We’re in a pub that serves good beer, and five of us — three women and two blokes — have been steadily drinking pints of a 3.8% pale ale all evening to pace ourselves.
Now, as the anticipation builds, we’re ramping up a little, and we opt for a 5.6% ‘craft keg’ IPA. It’s my wife’s round. When she orders, the barman stares at her and says very slowly, as if speaking to a child, "You do know that beer is quite expensive, don’t you, dear?"
My wife feels offended, not by the price warning — we often drink together in the kinds of bar that serve pricey craft beer, and if the price isn’t clearly displayed, it’s considerate to warn people.
Not only that, the tone of voice suggested the barman assumed my wife was out of her depth and didn’t really know what she was doing.
This happens quite a lot. My wife has been patronised, condescended to and insulted by bar staff across the UK, as well as at various beer festivals.
Like every other female beer lover I know, she has been warned about the alcoholic strength or intensity of flavour of beer as well as its price. She has been asked if she’s sure she wants a whole pint, laughed at when she has enquired about hop character, or simply been ignored in favour of men at the bar.
That this latest incident happened on the last day of 2014 underlined a disquieting feeling that, last year, the beer and pub industry really didn’t do itself any favours in the eyes of half its potential market.
In September, we published data in the Cask Report that showed only 19% of drinkers agree that ‘women don’t like cask ale’, whereas 41% of publicans believe this to be the case.
In October, CAMRA was slated for producing a student recruitment leaflet many felt was sexist (because it was) and had to withdraw it.
In November, JW Lees launched a social media campaign that was attacked for evoking gender stereotypes last seen in the Andy Capp comic strip.
And in December, a trade publication celebrated some pub toilets in which men urinate
into representations of women’s mouths and then have to grind up against a scantily clad pair of fe-
male buttocks if they want to wash their hands at the basin. (Both CAMRA and JW Lees apologised for offending people.)
And throughout the year, just like every year, we had a steady stream of real-ale pump clip designs that objectified women, made sexist puns, and in extreme cases, even visually suggested rape.
When women object to such misogyny, they are branded "strident" or even "hysterical" — words never used to describe angry or outspoken men — or labelled "humourless feminists". (Anyone who believes these two words belong together really needs to read Caitlin Moran’s book, How to be a Woman).
Any protest is inevitably labelled as "political correctness gone mad", possibly the laziest and most ignorant response to anyone asking for simple, common decency.
So let me weigh in as a man: this sexist crap must stop. Now.
It must stop for big, important reasons, such as the fact that coarsening attitudes towards sex in society, where mainstream com-edians ‘banter’ about inappropriate and unacceptable sexual behaviour, mean men at universities now face compulsory lessons on sexual consent.
It must stop because it makes the beer industry appear crude, sexist and behind the times, boorish and lecherous and alienating to women, and consequently makes beer look less attractive to men if they are in mixed company.
And it must stop because of the earache I get from ’er in-doors every time someone in the industry decides misogyny is "just a bit of fun".
Seriously though, as someone who spends their life defending and promoting beer and pubs, there’s something badly wrong when people assume that because of what I do, my sexual politics are on a par with a 1970s stand-up comedian.
Most of my male friends and colleagues agree with me, but adopt an embarrassed silence when they encounter sexist language and behaviour.
That’s not good enough. It’s time to speak out and call time on such primitive, offensive attitudes.