Beer Tap at a Bar. Photo by Ted Bigham, Flickr CC

The gender gap in alcohol consumption is narrowing — research suggests women now drink just as much as men. This change may be partially attributed to declining prices or targeted efforts by alcohol companies to market their products to women. But just because women are drinking more, doesn’t mean that alcohol is marketed equally, especially when it comes to beer. New research finds that consumers consider certain beers masculine and others feminine,  and women often face stigma when choosing a beer, while men rarely do.

The author first analyzed references to gender and beer on 50 beer blogs, then surveyed 93 people at craft beer bars near New York City. She asked participants what they think of when they hear “feminine beer” or “masculine beer” and what kind of people they associate with each term. Both men and women agreed that feminine beer is light or flavored, while masculine beer is strong and heavy. Following this logic, fruit beers or coffee-flavored beers are feminine, and IPAs and unflavored lagers are masculine. While men are typically thought to have more knowledge about beer, female participants used technical terms and craft beer jargon about taste profiles and beer categories far more often than the male participants.

However, the way men and women view beer consumers differed considerably. For example, female participants praised women who prefer masculine beer (“she’s a badass bitch”), while men tended to sexualize women who prefer masculine beer. Some men thought it made women sexier, while others thought it made women too much like “a dude.” Participants did not scrutinize men’s choice of beers. They agreed that if a man orders a feminine beer he’s making an informed choice, but if a woman orders it, she knows nothing about beer. In other words, “any beer can be the right beer when men are consumers,” but women lose no matter what beer they choose.