It’s been all over the London news today that several supermarket chains will be removing “super-strength” cheap beers (and ciders) from their central London shops.
Brands such as the 9% Carlsberg Special Brew and Diamond White will no longer be within the reach of the gentleman of the road, at least not if he walks the beat in Westminster.
Before I go into paranoid ranting, I should point out that this is a voluntary scheme, not the result of any legislation, and that it is localised to several areas within Westminster which are particularly known for “street-drinkers”.
However…this is a move that has been discussed as potential government legislation, and the results will no doubt be monitored closely by policy wonks.
So now for the paranoid ranting. While I’m no fan of Special Brew or any of the other brands mentioned by name in the article, you do have to wonder how this scheme or any potential future legislation will distinguish between “tramp-juice” and, say, your average Belgian ale.
I like to think it would be obvious that something like St Bernardus Abt 12, at 10%, should not be outlawed, but how about some more subjective brews? What about Guiness Foreign Export Stout, one of the finest Imperial Stouts available, and a hit with the vagrant of distinction? Or even some of the Polish “mocny” beers available now – I don’t like ’em much, but other beer lovers do.
Yes, this is all hypothetical – I’ve been in pretty much every off-licence in the Victoria area and they never have anything exciting that might fall foul of a ban. But come on, let’s have your thoughts. How would you define rules that would allow you exciting exotic treats from Belgium while simultaneously banning tramp brew? Some kind of equation based on percentage and price? Percentage divided by Beer Advocate rating?
Anyway, will this really be effective? Surely hard-core alcoholics will move on to cheap strong red wine or counterfeit vodka instead. We already have laws and Asbos to stop people thieving, begging, pissing in the streets and other anti-social behaviour. Why not enforce them, instead of picking on a few derided brands?
You’ve got to love the Carlsberg blurb about Special Brew on their website. After claiming its links with Winston Churchill, they remind you that to drink responsibly, a man should drink no more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day, and then point out that a 500ml can of SB at is 4.5 units.