Do you know your Tiger from your Strongbow, or your Guinness from your Kilkenny? Renyi Lim certainly didn’t, until she met the Beer Diva – a woman on a mission to make the golden brew the preferred choice of beverage for sophisticated women.
Text: Renyi Lim
Photography: Ellen Wong
Venue: The Tavern, Guinness Anchor Berhad Brewery
Beer. Women. Beer and women. Have we ever been paired together outside the context of a man’s perfect fantasy? It seems unlikely when you Google the two words together – of the ten thousand suggestions that appear, most of them are photographs of women in bikinis carrying an enormous stein. We’ve certainly been used to advertise beer, but when it comes to drinking it ourselves, that’s an entirely different matter.
Did our heroines of the millennium, the ladies of Sex and the City, ever drink beer? Miranda proposed to Steve over a beer and we might have seen Samantha with a bottle while on the prowl in a sports bar, but it was Cosmopolitans that the TV series made famous as the ultimate drink for women – not cask ales. As for the women who did enjoy their beer, they were swiftly termed ‘ladettes’: women who, as Quentin Letts described them, aimed to be “equal to men in squalor and excess” and were “expected to get as plastered as the blokes” in notorious binge-drinking sessions.
But Kirrily Waldhorn, also known as Australia’s first lady of beer, is certainly not a ladette. She’s the very model of decorum as she presents her lecture on ‘The Art of Beer and Food Pairing’ at Guinness Anchor Berhad’s brewery, and there isn’t a single hint of a beer belly about her. “Let me bust that beer myth once and for all,” she says. “Beer does not make you fat. It has virtually no fat content and contains fewer calories per 100ml than orange juice, white wine and milk. The only way you can get fat on beer is if you’re drinking Guinness while eating chocolate cake.” (Which is, as Marie Claire discovered, a rather delicious combination.)
Despite her assertion that beer is not a culprit in the battle against the scales, I am still sceptical enough to ask her whether she might be a secret fitness fanatic. “Apart from running around after my children, I don’t have any exercise regime!” laughs the Perth-born mother of two. “I definitely go by the saying ‘drink less, drink better’, so I don’t really drink vast amounts of beer – just great beer.” With her sensible approach to alcohol consumption and emphasis on responsible drinking, Kirrily is paving the way for a new image of the female beer consumer – cultured and perceptive women who, like her, are not afraid to enjoy their beer and demand that it be of excellent quality.
While her mission as the Beer Diva is to make beer the new wine by introducing men and women to the joys of beer, with all its complexities and diverse styles, Kirrily still understands why many women might be reluctant to approach beer. “Women are more receptive to the bitter taste of beers,” she explains, “and because it registers more clearly on the palate, it can take a while for women to adjust to the taste before they grow to appreciate it.”
For the hesitant first-timer, Kirrily recommends Paulaner, a mild, fizzy and refreshing Bavarian wheat beer, as a suitable entry point into the world of beer, rather than launching straight into the dark, bitter stouts like Guinness. She also highlights the appeal of fruitier brews for women – cider, which is made from fermented apple juice, has a sharper and slightly sweeter taste that will appeal to those who cannot tolerate the bitterness of hops. Most temptingly of all, she also suggests the Belgian lambic beers, which feature fruit flavours including raspberry, peach and blackcurrant – to name a few. “Every girl loves a lambic,” she grins knowingly.
The full version of this article can be found in our July 2011 issue - available now at all good newsagents and bookstores.