Ginger Johnson: "What do women want from beer?"

What do women want from beer?

That's a question Ginger Johnson, owner of Women Enjoying Beer, has been pursuing for three years as she researches and educates consumers and producers around the country.

"I was invited to speak at the Craft Brewers Conference in 2009, and that's what really launched it," she recalls. Preparing to tackle the subject of marketing beer to women, she dove headlong into a series of focus groups. After uncovering some surprising sentiments -- and realizing there wasn't anyone addressing the topic -- Johnson launched her project, which works to "encourage female beer enthusiasm," according to her website, by not just educating women about beer, but also by helping brewers market more effectively to women.

And, she emphasizes, that's not just making a beer like, oh, say, Chick Beer or Animée, both of which purport to be marketed specifically toward the female population -- a strategy Jonson thinks is misdirected. "I'm not pinkifying or pandering," she says. "I offer a perspective that's research-based."

She points out that there's a huge opportunity. "Women represent 80 percent of consumer purchases," she notes. "Even if they're not drinking it, they're still buying it." And they're choosing from tens of thousands of options, too.

In that spirit, Johnson gave a seminar at Wynkoop Brewing Company today, helping educate local industry professionals on more effectively selling beers to women. She dropped suggestions on getting women to explore beer without ostracizing, including women-specific events and making sure brand image isn't turning women off. But much of her message boils down to good customer service: Don't assume you know what the customer wants ("Make the assumption that all women like flavor, and dash the notion that there's beer for women," she said) and use every interaction as an opportunity to expand her knowledge or comfort zone through tasting and conversation.

Ultimately, though, her message boils down to the fact that women want different things out of beer, and that they're best educated the same way any person looking to get into beer is best educated -- through exposure and teaching.

As a woman who discovered her love for beer only after forgoing the light lagers for a stout -- and went on to favor punch-me-in-the-face styles traditionally associated with men -- I couldn't agree more.

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