On her blog – Stouts and Stilettos – Tierney Pomone proves that women dig craft beer, too.
First, gender-based stereotypes should be left at the door. A craft beer aficionada, Pomone has developed a unique niche on the internet, offering a steady stream of witty, style-savvy content observing, enjoying and critiquing the craft beer industry – all from a woman’s perspective. (The site’s tagline states: “Real beer talk from real women.”)
But more importantly, I realize the wonderful opportunity to put Pomone to work. We’re at Harrisburg’s Federal Taphouse, and after a quick glance at the impressive list of 100 craft beers on tap, I offer the beerista a simple challenge – pick a beer for me.
Pomone admits that selecting a beer for someone is an intimidating task. After all, the craft brewing industry has grown enormously complex in recent years, as tastes and trends are in constant evolution and the sheer number of microbreweries continues to skyrocket. But as a craft beer blogger, it’s an invitation she’s unable to avoid. She’s the expert, after all.
After a few quick questions about my taste habits – Do I like hoppy beers? Am I into summer seasonals like hefeweizens? – Pomone orders me The Public, an American pale ale from Washington, D.C.’s new-ish DC Brau Brewing Company. (She selects the Allagash Saison for herself.)
And with a clink of our glasses and a customary “Cheers,” we dive right in to how this jovial, curly-haired 27 year old wound up representing women’s tastes in such a male-dominated industry.
Fly Magazine: How did this all get started?
Tierney Pomone: I switched from drinking what I’d consider crappy beer to drinking craft beer primarily, and all at once people started asking me for recommendations. Then a friend of mine suggested I start a blog. That was three years ago. Stouts were my favorite beer at the time, so I came up with the name Stouts and Stilettos. It was my way to say, “I’m here. I’m a chick. I like beer.” I started doing what I call the “10-second beer review” – here’s what I drank, here’s what I liked, here’s what I didn’t like, etc. Then I began noticing the way that a lot of people act toward women who like beer, and all at once I had a whole new mission. I need people to know it’s cool to be a chick and like beer.
FM: So this is a “no-guys-allowed” situation?
TP: I’ve done some he said/she said posts where a man and a woman sit down, drink the same beer and share their thoughts. But that’s about it. I don’t forbid men from commenting or anything. You don’t have to click your gender to see the site [laughs].
FM: Was that a consideration?
TP: No! [laughs] I just wanted women to have a comfortable environment where they can talk about beer and no one’s going to judge them if they say, “I don’t know what this is,” or, “I don’t like that it tastes this way.” I wanted to create a positive route for exploration.
FM: Do you think the beer industry is mostly man-focused?
TP: Think about the way everything is marketed – you’re seeing chicks in bikinis in commercials. But that doesn’t appeal to me. And you know, there’s actually scientific proof that women’s palates are more refined. So for us, it actually makes sense to drink a more flavorful beer.
FM: If fruit and wheat beers are “girly” beers, then what would you define as a “manly” beer?
TP: Stereotypically, women drink fruit beers and wheat beers, and men drink stouts and hoppy beers. But dark stouts are actually my favorite beer to drink. I love a good roasted flavor in a stout – especially when it’s bourbon barrel-aged. Spirits are considered to be “manlier” as well – bourbons, whiskeys, scotch. So me sitting there drinking a scotch-aged stout kind of flips the table. I like to say that there’s no such thing as a “girly” beer, unless I can make bourbon barrel-aged stouts into girly beers.
FM: Are you a beer nerd?
TP: I love the idea of the “beer nerd.” I love to play upon that. There’s this great YouTube video with hipsters ordering beer. The guy was like, “It smells like there’s a real bird house in this.” That’s the funniest thing to me. I can take a joke, and I know I’ll sit there and smell a beer for way too long. People make fun of us for being too into it. But I try to discourage people from being snobs. That does no good for us.
FM: Is there a line between being a beer nerd and a snob?
TP: There are nerds across every interest level. They bring a level of knowledge that’s actually impressive. The snobs are the ones scoffing at you for ordering a certain beer. We don’t need that negativity. Instead of being condescending when someone tells me they’re excited about a beer that I’ve already had, I like to open a dialogue instead of being a douche about it.
FM: What’s your engagement like on the website?
TP: It’s more on social media than on the website at this point – mostly Twitter and Instagram. There’s good feedback and there’s negative feedback. Just recently, I had some guy all pissed off at me because I put a lime in my [Tröegs] Sunshine Pils. It happened by accident – the people in front of me ordered a bunch of Coronas, and the server was used to putting them in. So I thought I’d try it, and it was delicious. But this guy commented, “Don’t fruit the beer. If the brewer wanted fruit in the beer, he would have put it in.” I replied, “I don’t care what the brewer wants – this is delicious.” He never talked to me again [laughs].
“I like to say that there’s no such thing as a ‘girly’ beer, unless I can make bourbon barrel-aged stouts into girly beers.”
FM: When you’re out at a bar, do you order a beer you know you like or are you more attracted to an unfamiliar option?
TP: It depends. Usually I try something new, unless it’s a brewery that I’ve had bad experiences with in the past. After you’ve tried so many beers, you start to recognize trends. If they have a wheat that’s “meh,” and then you try a stout that’s “meh,” chances are that new IPA isn’t going to be worth the experience. But if I’m out and the bar has, let’s say, 20 taps, and I see a beer that’s brand new, I’ll usually try it. But if I’m at a place that has 50 or 100 taps, I may just go with something that I trust. Like when I see New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk on tap. I swear it’s the reason I exist.
FM: Do you ever give outright negative reviews on your site?
TP: If I try a beer and it’s not good, I just won’t write about it. I’ve got Untappd, so I say what I really feel about a beer there.
FM: Let’s talk beer trends.
TP: Sours are the thing right now. Barrel aging is a growing trend, too. I discovered a barrel-aged sour when I was in D.C. It was a sour smoked saison. Think about this flavor – a beer that tastes like a sour beer and bacon at the same time. And it works. I like a weird beer.
FM: There seems to be a good deal of emphasis put on label art these days, too.
TP: Exactly. I’ll be at Wegman’s or Al’s of Hampden – places where you can buy bottles individually and I’ll grab something new because of the label. Marketing is a huge part of it for microbreweries. They have to stand out. Having interesting names, tap handles, labels – it all works to their advantage.
FM: Where do you see the craft industry going?
TP: I know where I’d like it to go. I’d like it to be normal for people to have a go-to craft beer, or at least a style – especially for women.
FM: Do you think the craft bubble will burst?
TP: We’re at a point now where there are a ton of breweries. There’s nothing wrong with new breweries starting, but I cringe when I hear someone say, “Well, I’ve been homebrewing for a little bit, so I’m going to start a brewery.” It presents a quality-control issue. If someone’s first experience drinking craft beer is bad, they’re going to just go back to PBR. I’ve been asked that question a lot lately, but it’s hard to predict the future.
FM: Does being asked that question validate you as a craft beer authority?
TP: I guess so. When you emailed me to ask about interviewing me, I was like, “Me? What?” It’s kind of crazy. I just envision this as, “This is my website, this is what I do.” Maybe someday I’ll get to do it full time. That would be awesome.