September 28th, 2012Comment
I pick up the i most days from the corner shop. Sometimes I treat myself to a cold can of Orangina (rock and roll I know).
The corner shop survives on booze and fags primarily: the cheapskates like me who nip in to use Collect+ and grab a tin of beans would barely keep the shop standing without the queue for wine, spirits and Super Kings.
Yesterday’s i – picked up alongside Space Raiders and fizzy pop for a lazy evening on the sofa – caught my attention with a story entitled “Ipswich launches push to ban super-strength booze”.
“Off licence owners in Ipswich are being asked to remove strong beers and ciders from their shelves in an effort to tackle alcohol abuse”.
Ok, so high strength booze linked to abuse of alcohol. Discuss. 1) Cause and effect – did the high strength booze cause the abuse or did the abuse lead to a desire for a high strength fix? That aside, if we assume high strength booze sold cheaply is a contributing factor, why are beer and cider the victims?
Alcohol can play a catalyst role in crime but what of pocket sized bottles of whisky and hip flask style bottles of vodka available behind the Tesco or McColl’s counter alongside cancer sticks and lethal doses of paracetamol. In the queue at my corner shop some cans of Kestrel sit in the fridge, but for the price of 3 or 4 tinnies you can grab a reasonable sized bottle of unknown vodka and a penknife to carry in your pocket.
The article continues:
“The town has seen four street drinkers murdered in the last three years and police say the scheme could not only help those who depend on alcohol but also the wider community and those tasked with clean-up operations.~”
So, hang on. Are you saying that cans of beer murdered four people in three years?
Before we condemn the campaign – in fact it may have merit and may work – we can’t help but feeling it’s a case of making a song and dance about an easy target, social green washing to appease local fury. Will banning high strength beer and cider save society? No. Will it help maybe? Will it kerb the demand for booze? Will people simply find an alternative?
What puzzles us is why Ipswich has picked on beer and cider as the root cause of murder and violence. Whilst I’m not likely to kick up much fuss about White Ace or Frosty Jack’s disappearing from the shelves of Suffolk supermarkets, we’re scratching our heads over the somewhat simplistic solution to problems arising from much more complex social issues. As per usual, the headlines simply shout “Beer is bad”.
The Guardian adds a greater back story to the campaign, explaining in more detail that the emphasis is on the ban forming part of an initiative to make the streets safer and reduce the number of deaths associated with people living and drinking heavily on the streets. Unfortunately beer and cider are still the bad guys, despite many of the interviewees naming stag dos, unemployment and homelessness as contributing factors that create the market for cheap booze.
Andrew Mason of Ipswich police says “This campaign aims to take the problem away at the source.” Despite its well intentioned efforts, that’s exactly what the campaign fails to do.Tags: binge, binge drinking, ipswich, police, suffolk
May 24th, 2012Beer and travel
Let’s be frank, I’m not brilliant at getting drunk.
It’s not that I’m a bad drunk per se, but since my uni days my tolerance has faded and I’m much better suited to a lazy pub garden or the frantic but well partitioned boozing of a hot festival day.
So, the morning after the night before, eating pizza along the tramlines of Munich, Stag Day 2 of 3, the first beer is an inevitable mistake. The 12 o’clock rule is in force, but at this moment I’m still trying to capture the final moments of last night, which are seemingly lost to a cerebal rewiring courtesy of Jagermeister and pils.
München is a city of myriad greys, criss crossed by tracks, streets and wires, punctuated by the greens of large municipal gardens. The hostels spill out into the streets, huge brick buildings of tiny square windows – each as easily an old warehouse as a former prison – with central courtyards full of slamming lockers and hi-fiving youths.
We’d arrived too late at the Hofbräuhaus, so rather than dance on tables with steins, we found ourselves chatting over Bundesliga in a pub circled around a strong, twisted, plastic tree. The landlord was decidedly Brothers Grimm but jovially threw foaming beer at us until we staggered home.
Back at the hostel Jagers send us to bed, and so, the next morning, with little breakfast and hayfever tablets at the ready, the first beer by the tram line gone, I’m feeling a little light-headed as we reach the Englischer Garten for an afternoon of large lagers and a boiling hot sun.
The whole of the city seems to have congregated in the squares and tree lined routes to the park, stereotypical German efficiency cast aside for an opportunity to feel the sun on skin and drink buckets of beer all day. Surfers on shuffle along Munich’s rapids, ice creams everywhere, the nudist meadow seeing an uplift in footfall.
Twelve English twentysomethings don’t look out of place – not in the Englischer Garten, not in the clubs later that night, nor on a pilgrimage to the Allianz Arena the next day. Munich could be Manchester, Germany could be England, the workers flocking to the public squares on the first sunny day of the year, to drink lager, dress down and play Wembley in the park.
