Beer is not just a guy's game anymore

Female craft beer connoisseurs spurring beer boom

ORLANDO, Fla. - While wine reigns supreme as the drink of choice among American women, you'd never know that by the mix of patrons at beer bars and brew pubs across Central Florida.

Orlando is becoming known for its craft beer scene which was recently featured in the New York Times, and lady beer lovers could be part of the reason it is getting so popular. 

At Redlight Redlight, in Orlando's Audobon Park neighborhood, beer lovers can sample upwards of 300 types of brews at any time. 

If you check into the bar for happy hour on a typical Tuesday, you'll find just as many women as men and well-versed women behind the bar.

"It is seen as a guy's game and a lot of guys who come to the bar are a little intimidated that I can actually answer them," said Mandy Protheroe, a craft beer connoisseur and one of the managers at Redlight.

Like other lady beer lovers, Protheroe got interested in craft beer after being able to taste the difference in quality.

She said craft beers differ from the typical American lagers like Budweiser and Miller mainly because how they are made. 

Mass produced beers tend to use corn and rice to keep cost down instead of malted barely.  Craft beers shy away from that, using purer ingredients and adding various flavors, which typically mean the beer is brewed in smaller batches.

Jessica Mattias said she never liked beer until she took a trip to Colorado and toured a small brewery and learned how it was made.

"It was just as fascinating and impressive, if not more impressive than how wine is made," said Mattias, a weekend regular at Redlight.

Soon she found out that craft brewers offered flavors and varieties like coffee, chocolate and even banana bread and she was hooked.

Women aren't just buying craft beer at bars and specialty stores, some are brewing as well.

Amy Beer, who did not change her last name to fit her hobby, home brews with her husband in Mt. Dora.

"His beers are extraordinary, but it's always nice to taste different beers from different breweries because then you get new ideas for how to do our beer," she said.

At Orlando Brewing just south of downtown, they are releasing a series of beers brewed by the women of the brewery called "Chocolate Mint Girl Stout".

The brewery opened in 2004 and has attracted patrons like Marshall Schirtzer.

Schirtzer, a 49 year-old mother of four, said she started receiving unique beers from around the world as gifts almost 25 years ago.  That led to her interest in craft breweries.

Over the years she'd receive  beers through the mail from other parts of the country.

In the last five years, the Orlando area has opened over a dozen new places for craft beer, whether they be restaurants or bars serving bottles and draughts from around the country or breweries making their own beer onsite.

"I enjoy craft beer because of the uniqueness and the variety and you know I like the hunt, always going out and trying something new," said said.

It's bringing women together in social circles in the way that wine or card parties may have done in the past. 

On Facebook, Lady Crafters is a page dedicated to Central Florida women who love their beer.  The page posts events and beer dinners to bring women together, like the monthly beer tastings in Mt. Dora. 

A local tourism group hosts an event called "Around the Lake" once a month at Maggie's Attic, a boutique wine and beer shop. 

"Anywhere you go,  you are going to start talking to people who are asking what are you drinking today, have you had that before what else do you like to drink," said Jackie Loschiavo, a craft beer lover who even uses it in her cooking. 

Loschiavo, Shirtzer and their friend Shannon Littrell practically met and bonded over beer.  The threesome have now been friends for about eight years.

"I'm always up to try a new beer . Sometimes I love it, sometimes I just put it in the fridge for other people to try," said Littrell.

But wine shouldn't have it's feelings hurt over all the lady beer love.  According to Gallup, 52 percent of women still choose wine as their alcoholic beverage of choice while just 20 percent responded for beer.

As Littrell put it: "No one broke up with wine."

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