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Beer Aims at Gay Market

April 30, 1999

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) _ ``Gay Pride″ beer came out today _ out of the brewery and onto the shelf.

The beer, which is now available only in Massachusetts, is being marketed mainly to gays. Jenn Wolper, who created the brew, developed the idea one night in 1997 as she scanned the beer list at the Grotto, a gay bar in Northampton, Mass.

``How come we don’t have our own beer?″ she recalled asking the bartender. Wolper, a former manager in public health care and the communications industry, set about creating the beverage, the latest product to target the gay market.

Wolper got June Peterson, a former colleague, to sign on as a business partner. They found a custom brewer in New Hampshire, put together about $70,000 largely from Peterson’s investments, and arranged for the brewing of about 4,000 cases for starters.

The pale ale’s bottle label features the initials ``GP″ and a banner saying ``Gay Pride.″ It will sell typically for between $14 and $15 for a 12-pack, Wolper said.

``It has been a market that has been overlooked. There are a few niches out there that have not been judged politically correct _ or the margins aren’t big enough,″ said Wolper, who is a lesbian. Peterson is heterosexual.

Wolper incorporated her business as J. Lewis Co., named for her grandfather. The company will donate 1 percent of sales to gay rights and service groups and college scholarships for gays.

Wolper said she hopes to expand distribution to Rhode Island and Connecticut in coming weeks.

``Gay Pride″ beer joins a limited number of other products, from clothing to candy, that are aimed at a gay market.

The Queer Brewing Co. sells Q Pale Ale, a year-old beer, mainly around the San Francisco area. Ten percent of its profits are earmarked for gay causes.

Phillip Feemster, a former advertising executive who launched the business, said it was difficult to break though brand loyalty. But he said the gay community had become an attractive niche.

``I wanted to do something that truly was a part of the community,″ he said.

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