BrewDog Pink IPA: The reaction from industry women

In case you missed it, infamous Scottish brewery BrewDog this week announced a ‘Pink IPA’ version of its flagship beer. The ‘beer for girls’ branding was supposed to be ironic and challenge the gender pay gap, but the whole thing hasn’t gone down too well.

For a little more context, the beer inside the bottle is exactly the same as Punk IPA. However, BrewDog re-imagined the label in pink with the name ‘Pink IPA’ and the slogan ‘Beer For Girls’.

What isn’t so obvious is that the label is meant to be satirical. The beer has been launched to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March and those identifying as a woman can get a 20% discount.

Furthermore, 20% of the proceeds from both Punk and Pink IPA over the next month will be donated to charities that fight inequality and support women. The full blog post is here.

Now I could easily write yet another male take on the whole situation but instead I contacted some prominent women who work in the beer industry to get their thoughts.

Here’s what they make of Pink IPA…

Melissa Cole – Beer writer & Certified Cicerone

“I genuinely believe the Brewdog Pink IPA came from a good place from women inside the business. The problem is: a) Argh. Pink. No. b) If you have to explain it, it’s already backfired c) Any initiative like this from BrewDog is going to be greeted with epic scepticism given the history of hyper-macho stunts and disingenuous behaviour from the leaders of the company, in fact their whole shtick was built on those kinds of exploits.”

Lotte Peplow – Beer Sommelier

“In my view, it’s nothing more than a marketing gimmick that perpetuates stereotypical gender inequalities in the beer industry. Women will see a pink label and steer clear of it. We don’t want to drink beer specifically targeted at women and the subtle nuances of sarcasm and irony will be lost on most people.”

“Having said that, BrewDog’s intentions are sound  and I  approve of their motivation to address the gender imbalance – I just don’t think they’ve got it quite right. They criticize breweries for sexist marketing to sell beers but using a pink label only condones it.  However, maybe their intention is to get the world talking about BrewDog, and they’re very good at doing just that!”

Claire Bullen – Writer at Good Beer Hunting

“Brewdog has claimed this beer is obviously “ironic” and “satirical,” but satire fails when it only replicates existing societal prejudices instead of challenging them. To function, satire must warp its subject to such a degree that it shocks its audience into recognition of latent bigotries.”

“Following this metric, is a pink label with “Beer For Girls” successful satire? I’d say no—not in a world where patronising, pinkified “beer for women” is still something the multinationals try (and fail) to make every few years. Molson Coors’s Animée and Carlsberg’s Eve serve as recent examples; the smaller, Czech-made Aurosa—whose tagline is First Beer for Her, and whose site asks us to “embrace the feminine magic”—might as well be Brewdog’s “satirical” beer come to life. Brewdog says its Pink IPA is a clear commentary on those predecessors, but is that obvious to the average consumer (or to vast swaths of social media users responding to the campaign)? Does it look any less patronising on the shelf?”

“Whatever the intention, the gendering of beverages has never played out well for women. “Girly” beers might be fruit beers or pumpkin beers or wheat beers, depending on who you’re asking, but “girly” is usually accompanied by sneering dismissiveness. “Girly” becomes a synonym for beers that are “not interesting” or “weak” or “not what I’m looking for.” Unsurprisingly, this fosters a beer scene in which women are regularly assumed, in all kinds of contexts, to have less knowledge, less credibility, less authority, and less reliable taste.”

“Today’s beer world, as has been much discussed recently, is still a place that can be uncomfortable, exclusionary, or even threatening for women. Amidst the current conversations happening all over the industry, this gesture—perhaps nobly meant, perhaps not—appears all the more callous and poorly planned.”

Rach Smith – Author of Look at Brew

“My understanding is that Brewdog wanted to generate a debate about the gender pay gap and I like that the company realise that it’s big enough to have influence on campaigns and worthy causes but in this case that influence hasn’t been positive because the satire they employed for the campaign just wasn’t obvious enough. Brewdog have got us all talking about Pink IPA for sure but it’s not for the right reasons; we’re not discussing he gender pay gap, we’re discussing Brewdog and that’s the problem.”

Charlie – Author of The Crafty Beeress

“I agree that the intent doesn’t align with the final product. I think there’s a expectation that the Brewdog audience is this craft beer drinking, irony getting, bunch of feminists when the reality is it’s much more diverse than that – and, while this diversity and accessibility is actually one of BrewDog’s strengths, it also means that messages like this need to be crafted much more carefully.”

Charlie also posted this rather popular tweet:

Steph Palgrave-Elliott – Co-founder of Caps & Taps

“I think it was probably conceived in good faith but the fact it requires any explanation is too much. If I hadn’t been immersed in the social media would I know what it’s on about? I would probably walk into the bar, feel patronised, roll my eyes and go down the road for a non-gendered drink. The last thing I want is to stand at the bar and have a beer ‘explained’ to me. Had enough of that already.”

Miranda Hudson – Co-founder of Duration Brewing

“It didn’t bring anything helpful to an important issue but will probably be good for brew dogs beer sales at large. Tanked for me and smacks of attention grabbing noise in an ongoing industry debate.”

“If only they combined their past airdropping cat stunt with this. Perhaps an axe yielding cat – axe etched ‘punk cats smash the patriachry’ add in some Alan Sugar cut outs saying ‘Your Hired’ none of it on pointe but would be more Monty python humorous. In seriousness it’s a tough subject to get right. See Burning Sky labels via Chris Hall for an all together understated win.”

Rebecca Pate – Marketing & Events Coordinator at Mason and Co

“I have to admit that I wish I were less cynical about it and I’m seeing so much promotion and discussion when dipping in and out of social as I have been for the last two days…But the discussion is about BrewDog tactics rather than the issue of the gender pay gap. So an effective approach from the perspective of sales, sure, but would also like to see them do something more effective for actual change”

Kat Sewell – Author of Have I got brews for you

“Given BrewDog’s morally and ethically questionable marketing in the past this doesn’t surprise me. It misses the point but hey I’m sure they feel there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Lily Waite – Author of Craft Queer

“As Kat says, this isn’t surprising. I’d be infinitely more surprised to see a marketing campaign that wasn’t horrendous horseshit. I also cannot believe that they didn’t see it playing out like this; whilst they’re claiming the campaign was conceived with the consultation of women high up in BrewDog, I don’t believe that, overall, they didn’t anticipate this, and were more than happy with being ‘classic confrontation, controversial BrewDog.’ It’s infuriating that they’re jumping on International Women’s Day and the gender pay gap to get press and play their tiresome games.”

So there you have it: the frank and honest reaction from women who work in the beer industry. It’s worth noting that BrewDog has issued an apology (of sorts) which you can read here.

And here’s a couple of examples of other breweries taking a more subtle and measured approach.

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