Pints and Halves: Statements and Pragmatism

Illustration: government stamp on a British pint glass.

Everything we do sends signals — even something as apparently unimportant as the size of the glass out of which we choose to drink our beer.

I (Jessica) hit my teenage years during the era of the ladette when drinking beer, and especially drinking beer in pints, was a way for women to stake a claim on blokes’ territory. Big boots, no make-up, pints, swearing — don’t tell me what’s ladylike or how to behave! Up yours!

For as long as I’ve been interested in beer one of the annoying minor manifestations of sexism has been the tendency to assume I’ll want a half, or a fruit beer, or whichever of the two drinks we’ve ordered is (as decided by a whole set of complex subconscious calculations) the ‘girly’ one.

I realised a few years ago, though, that most of the time I do want to drink halves. I’m not very big; don’t have a great gut capacity; and even at the peak of my pissed fitness could only handle so much beer by volume before I made myself sick, which only seems to be getting worse as I slide into middle age.

Sometimes, though, I find myself ordering a pint because I can’t face another crappy, scratched tumbler, full to the brim with no head. Sometimes it’s because I’ve had a tough day and I know that I’d only be back at the bar after five minutes otherwise. And sometimes it’s the teenager in DMs rearing her head, making a point.

* * *

I (Ray) used to drink halves more often because there were so many exciting beers to taste and it was the only way to get through them all; and, honestly, because I was being an awkward sod in response to male friends refusing — literally refusing — to buy me halves because they thought it compromised my masculinity and, more importantly to them, theirs.

As I’ve drifted out of five status and into a comfortable seven, I’ve come back to pints. I drink a pint in about the time it takes Jess to drink a half. I like the feel of a pint glass in my hand, and the rhythm it gives to drinking.

My hangover limits are higher, my gut more elastic: my four pints to Jess’s two over the course of a session leaves us in about the same place.

But perhaps I’ve also just reverted to my deep programming: in my family, a bloke ordering a half is sending a signal that he’s not planning to stick about, or isn’t fully committed to the session.

I sometimes order a half just to remind myself I can and I always think, “I should do this more often.”

* * *

Ultimately, what we’d both like is this:

  1. To be able to order whichever beer we fancy in whatever volume we feel like at that particular moment without assumptions or comment, and without having to explain the reasons.
  2. For halves to be treated with as much reverence by pubs and bars as the sacred pint — nice glassware makes such a difference.

We were prompted to think about this by various things but most important the recent report from Dea Latis on women’s attitudes to beer. Do give it a read.

News, Nuggets & Longreads 20 August 2016: Ribbeltje, Gasholders and Serebryanka

Here’s all the writing about beer, pubs, beer glasses and gasholders that’s caught our eye in the last week.

Barm (@robsterowski) breaks the oddly sad news that the company behind Stella Artois is to cease serving its premium lager in so-called ribbeltje glasses in its native Belgium, going over instead to the fancier chalice design:

As is widely known, despite the brewer’s attempt to punt it in other countries as a ‘reassuringly expensive’ premium beer, in Belgium Stella is the bog standard café beer, with a basic, proletarian glass to match. This, of course, is precisely why the marketers hate the glass so much. It’s not chic enough for their pretensions.


Dandelion saison in the glass.
SOURCE: Ales of the Riverwards

With a cameo appearance from just such a glass, Ed Coffey at Ales of the Riverwards has been reflecting on foraged ingredients and his idea for dandelion saison is simple and, we think, rather brilliant. Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads 20 August 2016: Ribbeltje, Gasholders and Serebryanka”

Dimple Glasses

dimple.jpgIn yesterday’s post, what I didn’t mention was that the Old Monk is serving its real ale in old fashioned handled dimple glasses. I gather that a couple of would-be trendy pubs in the Islington area have started to do the same thing.

This is an interesting affectation which seems designed to appeal simultaneously to the old school beer fan and the retro-ironic hipster. I suspect we’re going to see a lot more of it about.

I gather the reason for their demise was that they were relatively expensive to make, prone to breaking, and hard to stack. Those arguments hardly hold up now that fans of German wheat beers or Belgian obscurities are getting their favourite tipples served in ever-more elaborately shaped and printed glasses, some of them a foot tall, others as delicate as egg shells.

Mild in particular tastes a little bit nicer out of a dimple — well, it does to me, anyway, because that’s how my grandad used to drink it. Let’s hope that by May, when every decent pub in the land will have a mild on, the dimple has made its triumphant comeback everywhere.

Picture from h-e-d.co.uk, who also sell dimples if you fancy a few to use at home.

Bailey

German pub in London

Zeitgeist at the Jolly Gardeners, Vauxhall, South London is absolutely bizarre and absolutely brilliant.

We frequently get “homesick” for Germany, despite being from the UK. When we heard about Zeitgeist through Metro, the free newspaper they give away on London Underground, we got very excited. Tonight was our first visit. It won’t be our last.

It’s run by two expat Germans from Cologne and offers 36 German beers, with at least 10 on tap. They took over in October 2007 and reopened the pub in November. Some of the reviews on Beer in the Evening paint a picture of a pub in the middle of a terrifying council estate. Having grown up on a terrifying council estate, I’m less scared of working class people than some, but the fact that you can almost see Big Ben and MI6 from the pub makes it even less of a worrying prospect. It seemed like a perfectly nice area to us.

The pub itself was excellent. Definitely a pub, but equally surely a small piece of Germany 15 minutes from Westminster. The landlord and landlady were both dressed in German football shirts and the barmaid spoke to us in German — that’s the default language. During our stay, the place filled up with expats keen to watch the Germany/Austria match on a big screen.

What about the beer? Well, here’s the menu. Nothing staggeringly exciting for any tickers out there, but all are in great nick, and with most of the common German beer styles represented. We were especially excited to find a decent Koelsch on tap (Gaffel). If you want to know what the fuss is about Koelsch but can’t get to Cologne, here’s your chance to try the real deal nearer to home.

We were amused to see British customers getting full glasses with tiny heads, plus an apology the glass wasn’t completely full, which German customers were served tiny glasses with towering, frothy ice-cream heads. What’s the German for: “I’ll take mine like a native, please”?

The food was good, too. The menu divides it up by region. Notably, there are at least twelve schnitzel dishes on offer, as well as Nuernberger sausages and Cologne potato pancakes.

In short, we’ll be back. This pub deserves to be a big success.

Notes

Zeitgeist is also known as the Jolly Gardeners, and is at 49-51 Black Prince Road, Se11 6AB. Map here. Closest tube stations are Vauxhall, Kennington, Lambeth North, and Westminster.

Bailey

Quick pre-Christmas plug for Quaffs

quaffslogosmall.jpgAll you London beer-lovers will no doubt already know about Quaffs. It’s a market stall within Spitalfields market, 5 minutes walk from Liverpool Street Station.

I was there yesterday, buying beer for Christmas, and I can heartily recommend the selection and the service. Good to see a wide range of glasses too – perfect for making up gift sets. Who wouldn’t want to receive a hand-prepared selection of Brasserie Ellezelloise (with the fabulous Hercule Stout) with one of their nice chalice glasses?

I bought enough beer to get a free carrying case/bag/suitcase. Very good marketing trick that!

Oh, and I forgot to tell them Stonch sent me. Would I have got a discount if I did?

Boak

Notes

Details of beers in stock, opening times and how to get there are available on the Quaffs website here. It can be difficult to find – it’s sort of opposite the entrance to Canteen, backing onto where the food market is going to be.