And galvanised under the German sunshine, it’s time to begin the turbulence of stag do laughter and merriment that ensues.Tags: binge drinking, drinking, germany, lager, munich, summer
The bar is busy. The tables are full. The backroom is heaving and buoyant.
Welcome to the Sebright Arms, dimly light and vivacious.
We arrive from Soho at the fading of a sun drenched afternoon – four pubs, six pints, four hours.
Three and a half miles later, bellies demanding meat and bread and barley, we bundle over the threshold. A table is found, pale beers ordered, burger menus devoured by hungry eyes.
It’s a young crowd, an old crowd. It’s a quiet crowd and a rowdy crowd. Some here for the pub, some hunting out the resident Lucky Chip pop up kitchen.
Smokers tarnish the air outside, drinkers slop beer inside. The buzz is accentuated by beer (it’s a thin line between that and a booze buffer between the world and our senses, perhaps?)
The burgers perspire garnish, pint glasses soon sticky with the sweat of carnivorous satisfaction. And boy they taste good!
Another beer? Of course! The night is young, and the Sebright Arms is only just getting started.Tags: Beer and Food, binge drinking, Burgers, lager
October 16th, 2010Comment
My goal recently has been to introduce the hygge to my life. The Danish concept of conviviality, cosiness, comradeship and Carlsberg is something that we simply don’t have in the UK. We have tipsy, we have drunk and, as Pete Brown so eruditely points out in Three Sheets To The Wind, we have a plethora of adjectives to describe alcoholic intoxication, every last one of them being decidedly negative. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: binge drinking, drinking, hygge
January 29th, 2010Comment
I hate the fact that Sarah has International Radio 1 on in each room of the house every morning, but I’ve got quite used to drowning it out. Today though, I couldn’t miss the news, in which the top story was about the new police powers to confiscate alcohol from under-age drinkers and bring in new laws to tackle persistent offenders. What grinded my gears though was the end of the piece, in which the enthusiastic news reader paraphrased the Conservative party’s comment on the news which I’ll re-paraphrase:
“These measures don’t go enough, if we get in we’ll raise taxes on alcopops and high strength beers.”
High strength beers? How are you classifying that? Beers that are over 2 or 3 units? Beers over 10% Anything stronger than a traditional dark mild? No mention of the simple fact that there are tons of other alcoholic drinks that can get you shit-faced a lot quicker and a lot more cheaply than even a head cracking barley wine.
Why does beer get the bad press when it comes to under age drinking? Something tells me I’m not going to see a bunch of 15 year olds (or perhaps 11 is it?!) swilling a bottle of imperial stout on a park bench. Nope, it’ll be a pocket-able bottle of methylated spirit and a few cheap cans from the corner shop. Taxing ‘high strength beer’ will have about as much chance of stopping under-age drinking as Manchester United do of winning the FA Cup this year.Tags: alcohol, binge drinking, government, tories, under age drinking
January 19th, 2010Comment
This week is all about health and alcohol, binge drinking and the ridiculous attempts to win voters round with lies, damned lies and statistics. The debates rages across blogs; off- and online media report the press releases rather than investigating the true stories behind the official papers and reports; and I daresay a fair few people are a bit lost in the fast moving pace of the heated discussion1. And I’m sure plenty of you will have heard much of what I have to say before as well.
I’m not jumping in with any stats – the job done by Mr PBBB is fantastic in highlighting that Disraeli’s old adage is as true now as it ever has been. Even more so the comments added to his blog and to other blogs, and the subsequent inspired posts (in the UK and beyond) has led to real, interesting debate and points of view that aren’t immediately at the forefront of everybody’s minds.
I’d rather stay clear of quantitative or qualitative data and focus a little more on the reaction to all this, the where do we go from here. Stats aside, alcohol misuse, abuse, even just plain alcohol use does cause society problems, whether in conjunction with other factors of not, and that regardless of if that’s increasing or decreasing, it would be quite nice to stop some of it and make our country a better place.
A few things strike me. One, that alcohol (or should I say the effects of abusing alcohol) is, like anything, intrinsically linked to behaviour and attitude and that isolating it as the sole cause of a specific misdemeanour or health issue seems, statistically, difficult. Anti-social behaviour (vandalism, crime, assaults), health issues (liver disease, injuries from being drunk) and other consequences (drink driving, loss of productivity) are all affected by numerous things – and many of the stats communicated to us by the powers that be seem to ignore this simple fact.
Secondly, it strikes me that there aren’t that many answers in the Great Alcohol Debate of 2010 and that’s not a criticism – it’s a delicate and complex matter. But what have the people sitting in Westminster done about this? Slammed producers of alcohol2, branded publicans as irresponsible3 and patronised responsible drinkers who have continental, liberal attitudes4. Furthermore they’ve devised simplistic, slapstick tactics planned, from where I see it, simply to trick the public5. Banning dentist chairs? You really are out of touch with reality folks.
