‘One of the Blokes’: The gendered nature of beer in New Zealand’s craft brewing scene

I am very excited to announce my first article to come out a brand analysis and fieldwork I conducted with New Zealand ‘brewsters’ (women beer brewers) in 2016 as part of a Victoria University of Wellington Research Establishment Grant (or is it University of Wellington? Who can be sure…).

The project is only a small slice of the work yet to be unpacked from a wider project I’ve been (slowly) doing on the gendered cultural labour of craft beer brewing (when the digital tech/surveillance side of my research agenda allows me to…). The larger project includes fieldwork with women brewers from the US and Australia, as well.

I came to this project with an interest in why craft beer continues to be thought of as “men’s work,” and how women brewers negotiate their way around this landscape. As anyone who’s been inside a craft beer bar can tell you (although scholars too, have demonstrated this fact should you need that kind of evidence!), the craft beer scene is generally accepted as the “authentically local,” progressive counterpart to the homogenous, misogynistic mainstream conglomerates that have long dominated the alcohol/spirits market. Yet increasingly, we’re hearing lots of reports that in practice this isn’t necessarily the case; many women, in fact, report that sexism, harassment, abuse, discrimination and mistreatment is fairly widespread in the craft beer industry.  Scholarly research also finds that women beer brewers and consumers have a much harder time being taken seriously than their male counterparts. (I mean seriously, how many times is that bartender going to offer me an “easy-to-drink” cider instead of the IPA or Stout I really wanted…?)

This article (which I co-authored with my stellar summer scholar, Sophie Parker) looks at how women brewers — when given the opportunity to brand their own beer — take up this task. What are the stories they tell? Do they work to create a space to present women as legitimate brewers in their own right? Or do they merely reproduce masculine narratives of production and consumption?

If you’re unable to access a copy of “One of the Blokes’: Brewsters, branding and gender (in)visibility in New Zealand’s craft beer industry” because of library or IP restrictions, please get in touch with me and I’ll send it your way!

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