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Time to grow up, breweries

Amy Cavanaugh
Written by
Amy Cavanaugh

Last week I opened Twitter and saw a tweet from Guys Drinking Beer (one of the guys, Karl Klockars, writes for TOC) about the latest beer labels to hit the market.

The beer, made by Pig Minds Brewing in Machesney Park, is called PD California Style Ale and features an image of a woman’s legs with underwear around her ankles.


You should be, but labels like this are becoming more and more commonplace on beers made around the country, and many breweries seem to be just fine with using images like this to sell beer. At SkepChick, my acquaintance Julia Burke wrote about the topic (and mentioned racist beer names and misogyny on the part of booze writers, two other big issues in the drinking world). And there's another good take here

These posts touch on beer labels and names around the country, but the Midwest certainly isn’t immune to the problem. Plenty of beers brewed in our backyard have sexist names or feature labels designed to appeal to one target demographic: men. 

Pig Minds coyly hints at the name of the beer on the label: “We now present ‘PD California Style Ale.’ Police Department? Purple Dinosaur? Positive Discipline? We will let your pig headed minds decide for themselves.” Please. Destihl Brewery, in Bloomington, is making Strawberry Blonde Ale and the label has a drawing of a strawberry with long blonde hair, boobs and high heels. Hailstorm Brewing Co., from Tinley Park, is making Dominatrix Double IPA, and the website promises: “Like the dominatrix, she will reel you in with her sweet beauty then whip you into a hoppy submission!” Classy. The brewery also makes Honey Pot Blonde Ale and BBW, or Big Beautiful Wheat, both of which feature a woman spilling out of a dirndl. Similarly, Lake Barrington’s Wild Onion Brewery is making Hefty-Weiss, which also features a pigtailed woman in a dirndl, blowing bubblegum. And these are just new labels that were released in July.

What’s going on here? 

Beer—making it, selling it, drinking it—has always been, and continues to be, a boys’ club, even though more women are working at all levels of the brewing industry. Locally, the head brewer at Evanston’s Temperance Beer Company is Claudia Jendron, while Hayley Shine is the brewmaster at Rock Bottom Brewery in Chicago. And at the recently opened outpost of Lagunitas Brewing Company, Mary Bauer is the head brewer. More and more women are also exploring craft beer as drinkers—locally, Chicago Beer Gals Collective and Barley’s Angels host beer education and appreciation events for women. That doesn’t include all the women who don’t work in the beer industry and just appreciate a good beer at the end of the day. 

But for some reason, these breweries are choosing to alienate a whole group of drinkers who would potentially buy their beer. Do they assume that women aren’t drinking their products and just want to appeal to male drinkers? Are they not even considering the possibility that women might drink beer? Or, are they not even thinking and just think these labels and names are funny? I contacted Pig Minds, Destihl, Wild Onion and Hailstorm to ask them why they gave their beers these names and labels, but none of them have responded.

I like beer a lot, and whenever I’m out at a bar or picking up a six-pack at Binny’s, I look for locally made beers and try to get something I’ve never had before. I can tell you one thing, though: I’m never going to buy any of these beers. I don’t care if these are the greatest beers ever—giving the breweries money for them is an acknowledgement that this immature, sexist mindset is okay. It’s time breweries started realizing there are women paying attention to the beers they’re making and it’s high time these breweries grew up.

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