Women Are a Majority of Craft Beer Drinkers in Portland, Ore

Bart Watson, the Brewers Association's Chief Economist, has posted some numbers about who drinks craft beer, and one finding is absolutely amazing:

Looking at individual markets, Portland Oregon’s craft drinker breakdown is 52.7% female and 47.3% male (source: Scarborough).

He posts a graph that functions as a teaser--the gender demographics of 77 markets. If you want to see what they are, you need to become a member. However, there's another city that has an almost identical breakdown (52.6% women), which I'd bet is Seattle. Another city is basically 50-50. [Update. Thanks to folks with access, I've learned the other high-woman city is not Seattle, but Providence, RI. Seattle, quite shockingly, is all the way down near the national average at 32.7%. Come on Emerald City!]

Portland's beer consumption is majority-craft, though the Oregon Brewers Guild no longer tracks the total figures (in 2014, 40% of all beer consumed in Portland was made in Oregon). That no doubt means men still constitute a majority of beer drinkers citywide, but it's probably close (women drink mass market lagers, too). There are ways in which Oregon is not just a leading indicator, but a cultural outlier, and our beer consumption patterns are probably an example. Nevertheless, let's put t his into perspective based on some of Watson's other stats.

He notes, for example:

[C]raft drinkers are 31.5% female and 68.5% male in 2018 (source: Nielsen Harris on Demand).  The main positive in these numbers is that they are improving. In 2015, the same Harris Poll found “several times a year” craft drinkers were 29.1% female and 70.9% male. That’s 2% points in shift toward females, in a three year period where total craft went up ~5% points in the country. When you add that all up, it suggests that from 2015 to 2018, craft has added ~14.7 million drinkers, of which a bit below half (~6.6M) were women. If that data is correct, craft is now onboarding men and women into the category at roughly their percentages in the population.

Women are a huge source of potential easy growth for craft breweries*. There's a reason Portland is the national leader in beer. Our drinking culture is female-friendly, and when you walk into a pub in the city, you see what the numbers reflect--a crowd evenly split between men and women. Women are becoming increasingly visible as authorities here--as brewers, business owners, and writers. (Is it perfect here? Nope. But it's improving.)

Click to enlarge.

This isn't a SJW thing, it's just normal. Cultural changes happen when the norms change, and the Pacific Northwest is an example of what it looks like when they do. Very little about the Portland scene is different from any other scene except that more women participate, things are a little less bro-y, and we are less tolerant of overtly sexist behavior and imagery. I do hope this is the future of beer and that Portland isn't an outlier. And for those of you who are worried about this dystopic future, I invite you to visit the Rose City and see if it doesn't feel pretty nice and natural.

The upside/downside to Watson's post can be seen in the steep drop-off after those few shining examples on the right side of the graph. The downside is the drop-off, but the upside is the potential it represents. Roughly half the cities are below 30% and all but seven are below 40%. If other cities could appeal to women enough to get the percentages up to even a third, it would represent a sea change in the way we associate beer with men. I hope that, in this one case, Portland is a pioneer and not an outlier.

*"Craft" is a badly-conceived category, but when I use it I mean everything that's not a mass market lager, either domestic or imported.