“Paula Waters [CAMRA’s first ever chairwoman] said most adverts for beer were biased towards male drinkers: “When is the last time you saw any press or TV advert for beer which is meant to attract women?
“At best they are inoffensively aimed at men and at worst they are downright patronising to women.”
She has a point – although I wouldn’t say I’d noticed that many adverts for real ale outside of specialist magazines and beer festivals. And I wonder what an advert aimed at women would look like (would I find it more patronising, like the idea of “girls’ bars” at beer festivals?)
Does marketing play that big a part in attracting people (male or female) to real ale? I think it can have a part to play, based on my own experiences.
Why did I get into real ale? Well, I almost didn’t – it took a long time because, frankly, so many of the pints were bad. At the time, I just assumed that’s what real ale tasted like. Now I can see that the kind of places I was drinking were not looking after their beer terribly well.
Why did I keep persisting with ale? It was because I liked the idea of drinking something traditional and “real” (and so did the crowd I was with) This seemed much cooler than drinking Guinness or mass-produced lager – even if I didn’t enjoy it at first.
So perhaps marketing does help in arousing the initial interest. The “real ale” concept is a great asset to start with – even more could be made of this to emphasise how natural and traditional real ale is. The “local” angle is important here, too – people are increasingly trying to eat locally-sourced food, and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t help sell real ale too.
However, a marketing campaign on its own is no good if you go into a pub for your first pint (or half) of real ale and it’s stale or off. So perhaps CAMRA could put more effort into promoting knowledge amongst landlords and bar staff on keeping and serving real ale (I’m sure CAMRA already does this, but there’s definitely still work to be done)
Here are my thoughts on how you introduce people (male or female) to real ale .
- Make sure it’s a good beer, in a pub where they know how to keep it! Sounds obvious, but you don’t want their first pint to be the last. You also want there to be a range available, so they don’t have to stick to the one drink, and so that they get a sense of the fantastic variety in real ale.
- Alternatively, consider introducing your victim to a range of bottle-conditioned beers in the comfort of your own home (or theirs). Bottle-conditioned beers are often less variable, fresher, and if you’re serving it at home, you have the advantage of controlling the glassware (which we’re very keen on) and the serving temperature.
- I’d usually start with something pale, but definitely not bland – a well-balanced IPA for example. I’ve got a friend coming round tonight, and I’m going to try her on a St Austell “Proper Job” IPA (bottle-conditioned, of course). Then possibly Hopback Summer Lightning.
- Resist the temptation to demonstrate all your knowledge about hop varieties and malt complexity. Unless you are trying to convert a nerd, in which case go in all guns blazing – even if they don’t like the beer, it’s something to else to be nerdy about.
- Be patient! You probably aren’t going to convert someone to real ale overnight – it may take a prolongued campaign.
Has anyone got any success stories in converting people to real ale? Is a beer festival, such as the Great British Beer Festival, the place to do it?