Things That Are Wrong with The Beer Wench’s and The Northdown’s Posts

I got so goddamn frustrated reading both 6 Dirty Lies Men Tell About Women and Beer, by Ashley Routson (The Beer Wench) and 5 Reasons The Beer Wench is Bad for Beer by Kate Gallagher (owner of The Northdown) that, honestly, the first draft of this piece may have involved me saying they’d both made themselves look… bad. Yes. Bad. That’s what I wrote in that first draft.

I was deeply dismayed. Both women have good points. Needle-sharp points. If only they both hadn’t proceeded to throw those points in dairy lagoons. Because, frankly, I hate looking for a good point in a pond of shit.

For a variety of reasons, I ended up swimming in these manure lagoons, so I decided to share the joy by giving you the needles without the manure. Feel free to read them straight (linked above). Or go straight to seeing how I fixed them over at Red Ink. Then come back here and let’s dive into what it all means.

First, let me lay out what personal investment I have. I like The Northdown. My one or two interactions with Gallagher have been excellent, and she has always seemed a kind person. I dislike Routson1, though not for any of the reasons Gallagher seems to have. Thus, that Gallagher’s piece is an attack on Routson rather than a dismantling of Routson’s points was shocking. For that reason, I feel it’s important to discuss/break down both pieces. I go in chronological order of publication.

Routson’s Thrillist article is angry, with much of the anger having quite reasonable roots. I read the article’s root as exhaustion and rage at both how women can be treated by so many in the beer industry and a personal feeling of run down by having her abilities repeatedly doubted. I utterly understand this.

I’ve had men explain things to me, and it is fucking tiring.

Routson, undoubtedly, gets more of it than I do. She’s more well known, she’s more physically attractive (which, bizarrely, is considered by many as inversely proportional to intelligence), and she’s hip deep in the beer industry. I can only imagine how exhausted she feels in wading through this bullshit daily.

Had she pulled a Solnit, pointing out these men’s bullshit then commenting, “Surely one of these men has died of embarrassment, but not nearly publicly enough,” I’d have laughed, just as I do every time I read Solnit’s fantastic essay.

Unfortunately, her expression of anger is not scathing wit. It’s atrocious. What Routson does with her anger is write a flawed rant. First, she makes dated-seeming statements about articles she fails to cite. Hell, the most recent article I recall about “gateway beers,” “what women should drink,” or similar sentiments came out a year or so ago. Called The Best Beers for Women to Order, it was a fucking mess. So much so that it appears, as of today, to have been removed. But a cached version exists, at least for now. She also erases the existence of trans people by repeatedly equating genitals and other biological characteristics with gender. She’s a cisgender woman. That’s cool. Me too. But it turns out that’s not the only type of womanhood out there, nor is that the only person on whom you might find a vagina (note, don’t ask people about their genitals, ok?). She dismisses dieting as “hating oneself,” while implying only women diet, while also implying that men who drink beer are fat. (Also, having implied earlier in her piece they are unattractive and lacking in social skills.) She then gives tips on calorie content of beer. It could give one whiplash.

I assume this tidal wave of anger was triggered by the piece she references in her last point, about bribing your partner to drink beer. This is the best part of her post. Because, she’s right, holy shitballs that’s not okay and is incredibly creepy. I deeply wish Routson had cited the article in some way, and spent all that rage she has quite reasonably built up over time on just this point. That would likely have been a brilliant piece. I hope to read it someday, and to share it widely.

But, even with all of that, I was likely to just roll my eyes and walk away. Many of these problems were pointed out in the comments (even the trans-erasure, which was a lovely surprise). There was a hullabaloo on Twitter, but no one has time for every last Twitter rage-fest.

No, Gallagher’s response piece was what really got to me. So many folks were sharing it with glee and joy that I expected a beautiful explanation of what Routson had gotten so wrong. I was to be wildly disappointed.

My initial reaction to reading (and the first few immediate rereadings of) Gallagher’s piece was anger that she’d shame Routson for being attractive and potentially sexual. A few examples from the first two pages of Gallagher’s piece:

“We do not believe beer is so base as to be about men–vs-women. It’s not about cleavage, yours or anyone else’s.”

“Why do you objectify yourself by using the handle “The Beer Wench” ?”

“If a male bartender took endless photos of the breasts belonging to women sitting at his bar, drinking beer, he would be unemployable in the industry.

But because it’s you taking photos of yourself, the objectification is okay?”

Shaming a woman for daring to enjoy her own body in any way she deems fit is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, it is quite common. Thus it is an easy weight with which to anchor a personal attack, in part because so much of society encourages this shaming. And it was from my anger at the sex-shaming2 that I started working on a reaction to the two pieces.

But, as a friend pointed out, it’s not just shaming. It’s problematic on many levels, sex-shaming included.