Two of the simplest points of all that undermine much of the policy makers outbursts have been made what seems like a thousand times (in one way or another) in the last 12 months but get little airplay with any major media outlet.
If people want to get drunk they will.
If an alcoholic wants a drink they will go to Tesco or the corner shop, they will buy a bottle of screw top wine/screw top vodka/ring pull cans of lager or bitter and they will head home, drinking them on the way most likely. If an alcoholic is hiding their problem from their family they will slip the bottle in their jacket6. They will hide a bottle under the sink7, in the toilet cistern8, in the greenhouse9.
If a young person wants to be the hardest bloke in town and wants the respect (fear) of everyone that heads out on a Friday night, he will get pissed and start a fight regardless of the price of a vodka red bull. If a young girl wants to throw spirits down their neck every evening and not have a job and shag around and stick two fingers up to society, they will. The price off alcohol won’t put them off.10
If people want to get drunk cheaply, they won’t buy fine wines or artisan beers
Yep, they’ll head for the offy, for the stack-em-on-the-floor-stack-em-high bargain outlets, for the supermarket. They’ll find it a lot more conducive to forgetting about live if they throw own brand vodka, aluminium beers and £1.99 white wine down their necks than ordering a Tokyo*, waiting 3 days for delivery and watching £17 (including delivery) disappear from their bank account.11
There are lots of other ‘personas’ I can stereotype and situations I can try to second guess, some I have experience of some I don’t. I don’t have all the stats, I don’t have all the facts. But I know some of the psyche of both binge drinkers and alcoholics. I’ve lived the small town mentality of ‘going out’, ‘heading up the club’ and ‘getting smashed’ not that long ago. I matured and went to uni, I ‘got smashed’, I stayed out late, I missed lectures, I made friends for live, we did silly things. But fundamentally my attitudes towards society means that I consider myself a ‘law abiding citizen’, bar some breaches of copyright via music cassettes and being a month late with my vehicle tax. Oh and I owe the car park man £3.50 from last week and I haven’t reminded him on two occasions I’ve seen him since12.
Some people are going to abuse alcohol, some people are going to abuse the goodwill society shows them and the opportunities they are presented with. Some people don’t have as many opportunities as others and this affects their behaviour in life. Some people have bad starts in live that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and those bad starts result in bad endings (of course many people start this way and end up ‘just fine’ as well). Some people have the best opportunities, great jobs, loving families, and fall into a downward spiral of disease that ruins their live). My point: you can change how you measure alcohol, you can faff about with pricing, you can ban adverts, ban references to alcohol, ban sponsorship and tell everyone alcohol will kill you. But you are never treating the problems.
So, I urge I urge politicians, journalists and all those in the business of selling alcohol (whether on- or off-trade) to take a read of what is being said online this week and listen to a broader spectrum of opinions than less-than-independent-bodies13 and the scaremongering press releases14. Then not just consider, but actually try to do something about the real issues. Education, anti-social behaviour (for which alcohol is often a catalyst rather than a cause), alcoholism. Stop putting your nation of drinkers in one big basket promising to tax the high hell out of everything in easy-target-quick-win PR stunts. Tax where appropriate; tackle the attitudes that cause people to not give two flying fucks about anyone else around them and smash up our towns and cities when intoxicated; find help for victims of alcohol abuse before they fall into an A&E ward; encourage respect for alcohol, respect for the communities we live in and appreciation of the slog, the climb, the rewards of life rather than the quick fix, the instant gratification, the I-want-I-get attitude that underpins society today.
How do we, as a country do that? If I knew I’d be Prime Minister, or the next famous philosopher or anthropologist. But for a start, try being honest about alcohol rather than spinning data into PR-able facts. Be open about alcohol, don’t hide it behind closed doors. If I’m getting really adventurous I’d say let’s spread altruism across our schools and teach our children that they will be rewarded for helping others not punching others. Let’s nip anti-social tendencies and prejudice in the bud early on and encouraging people from a younger age to have a broader ‘group’ mentality. My youthful visions of utopia might not be realistic, but where else do we start?
And start by trawling our blog roll for blogs that have written superb words on the subject this week too…
1 Me included.Tags: advertising, alcohol, alcoholism, beer stats, beer tax, binge drinking, culture, government, legislation
2 As an example, BrewDog Tokyo* on which you can find multiple online sources of ridiculous outrage at this beer and it’s potential to either cure binge drinking or cause a beer based apocalypse, depending on your bias…I mean point of view.
3 Branding the whole industry as irresponsible is a bit harsh, many other sources I’ve read have made clearer distinctions.
