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Generalisations about beer culture opinion pubs

Part-time drinkers

Bailey's grandparents having a drink in around 1980.

Here’s a confession: we don’t actually drink all that much. Sorry, brewers, landlords and British drinking culture in general, but we are letting you down.

We don’t go to the pub every night and, when we do, we rarely get beyond tipsy. At home, it’s unusual for us to drink more than a couple of bottles of beer in a session.

Why? Well, partly because we are the kind of uptight oddballs who don’t much like losing control. Mostly because we hate hangovers. And maybe, just maybe, because we are a little concerned for our long term health.

Contrast that with the stories older relatives tell about drinking ten or twenty pints in a weekend session, having worked up to it with five or six on each preceding night; or the world evoked in this post at Pubs of Manchester; and in this extract kindly sent to us by the Pub Curmudgeon:

It was here that I first became aware of the South Welshman’s peculiar dedication to beer, as a pastime. Three male customers ordered three consecutive rounds of pints. When the first man ordered his second (the fourth) round I realised that these three were stuck for rest of the evening…. It is not so much that the South Welsh drink to excess – rather it is a humorously sly but wholehearted approach to the enjoyment of drinking that endears them to me.

Ben Davis, The Traditional English Pub, 1981

All of these describe a relationship with beer (or booze more generally, or perhaps pubs) which is very different to ours. Is it better? It is probably, to steal a word from Davis, more wholehearted, more passionate and, in some ways, more fun. It might also be a bit more dangerous — something of a dance with the devil.

Is this is why we can’t work up a rage over the price of beer? Because we’re part-timers, amateurs, lightweights? Beer would have to get very expensive indeed before we couldn’t afford a couple of pints or bottles — even of quite strong, high-falutin’ craft beer — if we really wanted them.

The picture above is not us! It’s Bailey’s grandparents in the club, mid-session, c.1980.

21 replies on “Part-time drinkers”

Sorry, what I meant to say was that you are clearly discerning drinkers who appreciate the depths of flavour that can be found in finely crafted beers of modest strength 😉

By coincidence, Tandleman did a post on the same book today.

It’s a perhaps slightly uncomfortable truth that most pubs that aren’t dominated by food trade depend on the regular custom of people who drink considerably more than the government would think is good for them. Especially the “community pubs” often viewed through rose-tinted spectacles.

I’m a lightweight too, for the following reasons:

i) I’m a bit poor, currently
ii) I’m getting a bit old and want to become even older, through careful health management
iii) The law of diminishing returns
iv) I try to be responsible parent
v) Quality, not quantity

There are probably more, but I’m a bit tired.

Beer pleasantly accentuates my life, it may even define to a certain extent, but it does not rule it (even if I have beer fantasies sometimes!)

When I was younger I used to drink each evening as it was the done thing, but now for health reasons and also for quality reasons I don’t drink as ofter at all. Friday and Saturday night’s maybe but only in the week if I’m off out anyway. I’m still not sure if it’s a good or bad thing to be honest.

I had my period of 20 pints on Friday, 15 on Saturday and taking it easy on Sunday with 10 or so, to start the week with an average of 6-8. It was fun, I must say, I enjoyed it, but I’m also glad it’s over (though I miss it sometimes, not because of the alcohol, but because of the responsibility-free way of life that it implied).

I go to the pub once or twice a week now, usually in the afternoons, during the week. Rarely get pissed anymore. Don’t have time for that. I still drink at least one bottle every day, though.

Ed — you were right first time.

Dan — it’s the catch 22 of being a beer geek: by definition, we have an abnormal relationship with beer, which is why so many of us fret about whether we’re alcoholics. The guidance doesn’t help: if you think you’re an alcoholic, you probably are; if you don’t, you’re in denial. We’ve been ruled by beer in the past (choosing where to go on holiday, visiting specific cities) but being ruled by alcohol and the desire to be drunk is a different thing.

