Sometimes, I’ll just flat out over think things.
Like, with the Barley’s Angels launch, I ended up over thinking a lot of the questions that I was going to ask in order to put together an article. Initially, my thought process involved questions like “Is the appropriation of the idea of Charlie’s Angels, a TV show which was labeled jiggle-TV by critics, appropriate for a beer education group for women? Aren’t there some lingering issues of image, even if the execution is a post-modernist deconstruction of the memes associated with that show?”and “If the idea that beer hasn’t been marketed to women because of the possibly erroneous notion of a beer belly is valid, doesn’t that mean that the absence of marketing to that demographic falls under the larger societal issue of a patriarchally inflicted male-gaze style construct?”
See? Over thinking. Plus, since I’m not exactly up to date on my Naomi Wolfe, Germaine Greer and Laura Mulvey readings, I decided not to ask those questions for fear of looking like a bit of a jerk.
What I decided to do instead was to actually attend the inaugural meeting of the group’s Toronto Chapter. This wasn’t the kind of thing that I would have had the sway to pull off a month ago, so this is just one way in which writing a nationally syndicated column is helpful.
So there I was, sitting at a small table in the upstairs portion of the Twisted Kilt, feeling not a little bit like David Attenborough. Sort of: “Here, for the first time, we are witness to the drinking habits of the North American human female.” It was interesting. Mostly, I kept my head down and listened since I was sitting at a table by myself in a different part of the room, periodically fidgeting with my blackberry in order to attempt to look nonchalant (and probably failing). I didn’t take any pictures because I thought it might make people uncomfortable.
It was an interesting cross section of experience. There were some female beer nerds, but for the most part it seemed like the crowd was made up of novices.
One of the immediate differences that I noted was the fact that women ask questions. Sometimes, they asked pretty involved questions, but also some very basic ones. One person in particular pretty clearly didn’t know what was involved in the process of making beer, but was comfortable enough to ask about the day to day activities of a brewery. It was as free an exchange of ideas as I’ve ever seen at a beer tasting.
This was different than what I’ve experienced at regular beer tastings with men. Men, I have noticed, are not afraid to bluff their way through. I have had, for instance, the following conversation with men at a beer tasting:
“Hey, this is a pretty good beer.”
“Yup, that’s an oak aged saison with some wild yeast in it. Probably a little brett.”
“Ah. That’s what that is. I thought that’s what that was. Reminds me of X.”
“X doesn’t have wild yeast, and is in fact a Belgian Tripel.”
“Yup. Sure does remind me of X. How ‘bout that local sports team.”
At Barley’s Angels, people were actually learning. You could see looks of recognition playing around on their faces as they picked up some terminology and started to understand what they were tasting. It’s always nice to see people getting the concept. It’s nice to see enthusiasm rewarded with knowledge.
I think that this is going to be a success. The guided tasting format is certainly useful in imparting information, and my understanding is that there are more chapters of the organization getting ready to launch that weren’t quite ready in time for the big kickoff. It’ll be interesting to see what impact it has in the long term.
The other fun thing was that the beers that were highlighted were from the Magnotta brewery. I hadn’t tried any of their beers before and I feel like they’re pretty badly underrated, despite the fact that they have a production brewery in Vaughan. Their English IPA is pretty darn solid and their Wunder Weisse would be a nice summer beverage. It’s a relatively rare case of an Ontario Microbrewery producing beers exactly to style and doing it consistently. Does what it says on the tin. Also, the IPA is 12/$19.95. Nearly four dollars cheaper than an equivalent amount of Keith’s, which only purports to be an IPA.
You could do a hell of a lot worse than make Magnotta a staple beer in your fridge. It’s inexpensive and flavorful. According to Jennifer Robitaille, their focus is on consistency. I suppose the reason that I hadn’t heard about them before is because I tend not to go to the Beer Store much.
So, I learned two things yesterday:
1) It’s pretty much impossible to look like you belong at a beer tasting for women with a six day growth of beard.
2) Even if you consider that you know a little bit about everything that goes on in the Ontario beer scene, you can still be pleasantly surprised from time to time. Which is nice.