4 I refer mainly to discussions with drinkers, beer bloggers and friends who feel like they have already adopted a responsible approach to drinking and that policies seem to neglect that and penalise their drinking habits with little effect on the problems they set out to solve (e.g. increasing taxes).
5 Such as this reported today in The Times and other media publishers
6, 7, 8 and 9 Seen them all done.
10 That’s my opinion, based on my growing up and drinking experience in Banbury, Lincoln, Nottingham, Leeds & more (and isn’t restricted to young people)
11 That’s a fact that doesn’t require a footnote and I’ll retract it statement if anyone can argue it’s not true.
12 Which I thoroughly intend to pay him after pay day!
13 I refer here to Melissa Cole here who I trust!
14 Read any newspapers websites over the last three months and the same article and stats are reported verbatim with little or no questioning. And I will blog on my digital marketing blog about this worrying trend in the next few days at http://digitalmediamonkey.co.uk
November 24th, 2009Comment
A few chaps from my office have just got back from a 3 day trip to Amsterdam. While they were there they had the option of partaking in a number of activities that it would not be socially accceptable for them to do at home in the UK (and at this stage I should point out that I’m not saying that any of them necessarily did so). In a way this is very close to the attitude that has developed in this country to binge drinking, with Saturday nights (or equivalent) written off and designated as times, like weekends in Amsterdam, when one can behave however they want without fear of repercussion.
I imagine that very little thought is given by touring Brits to the repurcussions of their actions in Amstersdam yet the legality of these actions does not necessarily mean that they are not without victims. There will be very few young girls, in Holland or any country, growing up with the aspiration of becoming a prostitute. Rather they are victims of circumstance. Similarly a great number of people every weekend in the UK ‘binge drink’ with very little regard for themselves or the people they come into contact with. The vast majority of these events go unreported.
Every now and then we hear of something so extreme as that the perpetrator is held to account. A recent example is the Hallam student who woke up to find that he had urinated on a War Memorial. As a member of Hull University Hockey Club I could have been found twice a week for three years waking up with very little knowledge of how I’d got to where I was and frankly with only good luck and good friends away from probably being in court myself. I’m sure many can say the same. I believe it’s customary for people looking back on such times to say that they wouldn’t change a thing but I can assure you that there is plenty I would change and, with honest eyes, most people would admit to wishing they had ‘just had one less’ on at least one occassion.
How is this little essay (and it is an essay!) related to Real Ales Reviews? Well yesterday I read the following article in the Metro…
Under a very familiar looking headline the British obsession with binge drinking is once again ‘evidenced’. I am going to highlight 12 words from the article that purely astounded me. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: binge drinking
July 29th, 2009Breweries
Scottish micro-brewery BrewDog has hit the headlines this week with its claims about the impact of its new beer Tokyo*, which founder James Watt claims is “providing a cure to binge beer-drinking”.
His claims are based around the idea that anyone that wants to get inebriated will turn to stronger beers (such as his brewery’s 6-unit, 18% ale) and appreciate the flavour so much that they will not need to turn to “mass market, industry brewed lagers that are so bland and tasteless that you are seduced into drinking a lot of them”.
Of course, this is patently untrue – and it is more than likely that Mr. Watt knows this.
BrewDog, in its brief two-year existence is quickly becoming the rock n roll star of the micro-brewery world. As reports this week have reminded us, the company has previously flirted with controversy over a name given to one of its products that refers directly to drug-use (apparently; I wouldn’t have known said term if the BBC hadn’t informed me!)
But all publicity is good publicity and this is clearly the case here. BrewDog are now probably the most discussed brewery in the country and that can’t be a bad thing for them. I personally, love their manifesto. The aim is to target the younger market and turn them on to quality Real Ale and away from the cheap, common lagers popular amongst this demographic. In terms of Real Ale popularity, it is great achievement that such a young company, run by two clearly enterprising individuals, is taking the corporate alcohol producers head-on.
What they have also done with these statements is to highlight an issue that has plagued Britain for years; we don’t know how to appreciate alcohol consumption, certainly beyond the high-culture of fine wines.
We have never had the ‘café culture’ found abroad, where alcohol is consumed in a more respectable manner, and it is this side of the BrewDog argument that is strong. Growing up in the UK, drinking beer, wine, spirits and so on, is often more focused on quantity as opposed to quality. Although specialist bars and ale houses are growing in popularity, much of the city centre remains dominated by low-standard, low-priced alcohol which has ultimately become the norm.
Therefore, if companies like BrewDog are brewing special ales, such as Tokyo* – a run of three thousand units, of which only one thousand will be sold in the UK exclusively on the firm’s website – is this really such an issue?
All this debate has done is to highlight the country’s insecurities about its own drinking culture. BrewDog won’t change that, but at least it is putting the control back in the hands of consumers to try new and innovative ales, no matter how strong they may be.