Gallagher’s piece made me angry, but I recognize her cause for anger in writing it. Obviously, I have problems with Routson’s piece myself. But she allows that rage to so thoroughly cloud her sight that she tears Routson a new one for who she perceives Routson to be, not anything truly in the piece.

Indeed, while her shaming of Routson is disgusting, she makes an equally terrible mistake in attacking Routson for points they agree on.

The most glaring example being that it’s apparent Routson does NOT believe beer is “a manly man’s drink.” Indeed, Routson calls that out as a lie! Gallagher puts up a great attack on the idea as well, but accuses Routson of believing the bullshit. If Routson’s piece irritated Gallagher so much, a much more productive tactic would have been to point out Routson’s claim is shaky, as she didn’t make it at all clear where she got the idea. That said, another productive option would have been to just let Routson’s statement stand.

The most productive option would have been to commend and acknowledge Routson on the points where they agreed, while pointing out other flaws.

Unfortunately, Gallagher barely points out flaws in Routson’s piece at all. Mostly, to my bitter disappointment, Gallagher seems to decide that she needs to establish herself as “one of the guys” at Routson’s expense.

“It’s safe to assume women AND men made beer.
And mead.

And huts.

And babies.


Men & women definitely made things together, but I’d love to see some sources for all of this. Generally speaking, the world has been a pretty patriarchal place. Plenty of work has been (and is) demanded of women to benefit men. Babies, for example? Do we really need to discuss how often consent was unimportant in the making of those babies?

“”I’ve not heard a man comment on a woman’s weight since…ever.

Seriously, men don’t say dumb shit like this. Honestly.”

Yes they do. #NotAllMen, sure, but there’s plenty of men who will comment on women’s weight. On the bus. At the grocery store. In the bar. Probably in Gallagher’s bar, even. My assumption, though, is that’s rare. I assume that Gallagher cultivates a relatively cool clientele at The Northdown, but that doesn’t mean things don’t happen.

Now, I have to be honest, while I am disappointed to see Gallagher throwing Routson under to appear to “be one of the guys,” I am neither surprised nor without sin here. To my shame, I have been there. I worry that I will go there again. Let’s be honest, it’s an easy way for someone who is different to be accepted by the majority in a group. I definitely have, and will again, stay safe by being “cool” and laughing when it’s not funny or similar. And, yes, sometimes that IS the route to stay safe.

Both Gallagher and Routson extrapolate what is true in life from their own experience. That’s fair; we all do it. We have to, as we have no other basis for how to move through this weird world. What isn’t fair, and what they both do to some degree, is to behave as if their experiences form the basis for the only appropriate reaction. Indeed, Gallagher even says at the end of her piece, “I’m sorry you have had such bad experiences in beer” after laying out that her experiences were nothing of the sort.

It’s too bad Gallagher decides to get in one last dig that implies Routson isn’t worthy of better experiences because Routson lives her life as she chooses:

“In closing, I’m sorry you have had such bad experiences in beer. Maybe you should try hanging out at different bars, with different people. If you’re ever in Chicago come on by, I’ll buy you a beer. And sell you a shirt.”

Gallagher’s opinions on Routson, and the basis for them, couldn’t be clearer.

1 I didn’t really know of Routson until October 2014, when she and a friend of mine, Jake over at Hipster Brewfus got into it on Twitter. Now, to be clear, Jake was being an ass. Routson had been called out for (her or her publisher on her behalf) claiming a beer certification she did not have, and Jake was one of the people repeatedly tweeting his dismay and disdain at her. An angry reaction from Routson was reasonable, and I am much more aware of just how reasonable it is now than I was at that time. Publishing some of his personal data in an attempt to coerce him into calling her to express that anger directly was not. Doxxing is unacceptable. She did delete the tweet with that information, eventually, but that doesn’t delete the action. I’m unhappy to dislike her. What I’ve seen of her in working on this post seems pretty cool. But knowing that she’d do such a thing intimately informs my opinion of her.

2 Why do I use the phrase “sex-shaming” vs the more typical “slut-shaming”? I’ve always been a bit weirded out by the phrase, but it took this fantastic essay, “I’m Not a ‘Slut.’ I Just Love Having Sex.” by Feminista Jones to really nail down what was causing my discomfort.

2 thoughts on “Things That Are Wrong with The Beer Wench’s and The Northdown’s Posts

  1. I’ll say this one defense of the Beer Wench (it’s only a minor one because posting the stuff she did was crossing the line), but I know when I was near the end of my book deadlines, the stress levels are extremely high, and it’s possible she did something she normally wouldn’t even consider. Still wrong, so like said, minor defense.
    Good post, by the way.

    • I believe her stress was up in the stratosphere. And I feel for her on that. And Jake’s behavior (as well as those egging him on, or directly participating), was out of line. Completely. But posting personally identifying info is never ok, particularly not to bully someone.

      Thank you for the compliment. I really appreciate it.

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