While women and beer often are viewed as an odd couple, one Rogue Valley woman is well on her way to erasing old stereotypes — one cold brewski at a time.
Roughly 75 percent of American women, according to statistics, do not view themselves as beer drinkers. But Ginger Johnson, owner of Women Enjoying Beer, is out to bring women to the tap, both literally and figuratively.
Through her consulting firm, Johnson is a liaison of sorts between consumers and breweries large and small, collecting and analyzing market statistics for the benefit of both industry partners and consumers.
While much of what she knows has come from hard research and statistics, she also collects information and feedback in a one-on-one format, serving beer part time at Medford's Beerworks and at monthly events for Women Enjoying Beer.
"Females make up the majority of the humans on the planet, and women make up over 80 percent of purchases in America," Johnson says.
"The three universal truths about women and beer are they want a social factor, they want an educational component and they want value."
A consultant by trade, the 40-something Johnson grew up in the Midwest. She was familiar with all the "big brewers" of the day, she says, but not intimately.
"I didn't drink much beer because I didn't care for the flavors. Doing what I'm doing now, I've learned that's very common," Johnson says. "Beers that most people drink in college aren't that great because it's usually quantity over quality."
At a 2002 beer-pairing dinner in Sioux Falls, S.D., Johnson discovered another side to pale ales and ambers when she met her soon-to-be husband, brewmaster Larry Chase. Johnson founded Women Enjoying Beer in Iowa in 2008 to share what became a passion.
"I saw there was an opportunity," she says. "It really caused me to wonder why women weren't being addressed."
In addition to speaking at events and consulting for various companies, Johnson sponsors monthly meet-ups in partnership with local businesses to give women a chance to try different beers, experiment with beer pairings, socialize and become educated on something she says women have missed out on for too long.
Kari Swoboda-Crowley, of Medford, has been attending Johnson's beer events almost since they began in the Rogue Valley. She says Johnson challenges traditional stereotypes and offers valuable education.
"I think it's smart that she would be changing the beer industry to keep up with it on a marketing end," she says. "There's a huge potential there in tapping into a huge market of people who might like it if they only would try it.
"So many of our traditional views are that it's not very good, but there are so many more microbrews and different flavors that women probably overlook when it comes to beer."
Eileen Dunn, of Ashland, agrees.
"Ginger's research comes from women — to see what they look for in a beer and what they look for in advertising," Dunn says. "Women want to be brought to the table, and right now we're not included in something seen as being mostly for men.
"Ginger has been asked to speak around the country, and she informs not only the customer but the manufacturer."
An occasional beer drinker before, Dunn says Women Enjoying Beer events have broadened her horizons.
"Before, I would have a beer every now and then, but I was probably more of a wine drinker," Dunn says. "Most women go to wine because it's more refined — or that's the image. And the advertising we get shows a bunch of raucous men drinking beer.
"I was at a wine-tasting event at a vineyard once, and a woman sat across from me, all dressed up fancy, and said, 'You know, I really like beer better than wine.' I laughed and said, 'Yeah, I think a lot of women do.' "
For Johnson's part, if she can make a living by opening people's minds and changing perceptions, she's right where she wants to be.
"For me, it's about beer," Johnson says. "But it's really all about education."
For more information, see www.womenenjoyingbeer.com