As one of those people who essentially couldn’t stand the smell of beer until I was out of college, I am still not sure how I feel about this new product: Chick Beer.
At first I assumed it was a reference to Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice, or any of those other drinks that my college roommates told me fell into the “Cheerleader Beer” category. I was wrong – it’s a new real beer that is being marketed exclusively to women. Without seeing the packaging, I was intrigued as to just what this could mean for women and their place in the world of beer.
There are obvious pros and cons to a beer that is made specifically for women. It means that we don’t already have a meaningful presence in the beer market. On the other hand, it also means that we don’t really need one, and can (theoretically) have our own world of beer.
Maryland resident, and Chick Beer founder, Shazz Lewis was looking for a beer to take home from her husband’s wine and spirits store, which offers over 400 different kinds of beer. There was not one that shouted “female," she explained in an interview with Village Voice. Lewis further elucidated that, “As a woman and mother of five daughters, I'm focused on that sort of thing.” And, despite not having five daughters, I am focused on these things as well. So how does one go about making a more women-friendly beer?
Well, Lewis decided to make a splash with the pink and black packaging. The label on the bottle is designed to look like a woman’s figure in a little black dress, and the six-pack carrier is meant to be reminiscent of a purse. If those aspects had not been over-the-top enough to turn me away from buying Chick Beer, the font definitely does the trick. It's the kind of font that oozes "don't pay attention to this product, it's not to be taken seriously." Those same features will most likely be seen as oppressive to women by some people, which is legitimate, but I just think it's mostly just tacky. On another note - and I am no beer aficionado to begin with - but according to Bust, and a few other sites, American light lager is nothing too special, even if it is only 97 calories and 3.5 carbs per bottle. I also noticed that the majority of comments on both Bust and Village Voice were from women who couldn’t care less about the calories, as they exercise regularly or don’t drink often enough (or so much) that the calories matter, and would prefer a genuinely great-tasting brew (not that Chick isn’t delicious – I haven’t tasted it myself).
While the carbs and calories in each bottle may be half of the average bottle of beer in hopes of appealing to those ladies trying to watch their figures, in addition to being lighter on carbonation and flavor to persuade more women to start drinking beer, its not a new concept in the alcoholic beverage industry. Bethany Frankel’s Skinny Girl Margarita also targets women with frilly packaging, fewer calories and lighter flavor.
Realizing that she would need Chick Beer to be taken seriously as a brand, Lewis looked for a brewer with a solid reputation of producing great beer. That search led her to Minhas in Wisconsin, the second-oldest brewery in the US. While I can appreciate the effort to partner with a well established, trusted brewer, how many people are going to see that packaging and care to look into who brewed it? Or how much of the target market even knows to investigate the brewing company?
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about giving women choices by providing products they care about – whether they be gender specific or not. I also have a soft spot for products and services that give part of their proceeds to charities or other non-profit organizations, especially when the money goes to groups aimed at empowering women just as it does with The Chick Cares Program. As of right now, the brew is only available in Maryland, and the benefiting charities are all local, but Chick plans to expand distribution of the product, and proceeds, nationwide.
I just feel that producing a beer, or even a whole flight of ales, lagers, stouts and any other type of brew, specifically aimed at women does not need to resemble a faux make-up kit for girls ages three and up. Keep the name, and the color scheme (as I do think that using black was a good decision), but throw a touch of class into the design of the packaging – especially the font used for the product name. Who knows, if the brew really is that tasty, men might take quite a liking to the product – and not have to find a glass to pour the beer in to avoid carrying around the decorative bottle. Lewis told Village Voice that men do, in fact, enjoy the taste.
While I don’t think that Chick Beer will do any damage to the progress women have made over the last 70-plus years, I definitely don’t think that it is any kind of game-changer. When asked whether she has encountered reactions from people who think she’s anti-feminist or discriminating against men, she noted that “One women said to me that [Chick] will set women back 70 years and I said, ‘Really, a beer brand? I think women have come farther than that.’”
Let’s hope we have. What are your thoughts? Will you buy Chick Beer?