I’ll Have What She’s Having

Normally, when the crass term “bitch beer” is used, it’s meant to signify a high-sugar, low-alcohol, flavored malt beverage intended for ladies who don’t like beer. But two years ago, following an afternoon spent enjoying craft beers from Thirsty Planet Brewing Company’s taproom, a group of females with strong backgrounds in journalism and design—as well as a passion for distinctively flavored, small-batch brews—sought to reclaim and reinvent that term. “It was a very let’s-flip-it-on-its-head mentality,” says Caroline Wallace, a member of the group. “We’re women and we like craft beer. It was a term we thought was silly, and we didn’t like ‘bitch beers’—but there was almost no question of it being the name.”

Thus was born Bitch Beer, a blog dedicated to adding a female (and often hilarious) voice to the craft-beer conversation, in which the women cover everything from the latest brewery release to the best options for scoring free craft brews at music festivals. “When we decided to come up with a blog, we were into craft beer already. But we definitely learned so much [that] it really evolved,” says Wallace, the blog’s cofounder. “The idea was always for it to be approachable, and to get to people who might feel marginalized.”

Despite these humble beginnings, the rise of Bitch Beer has been meteoric; not only was it named one of the Austin Chronicle’s “Top 10 Austin Food Blogs” in 2013 and featured nationally on the Cooking Channel and other venues, but the women (who also include Arianna Auber, Sarah Wood, Holly Aker, Wendy Cawthon, Shaun Martin and Kat McCullough) recently coauthored a book entitled “Austin Beer: Capital City History on Tap” published by The History Press. Based on meticulous research and more than 60 interviews, the book shares Austin’s craft-beer history and personal stories, beginning with Johann “Jean” Schneider, a German immigrant who operated an 1860s-era brewery out of a Congress Avenue saloon, all the way through to the co-ops and breweries of 2013, when landmark craft-beer legislation allowed Texas brewers to begin to legally sell some of their product on-site. 

Still, true to form, the group kept the book fun—offering different local-beer pairing suggestions for each chapter (Live Oak Brewing Company’s HefeWeizen with Austin’s pre-Prohibition history, anyone?), as well as a drinking game that involves raising one’s glass for every picture of a bearded man. Meanwhile, the women say they’re grateful for the warm embrace and guidance Bitch Beer has received from the craft beer community. “It’s still surreal,” Wood says. “I’m glad that we’ve become an asset to people in the craft beer community, or people trying to get into the craft beer industry.” “When we started,” adds Wallace, “there were definitely some who said, Who are these girls? because we were a little younger than your typical craft beer drinker. So it was kind of cool to earn some respect.”

Indeed. And while the ladies are certainly down-to-earth and approachable, when asked if it would be appropriate to salute them at a future craft beer event with “Hey Bitches!” Wood responds with a laugh and says: “You know…we prefer no.” —Nicole Lessin

Find out more at bitchbeer.org