Annabel Smith, one of the first two women to receive official beer sommelier accreditation from the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD) Beer Academy, has told BigHospitality changing glassware can significantly change the attitudes of women to beer.
Smith, training manager at Cask Marque, took her viva examination for the accreditation earlier this week with Beer Academy chief examiner Dr George Philliskirk.
Alongside journalist and beer enthusiast Sophie Atherton, Smith is one of the first women to be awarded the beer sommelier title since the qualification was launched six months ago.
"It gives me a bit of credibility," she said. "It is not just some woman talking about beer, it is someone who actually knows about beer."
Speaking to BigHospitality, Smith revealed she had wanted to take the course to get recognition and to gain more knowledge of American craft beers and more unusual drinks.
"There are loads and loads of people in the industry who have been talking about how great beer is and how great it is with food but there hasn't been an officially recognised qualification or title for anybody who does this regularly," Smith added.
Women and glasses
The beer inspector and training manager has been with Cask Marque for seven years, arranges beer history and food and beer matching talks and co-founded the Dea Latis forum for people helping to make beer more appealing to female drinkers.
"Glassware is a massive issue," she explained. "Women do not like drinking out of pint glasses. I did a beer and food evening about a year ago and I did an experiment - I put a beer in a wine glass and I put the same beer in a half pint glass. I asked 70 women to tell me which one they prefer and 90 per cent held up the wine glass."
As well as glassware, the message that beer is actually less calorific than many alcoholic drinks would help bring more women to the drink, Smith argued.
Philliskirk, who led the viva examination which included a blind tasting, said the perception of beer as a male drink was changing. "Women do enjoy beer but tend to be more discerning than the average male beer drinker. They like to know how it’s brewed, what raw materials are used and how these affect the flavour of the final product."
While Smith agreed she said when it came to achieving beer sommelier status gender was not important. "We do have a bit more of a discerning palate because we do tend to be able to pick up a lot more of the bitter notes in beer. We are very good at identifying hops but I genuinely don't think gender should come into it."
As for beers targeted at women, Smith repeated the message master beer sommelier Mark Stroobandt gave BigHospitality last year : "I don't think beers that are specifically targeted at women work. A lot of women will just think 'if it is not good enough for the blokes why is it good enough for me?' They are a bit cannier."