Craft beer brewing
Beer used to be considered mainly a guy’s drink, with that first draught as a youth even seen as part of the passage into manhood. But nowadays more and more women are drinking beer, especially with the growth of craft beers, and some are even brewing their own.
Rose Schweikhart began home brewing a few years ago and liked it so much she decided to open a brewery, and now produces multiple kinds of beer as the owner and head brewer at Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery in Hot Springs National Park, utilizing its namesake thermal water.
“There is a growing culture of craft beer and women are a rapidly increasing percentage of the beer drinking market,” Schweikhart told HER.
“We get a lot of comments from people coming in who say ‘I don’t usually like beer, but I like this one’” as they sample some of Superior’s numerous and constantly changing beer varieties.
“I think it ties into our philosophy of variety, and I think breweries and beer companies in general are putting out a range of products to appeal to as wide an audience as possible,” she said.
“Part of that is making lighter beers and flavored beers. We’ve found a lot of people will try a lighter beer and then start feeling brave and will try something hoppier or something darker.”
Schweikhart said one major point is that the color of the beer “has nothing to do with how light or heavy it is. You can have a light-bodied dark beer or a heavy-bodied light beer.”
She said all beers have three main ingredients: the malts “or the grains it's made with,” the hops, “kind of an herb or spice,” and the yeast, which is “the voodoo part. Where the magic happens. A microorganism turning sugar into beer.”
Jimm Powell, co-brewer at Superior, said brewers start with a base malt and then add specialty malts “to change that base malt into what you want. Darker malts give it different flavors. Roasted malts give it a roasted flavor and it actually smells like toast.”
He said the “chocolate” beers “are almost as dark as you can get” and have a chocolaty flavor that comes from the varying degrees of roasting, which changes the color and flavoring.
A pale ale uses no rice and has “a nice amber color” and more hops than a lager. Ales use a top fermenting yeast while lagers and pilsners use a bottom fermenting yeast, Powell said, noting almost all of the beers Superior offers are ales.
Schweikhart said beer makers skew female advertising toward lighter beers and fruity beers, which are “a gateway to craft beers including pale ales, lighter browns or ambers.”
Asked to define what a craft beer is, she said. “It's quality ingredients. Smaller scale productions. Handmade. It's almost riskier if that's the right word. Craft breweries push their limits as far as how strong or hoppy to make a beer. There is a creative pushing of boundaries that comes with craft beer. They are willing to go out on a limb for an idea.”
An example of that creativity can be found in some of Superior's recent offerings, including their Arlington Lawn Saison, which is French for “season,” which is a pale ale. “It's not necessarily geared toward women, but it is made with real lavender so it's got a floral flavor. It's got little flowers in the beer,” Powell said.
They also have Bee's Knees, which is a honey basil kolsch, made with Arkansas honey and basil from the local community garden, Schweikhart said.
Powell noted the strength of the beers vary, too, and again color does not correlate to how strong it is alcohol wise or taste wise. “A hoppy beer might be strong tasting, but not high in alcohol. You can have a beer high in alcohol that's very sweet tasting, but heavier and more filling.”
Asked why craft beers are more expensive than a commercial domestic like Bud Light, Schweikhart said the commercial operations produce beer in mass quantities.
“They buy grain by the train load and they use grains that are less expensive and buy in mass volume. In the same amount of time it takes us to make 200 gallons, they can make 200,000 gallons,” she said.
She said their beer at Superior is very fresh because “we don't pasteurize or do anything to shelf stabilize.” She said most of the beer sold by the commercial breweries “is fresh too because they sell so much of it. You won't find a Budweiser that's six months old.”
A unique aspect of craft beer is “it's just more alive. Literally alive. Because it's not pasteurized, our beer tends to change over time. Even after it's in the keg, ready to drink. We may have a slow seller and it might take a month or so to get through a batch, and the taste actually changes and develops.
“It's kind of cool. It's still a living organism even in it's finished form.”
She said the appeal of craft beer is the variety offered. “There is a perfect beer for every occasion. You can get whatever you are in the mood for with a craft beer.”
Story by Steven Mross, photography by Mara Kuhn