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Will women really ever say cheers to beer?

Beer has long been seen as something of a man’s tipple, but drinks companies are now trying to entice female drinkers with a range of new products, as Amanda Phelan has found out

Beer is seen as a man's beverage, but new low-cal versions are hoping to entice more women drinkers. There’s one designed to go with curry, another tastes like passion fruit and a third contains a hint of orange peel and coriander.

With these flavours one could be forgiven for thinking we’re talking about chocolates or perfume, but no — this is beer.

‘Girlie beer' is the new kid on the alcohol block as smart breweries see they are missing out on up to 50% of the potential market because beer is, well, mostly a man's drink.

As a result, millions in marketing cash are being ploughed into the launch of new scoops aimed at women who avoid the beer market.

Research carried out by major breweries reveals women avoid beer because they believe it is fattening. Furthermore, advertising is sexist and it's often portrayed as a male drink. Now, the aim is to lure women drinkers back into the market with a range of new tipples that aim to tantalise.

Carlsberg says its Eve brand is doing well here since its recent launch. The 3.1% alcohol brew is a beer-style fruit spritzer tailored for women. “Eve is the female equivalent of beer, light in alcohol, sweet and fruity in taste,” says Carlsberg spokeswoman Vita Clausen.

Molston Coors' new trifecta is Animee, a low-cal beer that comes in three flavours — clear filtered, crisp rose and zesty lemon. It includes an anti-bloat ingredient and is even pitched as waistline-friendly at just 107 calories a bottle, according to the sales pitch.

Meanwhile, Carlsberg's new she-ale, Copenhagen, is a brew glowingly described as “a highly drinkable beer with a balanced taste — a real alternative to white wine and champagne”.

The breweries virtuously declare they want to right the institutionalised sexism of the male beer bastion, although a cynical observer might think the scramble is fuelled by the 30% decline in beer sales over the past 30 years, and the rise of small independent breweries.

Now big hitters such as Molston Coors and Carlsberg are vowing an end to advertising campaigns depicting beefy males slurping the foamy stuff in front of well-endowed barmaids.

But the new feminist drive is not really ideological — the female market is worth £340m annually, according to the beer companies. However, many women aren't buying it.

“The beer industry alienates women by focusing primarily on men,” says Molston Coors spokeswoman Kirsty McCready.

So the company is launching a massive blitz to entice female drinkers. Their new range is pretty to look at and “less calorific than wine”, according to Ms McCready.

Molston Coors spoke to more than 30,000 women to find out why they opt for beer so rarely.

What emerged from the research is that several factors put women off buying beer, including too much gas, bitter taste, ugly glassware and a belief it is fattening.

Top of the list in the research stakes is that many women find the inherent sexism in beer advertising and marketing off-putting.

These gripes aren't new, it's just that the beer companies failed to take the information into account. For example, when European market research guru Fons Trompenaars investigated the issue, he pinpointed the divide the brewers themselves created between the sexes as the main culprit that puts women off beer.

What women want is to be informed through equal marketing and education, Professor Trompenaars found. Major breweries such as |Molston Coors agree and Animee is the|result. But some women's groups remain unconvinced.

“Finally, a beer for us! And it's pink,” mocks a recent headline on the Daily Femme website.

Molston Coors acknowledges their new approach will take time to register.

“Advertising is a big issue, and it's been a big factor in putting women off,” admits Ms McCready.

Now the company hopes to redress the balance with its new campaign, and the launch of Animee, a word that might conjure up rides along the River Seine in Paris, is actually a derivative of a French word meaning animated. The beer itself is brewed in the less glamorous-sounding Burton-on-Trent in England.

Carlsberg’s Copenhagen comes in a clear bottle with a minimalist style that the makers claim is a reflection of its eponymous source: “rooted in Copenhagen — an international city of fashion and design”.

It may take a while for women to forgive the big breweries which have busily been disenfranchising them from the market for the past 50 years, and are now belatedly hoping to entice them back

The consensus on Animee is the standard flavour is nice — light and tasty, and, although slightly sweet, tastes like beer.

But others aren't convinced, with one newspaper reviewer declaring: “I was decidedly underwhelmed by the taste. Despite having some pretty pictures of hops on the bottle, if anyone can identify anything even approaching a normal beer flavour in any of these drinks I'll eat my hat.”

So what’s the verdict?

Drinkers Dani Baker (24), Ciara McInerney (24) and Levi Sweeney-McGrath (23) sampled the new Animee range from Molston Coors during a taste test.

They say they might opt for Animee with food: “But probably more for takeaways,” says Ciara.

“Animee lemon zest tastes pleasant, there's just a hint of after taste of lemon,” says Levi, who also enjoyed the rose flavour.

The clear version was the least popular with the testers.”It tastes flat, like bad water,” says Dani.

The women say that while they might switch to the beer, it would only be the first couple of drinks.

“We usually have one or two beers and then drink spirits,” says Ciara.

The girls agree that an anti-bloat ingredient contained in new beers aimed at female drinkers is a good idea.

“But we still wouldn't drink beer all night,” says Levi. “It's too expensive and heavy so we change to spirits.”

“This beer would appeal to me, as it comes in a bottle, and I like that it's low calorie,” says Dani.

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