Curmudgeon — yes, I fear you are right. One of the reasons why we can’t get too grumpy about pubs that are child-friendly and/or serve food: a business that relies on a small group of ageing regulars with booze problems is not on a ‘sustainable path to growth’.

Beer Nut — boy, did they used to like smoking and whisky. Don’t remember them smoking Rothmans, though — the place pictured must have sold out of Player’s No 6 (?).

PF — “not because of the alcohol, but because of the responsibility-free way of life that it implied” — there’s something profound in that. Those two are very hard to untangle.

TM — re:bigger picture — how so?

I guess most of us are part-timers, for various reasons. The current legislation – and public perception – when it comes to drinking and driving is completely different to what it was a few decades ago – across Europe. Perhaps this has killed off some village pubs in the UK and out of the way restaurants in France, but it has been worth the price.

Lunchtime boozing is also unlikely to make a comeback, which makes sense for most of us.

I think in the past (but less so now) many people who found pubs and pub life congenial would unconsciously (or even to some extent consciously) make the decision that they would become “a boozer”, just as others become cyclists or gourmets. This is, to my mind, something very different from being an “alcoholic”. Yes, it might get them in the end, but it’s only a risk factor and many people live to a ripe old age despite adopting that lifestyle. This is undoubtedly true of a lot of members of CAMRA, and I’ve known plenty of people who, by their own admission, are drinking five pints every night and more at weekends, and yet hold down responsible jobs and have unblemished driving licences.

We’ve also got a couple of relatives who seem to have stopped enjoying it a while back (as gout, cider-addlement, obesity, etc., kick in) but are now locked into the lifestyle. As you say, not always necessarily an addiction to alcohol per se, but if your friends, your social life, your routines are all tied to the pub and/or drinking, it can be a bit of a trap later in life.

Likewise. I go to the pub on average about once a week and drink at home even less frequently than that. However, because I’m quite vocal about my being partial to the grain, people automatically assume I’m a raging lush. All my birthday cards are beer themed and I’m forever getting mainstream botted supermarket ale from friends and family for Christmas.

I do find that as the quantity consumed diminishes, the average price of what I’m drinking increases. I drink mostly in geek havens like BrewDog Camden and Craft now and am happy to pay £3.50-4.00 a half for world-class beer.

Where we differ is that I do imbibe in the occasional binge session. These are few and far between and I think the main reason for my generally measured approach is an acute awareness of my long term health.

Sorry, got to reply. We are not weird, just people of a different generation, and behind the coke bottles there would have been a Bacardi. Bailey’s Gramps only ever had three pints, and his Nan didn’t drink beer much, just the occasional lager in halfs but she did enjoy a short or two, or three, or even four. We enjoyed the 70s: no kids, no worries, and my Mum and Dad were the best couple to go out with. We would sometimes play cards, darts or dominoes, and how often do you see that now? We were greeted by name and made to feel welcome.

Bailey’s Dad and I still enjoy a drink but usually at home, rarely sozzled, but sometimes tipsy. We are getting on, not old or dead. We only go out when Bailey comes home but even then one of us (me) has to drive to a decent pub.

Hi Bailey’s Mum! No offence intended.

I am wondering about the empty bottle of whisky on the table, though. Was that bought at the bar for consumption at the table?

And sorry Bailey ruined the ’70s for you.

Not sure about the whisky, so long ago

No real offence taken and Bailey enhanced the 70′s for us, a good excuse to stay home.

“Bailey’s Gramps only ever had three pints”

That’s an important point. Back in the 1970s, per capita alcohol consumption was considerably less than it is today (although it is falling now), but much more of it was done in pubs. However, most pub drinkers had their “ration” which they would rarely exceed – it wasn’t the case that pubs were full of roaring drunks.

Funnily enough I found that when I started to write about beer in a blog I started to drink less. Even though there was more beer than ever in the house I switched to savouring different varieties from working through a 4 pack.

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