It is a stereotype thrown at us from every angle - that men drink beer, and women drink "girly drinks", sugary concoctions with liquors and juice. But more and more, beer companies are noticing an increase in female customers and women interested not only in the beer but in the industry. Queen of Craft was created by "The Welly Women" of Wellington Brewery, to address this growing interest and promote womens' involvement in the craft beer industry, while raising money for Guelph-Wellington Women In Crisis. 

Now in its third year, the event has become highly popular in Guelph. In fact, the session we chose to attend was already sold out by the time we inquired about reporting on it. Session 1 featured four well-known beer bloggers, each presenting one of their recent blog posts and sharing two of their favourite beers.

As two people who do not quite identify as beer lovers, Hilary and I were excited and a bit apprehensive for the event. The two of us had little knowledge of the beer industry but were eager to learn about it, especially in the feminist lens being presented.We turned up twenty minutes early at the Albion, and the seats were already mostly taken, filled with a diverse group of women of all different ages and styles.

The evening began with  Crystal Luxmore, a local certified ciccerone and beer writer, accompanied by Cameron's Dry-Hopped Tripel. Crystal began by teaching us how to taste our beer. Contrary to our usual way of tasting: swallowing quickly and assessing later, Crystal invited us to take a step back and really savour the experience. Similar to "stop, drop, and roll", she joked, when trying beer, one must remember to "look, smell, and taste." Luxmore advised asking yourself a few questions. How would you describe the colour? Does the aroma change as you move your nose over it? What does the smell remind you of? "The more personal the taste, the better," she said. Then, we learned how to do a "retronasal inhalation" tasting technique. "Plug your nose," she instructed us, "and hold some of the beer in your mouth. Then, swallow and breathe out."

We tried the technique with Cameron's Dry-Hopped Tripel. The effect was amazing! We could taste the beer in a totally different way. "Everyone has a different tongue map," Luxmore told us, and the way you experience flavour if you breathe before swallowing compared to breathing after is very different. We were initally a little worried about it being a dark beer, since we barely drank light beers, but the dry-hopping had really gotten rid of any of the bitterness from the hops and we both loved it.

Luxmore also taught us the importance of the foam at the top. She advised getting 2-3 fingers of foam at the top of a pour, since the foam protects the beer from oxygen, which erodes the flavour.

Moving onto the second beer, Nicklebrook Raspberry Berliner, Luxmore instructed the group on beer trends and the different kinds of hops. The Berliner was a popular type of beer in the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, who declared it "the champagne of the North." The particular beer that we tried was made by souring, which gave it a yogurty tang. Fresh-picked Ontario raspberry fruit was brewed into it. This beer is hard to come by, and not available at the LCBO. It was one of Hilary and my favourites! It was a great fruity beer for someone who doesn't usually like beer. And probably an amazing beer for someone who knows more about it!

Kat Rogers-Hern, Chief Beer Educator and Social Media Director, as well as a founder of Alley Kat Brewing Co., was the next speaker. Kat spoke of her experience working at Alley Kat, and watching man after man come into the store. When they had their first female customer, 3 months in, as soon as the door closed behind her, the team cheered and high-fived.

Kat's blog initally was about fitness and beer. "It was suppoed to be my journey with food, fitness and beer," she said, "and then I realized I only cared about the beer."

In her talk, we sampled Together We're Bitter's American Brown Ale, and Great Lakes Brewery's Canuck, and learned about the history of women and beer.

Centuries ago, Rogers-Hern said, there was a time when beer was the most popular beverage, since the brewing process made it safer than drinking water. Brewing was actually a woman's job in the Medieval Ages, which gave them rank and importance. However, during the eventual commercialization of beer, women were kicked out of the business. It wasn't until 1972 that women started brewing regularly again. Rosa Marks was the pioneer, having been named the head of a Belgian commercial brewer that year.

These days, women are becoming increasingly prominent members of the industry. Canada's first all-womens' beer festival sold out in only 36 hours! However, Kat said, women are still fighting tooth and nail for recognition in a very "bro-heavy" industry.

Robin LeBlanc, beer writer and photographer of The Thirsty Wench, was our next speaker. As we sampled the cleverly named Innocente Pil-Sinner, Robin spoke of her journey as a blogger and the lack of recognition women still face in the industry. "People will always go to the male brewer out of a male/female duo to ask about the process," LeBlanc said. Her comments echoed those of Kat, speaking of a very "dude/bro-oriented" culture in brewing. This was further explored in light of beer advertising, which is known for objectifying women for a male gaze, further alienating them from the product.

Now five beers in, the crowd was very chatty, discussing LeBlanc's points among their friends as the Welly Terrestrial was poured around the room. After waiting for the crowd to quiet down, LeBlanc shared her story in becoming a beer blogger. After experimenting at small craft beer bars, "it just sort of spiraled out of control," she said. "I don't know what happened. It sort of seems like a bender." But unlike the average bender, this one has brought beer industry education and views to a wider public and helped entertain and inform crowds such as ours.

The Welly Women closed off the night with the sampling of the Welly Gru-It Yrself, and the story of their Chai Latte Stout, which was a flavour suggested at a previous Queen of Craft, and has now won gold at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Now more than a little buzzed, the room was filled with energy and excitement for the events to come. 

After a night of great speakers and great beer, we look forward to seeing what Queen of Craft offers next! Join them for sessions three and four, details below!



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