Generalisations about beer culture real ale

Can you bring up your kids to like good beer?

Stonch’s recent post on under-age drinking has reminded me to post on a topic I almost wrote about a while ago. Is it possible to bring up your kids to drink responsibly and appreciate good beer?

My parents liked quality booze and believed in sharing it. They’d drink a pint of ale with Saturday lunch (usually something like Theakston‘s Old Peculiar) and a bottle of wine on Sunday, and from the age of around 12 upwards, they’d let me have a bit of both. Growing up in the eighties, kids were still banned from most pubs, but I have happy memories of running around pub gardens where my parents and their friends were relaxed and happy; I don’t ever remember them being drunk.

So, I had a classic slow introduction to good quality alcohol and responsible drinking. It’s probably what I would do with my kids, were I to have any.

Trouble is, I didn’t then start drinking “good” alcohol responsibly. When I went out as a teenager, my poison of choice was whatever was cheapest and whatever my friends were drinking. Snakebite and black, alcopops, quarter bottles of Teachers’ Whisky. As a student, I graduated to Guinness when I wanted to be cool but mostly drank keg Tetley’s because it was cheap. So what happened?

I reckon there were at least four reasons why my parents’ admirable attempts failed;

(1) Pure economics. Even if I’d wanted to drink fine wine, Strongbow was cheaper.

(2) Contrariness. Teenagers don’t want to do what their parents do, so will drink what their friends do regardless of how they’ve been brought up.

(3) Immature tastebuds. The fact is, I didn’t really enjoy the taste of ale until I hit my twenties. Ditto wine. I still haven’t really got whisky (how uncool am I?) This leads me to conclude that no matter how much your early exposure, it’s not going to “take” until your tastebuds are ready.

(4) Immature mind. A common theme from reading the session posts is that most people’s early drinking experiences are about getting hammered. I think it’s just a stage you go through. Particularly in Britain, where for whatever reasons, our bingeing culture has been with us for a long time.

Did I really learn nothing from early exposure to responsible drinking? Thinking about it some more, I guess it familiarised me with the concept of ale (or at least, beer that was brown, bitter and had flavour) – – even if I didn’t really like it for years, it wasn’t alien to me.

Secondly, parental influence may not have taught me to drink responsibly, but it did teach me to live responsibly. Even if the primary aim of having a drink for me was to get wasted, I knew that it wasn’t a good idea to go out and get pissed every night.


7 replies on “Can you bring up your kids to like good beer?”

Boak, is incredible how similar is your story to my experience or the experiences of my friends.
And we are in different cultures, but in these things we are all the same! ­čÖé

What is different here is that the family introduce the kids with wine. There is not a beer culture like in Britain.

To be fair I decided I liked ale pretty young. I started on sweet things like alcopops and ciders, but by the time I’d been drinking properly for a year I’d come round to liking bitter and Guinness. Working a very ale-y pub helped.

I do believe parents should give some alcohol to their children, mostly to take away the taboo element.
Parents must be pragmatic and understand that children will still drink, but behind their backs, and that is what will more likely get them in trouble.
As for getting smashed, that can’t be prevented, it is some sort of rite of passage, regardless of how educated you might be. My parents always let me drink a bit of alcohol with them or any other responsible adult, but still, pretty much as soon as I was 18 I got absolutelly trollied with some of my friends, and that was not the last time.
Fortunately, though, I never developed an alcohol problem and none of my friends were of the kind that become idiots after a few drinks. We did our share of silly things, but nothing too stupid.
I still get smashed every now and then, but it’s a different thing. Back then we would drink pretty much whatever would get us drunk with the sole purpuse of getting hammered. Now, getting drunk is a side effect of having a good time with friends.

I most certainly binged when I younger, each time it would put me off that alcoholic beverage for some considerable time. I think my parents reaction to getting drunk helped me to eventually realise that it was a pretty dumb thing to be doing. Rather than remonstrate they just laughed at and ridiculed me. Cured by embarrassment.

My dad always drank ale when the extended family ate out at pubs. Theakstons and Ruddles were his favourites. I remember stealing sips from my grandad’s bitter shandy when I was very young and enjoying it. Although I was never really exposed to booze by my parents. My early drinking encounters were few and far between but I learnt very quickly that I didn’t like the taste of the mainstream lagers and could never drink them in any quantity. As a student in Leicester I started out drinking keg cider & blackcurrent before discovering Everards Tiger and Original, then Pedigree and Directors. After my first beer festival I was hooked.

I don’t believe a parent can coach a child into appreciating fine beer – kids will do what they want and develop their own tastes – though Boak’s Saturday lunchtime experiences can’t have done any harm!

Oddly for someone who loves sweet beer, I never went the drinks-that-don’t-taste-like-drink route as a nipper. I started out on pints of Guinness when everyone else was adding syrup to their cider. I don’t buy the immature tastebuds thing. My tastes (in whiskey and beer) have only changed with what’s been available to me. I don’t think the young me ever rejected a quality product.

Anyway, trying to raise kids to like good beer is like trying to raise them to like good music: if you start early and do it right, it’s eventually possible. But you’ll have to be prepared to watch them consuming a whole of of rubbish in between times.

What an interesting subject. My parents didn’t really drink, in fact my grandmother thought alcohol was the devil’s work. My mother would sometimes have a Michelob and I think she felt like maybe she was being naughty. I tried her beer once and it put me off any kind of beer for decades.

My first experiences getting drunk on my own terms (not horrible stuff given to me at parties) was when I lived with a woman who worked at the Wine Spectator. We always had expensive wine around the flat which she got free and I had no idea what I was drinking, but it did turn me on to how wonderful getting drunk on nice stuff could feel. It spoiled me in the future for what I could actually afford– maybe that’s why I switched to beer? Wonderful beer is inexpensive compared to really good wine.

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