Chick Beer Founder Shazz Lewis Dishes on Making Girly Brews
No boys allowed
Truth be told, we're a little wary of alcoholic beverages marketed exclusively to women. So when we read about Chick, a just-released beer marketed at the female demographic, we were skeptical at best. What's wrong with regular beer? So we called up founder Shazz Lewis to learn more about her girlie brew, and why, exactly, women need their own beer.
How did you come up with the idea for Chick?
It's actually an idea I was working on for well over two years. My husband owns a wine and spirits store in Easton, Maryland. One day, I was looking at the beer cooler -- and we have over 400 beers -- but there was nothing that shouted out "female." As a woman and mother of five daughters, I'm focused on that sort of thing. [That notion] kept kind of festering and then I did the research. Women consume 25 percent of all the beer in the United States. That's 700 million cases a year. I thought, "This is really interesting, and why hasn't this segment of the market been addressed?" The more I got involved, the more I thought, "There's something to this."
Was it hard breaking into the marketplace?
The more I delved into the beer industry the more I understood it. It's almost exclusively male-dominated. I can tell you anecdotally we've had over 50 meetings with brewers and distributors and I didn't encounter any other women.
What was the inspiration for Chick's packaging?
I knew I wanted to make it stand out. There was no sense of going halfway. I wanted to use pink and black and do something extremely iconic [by depicting it using an image of] a purse and a little black dress. I wanted it to be fun and sexy and I wanted people to have a good time with it. Beer's about fun. And because I think globally, I knew right away that I wanted to be able donate some money from the sales to charities that empower women.
Who actually produces the beer?
I knew I needed it not to be a gimmick. The beer had to be good. I looked at who was drinking most of the beer and the target market is really 21- to 35-year-old women. The ones who were out at night partying and getting together with friends. What they were drinking was American light lagers. We looked for brewers and tasted lots of beer and went with Minhas in Wisconsin. The beer they brew for us has 97 calories and 3.5 carbs but also a very mellow beer flavor. It has a very rounded, full flavor. People say, "I can't believe this is a light beer." So then all those things started going together and we got it brewed in June and launched in Maryland.
Can we expect to see the beer in New York anytime soon?
It's just in Maryland now since it's our backyard and we wanted to hire our own brand reps to go in, but people are really embracing it. It's funny, too, though -- men love the beer. They just say, "We'll pour it in a glass." We've always looked at this as being a national brand and we think it has the legs to go anywhere. We're seeking out distributors wherever. So are you a beer drinker yourself?
Oh, yes, I love all kinds of beers. I'm a craft-beer drinker. And American light lagers. One favorite of mine is Guinness. But what I wanted to do is give women a choice.
What exactly is that choice? What makes Chick specifically girlie?
It's very mellow. It has a little less carbonation so it doesn't make you burp. There's no bitterness, and I think that was the big appeal for women.
What are your thoughts about Skinnygirl and other gendered alcoholic products?
I have daughters who are so powerful and so unconcerned that a labeling has anything to do with who they are or represent. That's one reason why I used the word "chick." That's actually what men used to call subpar or light beer. I happen to think all things chick are terrific. I came up with a slogan that was a little in your face. It was empowering to turn it on its head. I'm not trying to be serious about it.
Have you encountered any reactions from people who think you're anti-feminist or being discriminatory toward men?
Almost exclusively, the people who have reacted against it on the blogs are middle-aged men and also women who are craft-beer drinkers who think we should have done a craft beer. Their whole thing is that we don't need a beer specifically for women and I'm like, "Why not?" The beer industry has been for men for so long. But it's changing all around -- the NFL has that whole line of female jerseys, and Harley has bikes for women. I say, "Don't get so upset. Just relax, it's beer." One women said to me that [Chick] will set women back 70 years and I said, "Really, a beer brand? I think women have come farther than that."
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