Beer lovers want more culture

"Part of the reason why I'm attracted to craft beer is because it's not this 'sex sells' gimmick to market the product," says Arwen Lehman, a Miami resident who runs with the Craft Brewjas, South Florida's only group of "wicked women who love beer."

But on Jan. 3, the people behind Miami's most craft-intensive beer festival tried to use sex to sell their new beer venture. Sprung, Tony Albelo's spring version of Grovetoberfest, posted a photo of bikini-clad women playing Twister on its Facebook page.

After negative feedback from commenters, Albelo's team posted a photo of Speedo-wearing men playing Twister, with the caption, "So it seems our social media pig (that's what he was called) ruffled some feathers with the female portion of our fans. In an effort to appease them (and save his job) he offered up the following image. He writes 'Here ladies.' "

"Where's the beer in these pictures?" Lehman asks. "I don't have a problem if you're going to put a girl in a bikini, but if you're marketing a beer festival, then put some craft beer in the picture.


PHOTOS: 2013 SunFest Music Festival

"Women are an integral part of the business of craft brewers," Lehman says. "But it is still absolutely a male dominated hobby and profession, by all means."

Last month I blogged about the Basel Biergarten's uninformed female serving staff. Did they choose to hire women to try to sell more beer with looks? Maybe not, but it's possible organizers assumed that would be the way to go.

"Did we forget, for a moment, that women are a big part of [the consumer base]? Yes," Albelo admits. "Did we forget that we’re also catering to women? Yes. We would not purposely try and alienate them."

Look, I get it. Arwen Lehman gets it. Culturally, we're used to marketing with hot bodies and girls in bikinis.

But there's something about craft beer that makes people demand more from the products they consume. It's not as easy as slapping cleavage on a flyer to try to sell people imperial IPAs.

"They don't need the 'sex sells' approach because [consumers] are already into it because of the quality of the product," Lehman explains.

People who drink craft beer tend to be obsessive about their suds. Look at the hype over the one-time release of Westvleteren XII, dubbed "the best beer in the world" by some rating websites and news outlets.

Drinking rare brews is a source of culture for them. They take beer seriously. Party pics of women in skimpy suits can hardly be called cultural, unless they're hanging in a Wynwood art gallery, and even that's debatable.

"I really have been impressed with the craft beer industry overall," Lehman says. "I think their approach has been not geared toward men."

Last November, I some brewery tours in Colorado. At Avery Brewing in Boulder, a female tap room manager told me the company believes women are the future of craft beer as she led me through fermenting tanks and bottling facilities.

According to her, only 2 percent of American women consider themselves beer drinkers, and Avery considers that a tremendous business opportunity.

Albelo says patrons of his festivals are more-or-less evenly men and women. Since last year, South Florida has gained two industrial breweries, a slew of craft-beer bars, and wider commercial distribution of in-demand beer brands.

The market for craft brews is growing due to people like Albelo, who promotes beer events, bars and restaurants on Grovetoberfest's Facebook page year-round. With all the varieties available, especially some coming out of Schnebly's in the Redlands, it only makes sense that more women are joining the local ranks of beer-geeks.

Albelo had a "lapse in judgment." That won't stop him from rounding up the most local and craft breweries to pour at a festival south of Jupiter this March, and holding free tastings leading up to it for people who want a taste before buying a ticket.

But those Facebook photos still pissed off his fans.

Sprung Beer Festival will take place March 9 at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove. Ticket information will be updated on Facebook.com/IgotSprung.