Monkey beer

Schneider Aventinus (aka Monkey Beer) in action at the Pembury
Schneider Aventinus (aka Monkey Beer) in action at the Pembury

Schneider Aventinus is 8.5% alcohol by volume. That’s bloody strong.

A few weeks ago, we watched a pair of big lads in the Pembury drink about five bottles each without looking giddy.

We now hear from a friend that these chaps are regulars and love Aventinus so much they rarely drink anything else. And they call it ‘monkey beer’. Because of its banana-like yeast aroma?

No — because it makes them act like monkeys.

london News opinion

Chaos on tube as drinking ban hits London public transport

As you may have picked up from other blogs (including Impy Malting and Knut Albert), there was a party last night to mark the drinking ban on London transport.

It appears to have turned into a bit of a riot, as can (sadly) be expected when large groups of boozy Brits get together. I didn’t go, as I thought it would get nasty. The BBC has the story.

While not wanting to make light of the fact that people got assaulted, trains got damaged etc, I can’t help a little giggle over the fact that new Mayor Boris Johnson’s politicking has already backfired on him. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really care about being able to drink or not on the Tube — I’m not an alcoholic. But I don’t think many Londoners would say that people drinking on public transport was one of London’s big issues, and we’ve already got laws and regulations to cover the potential nasty side effects like assault, abuse etc. The whole, unenforceable gesture was to make Boris look tough on law and order, and it’s managed to cause a major law and order incident. Nice one.

Incidentally, drinking is still allowed on national rail services (where they sell it to you), which is where I’ve experienced the worst anti-social behaviour. Worse because people are on it for longer and thus drink more, and because you can’t get off and wait for the next train if it gets bad.


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.


Generalisations about beer culture News

How much is too much?

The Department of Health today launched a £6m “know your limits” campaign, the point of which is to make people aware of how much they’re actually consuming. Interestingly, the scenarios it highlights are very “middle-class”, i.e it’s aimed at the middle-aged couple sharing a bottle of wine at home, rather than binge-drinking teenagers.

As the press-release points out, most people are unaware of how many units of alcohol are in their usual tipple. And so here’s a handy units calculator from the NHS, which incorporates strength and portion size.

There are two problems with this campaign. Firstly, it features one of the most seductive pints of lager I’ve ever seen in my life and had me craving lager at 7am when I saw it on breakfast telly. (Time to wonder about being an alcoholic again?)

The second, more serious problem, is that many British people’s reaction to being told what their limits are is to question the science. Perhaps correctly, because as Zythophile pointed out a while ago, the evidence supporting the current limits (2-3 per day for women, 3-4 per day for men) is not exactly conclusive. And certainly compared to what the average Brit actually drinks on a Friday night, it seems extremely low.

Then again, when I come back from the continent, these “limits” seem perfectly sensible, and I become convinced that we Brits drink too much.

I wouldn’t want to get accused of neo-Prohibitionism, and we’ve expressed on many occasions our view that “binge-drinking” is nothing new in our culture. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for some sensible reflection and education about exactly what we’re consuming.

Boak (up to four units already tonight…oops!)


What they think of the English Pt. 1

Screaming monkey, Nimes Natural History Museum

You can’t turn on the TV in the UK these days without seeing a report about binge drinking, accompanied by footage of girls rolling around on the floor; young men fighting; and people vomiting or urinating in public places.

Well, it seems they’ve seen that footage in France, too. We asked for a second 250 ml bottle of beer to accompany our meal in a very nice Chilean restaurant in Nimes and the owner/chef/waiter nodded sagely, before saying sadly: “Yes, I hear you have problems with drinking in London these days.”

Irrelevant photo from the vast cupboard of stuffed monkeys at the Natural History Museum in Nimes.