…and they want you to drink with them on the last Friday of every month.
Erica Campbell, co-founder and manager of the recently-formed Society of Beer Drinking Ladies, was in her last year of undergrad before she tasted a pint.
“I was definitely always a girl that drank mixed drinks and white wine,” she laughs.
Campbell’s affair with beer began fairly ordinarily, with a couple of pints of Rickard’s White. “It was my first ale and it was cloudy and it had a lot of flavour,” she says of the beer that even the girliest of girls has tried.
“But then I moved to Montreal. I lived close to Dieu de Ciel, Vices & Versa, and Benelux.” For Campbell, this proximity to a plethora of excellent micro-brewed beer catapulted her relationship with beer from just a one-night stand to a full-on loving and monogamous affair. Two years later, she found herself in Toronto leaving behind an elementary-school teaching career to work for Great Lakes Brewery, and now, Otobicoke’s own Black Oak Brewery. She hasn’t looked back once.
The idea for the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies, which hosts its second event tonight, grew out of Campbell’s own love for craft beer, as well as a desire to create a space for women to mingle, network, and bond over a love of beer.
“A lot of my girlfriends have hit a point in their lives where they’re in their career, have a solid relationship, and they’re kind of like ‘Where do I meet friends? Where do I meet other women?’” says Campbell. She admits that, at first, starting the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies was simply a way to get four of her girlfriends in the same room at the same time. Now, those four girlfriends each play a major role in the monthly coordination of the Society.
“We’re still kind of figuring out our roles, but for now Magenta Suzanne is in charge of working with the Canadian Women’s Foundation [where most of the proceeds from the SOBDL events are donated].” Jen Shute, who used to be a DJ in Toronto, is doing our music and working with Magenta to secure cool spaces for each event. Jaime Dobs is on web design and the SOBDL newsletter. And Renee Nevarro is the group’s photographer (and most enthusiastic beer geek).
“The 5 of us…it could be too many cooks in the kitchen, but we all just jive really well with each other,” says Campbell optimistically.
And it seems like the group’s chemistry really is paying off. Last month’s event was a huge success, with about 100 women in attendance. It was held at Toronto’s Jam Factory, a second floor loft space on Queen and Broadview—a part of town known for its brewing history—and featured beer from several local breweries, including some labels not yet available at the LCBO.
“There was a really cool dynamic,” says Campbell of the Ladies’ January event, “Just seeing women introduce themselves to each other. A lot of women got dressed up and came by themselves, which I don’t know would have happened if it were a co-ed event. It was just a lot of random women bonding over beer, saying “I’m usually the only one that drinks beer. My boyfriend doesn’t even like beer!” and giving each other their cards.”
Following the success of their first event, tickets for the party tonight sold out in less than four hours.
“We decided to go a little more intimate and lo-fi for this one, so we only sold fifty tickets. But the fact that they sold out on a Wednesday afternoon is so crazy. A lot of people were like “Nooo!” and now there’s a little bit of a black market [for tickets] which is pretty funny,” says Campbell.
For Campbell, the success of the Society is exciting, but also natural.
“Women were the original brewers,” she says, “[in the 1800s] we would be cooking and cleaning and we would also be brewing beer in our kitchens.”
“Things really went downhill after prohibition,” Campbell continues, “Just the sexualisation of women drinking beer and largely having images of men drinking beer, promoting masculinity and machoism. Craft beer isn’t sexist in that way and it isn’t exclusive.” Part of the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies’ mantra is to reclaim that imagery and, in general, beer as a woman’s hobby. “I want to bring it back and have women remember that it’s not just a guy’s drink anymore and there’s lots of cool beers out there that we should be drinking,” says Campbell.
The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies hosts events on the last Friday of every month. Follow them @ladiesdrinkbeer to find out how you can attend. Men are welcome after midnight.