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Never mind what beer you drink – how do you drink it?

British men are among the most generous in Europe – three quarters of us would buy a round for up to six people even if we thought we might not have the favour returned that night. But the politics of drinking highlights some confusion between the sexes: eighty per cent of blokes believe they should pay for all the drinks on a first date or even out with their regular partner, while fifty per cent of British women say they’d be perfectly happy to pay their way, and a further 20% say they should be paying for the whole night!

This all comes from new research published yesterday by SABMiller. I have to declare an interest – if you listen to British regional radio stations you may have heard me yesterday commenting on the results alongside Dr Max Farrar, a sociologist.

In a week when the national media COMPLETELY ignored the fact that binge drinking levels are falling across the board, it was great to get exposure for a positive story that shows how beer drinking shapes and illustrates our culture.

The SABMiller research was conducted with a big sample size across 15 European countries. Increasingly these countries are homogenous when it comes to the kind of cars they drive, the kind of fast food or expensive coffee they neck or the trainers they wear, but as is always the case, ask about beer and you still see a rich variation between nations.

If you have the appetite for some lazy stereotyping, it’s impossible to resist noting that compared to the 77% of generous Brits, only 16% of Germans would buy a round if they weren’t sure it would be reciprocated that night.

But it’s when you look behind the figures that you start to appreciate the differences in how we drink beer, even as we all drink it for the same reasons. In a British pub you’re going to the bar for each round – it makes sense for one person to go. And while you may not get your drink back that night, you’d expect it to even out over a period of weeks. If you never bought a round, you’d soon become known as “the bloke who never buys his round”, and that’s a stigma in British society on a par with being known as “the bloke who likes to hang around school playgrounds”.

But in many other countries, you’re getting beer served at the table and you get a bill at the end of the night. It makes much more sense to split it – why would one person insist on paying for all the drinks?

The sexes thing shows that what we say and what we do are not necessarily the same. Only 30% of women think it’s right that their partner should pay for all the drinks. How many men would agree that this is what their partner believes? Turning that round, how many women would agree that their man is happy always to treat them to all their drinks without a murmur of complaint?

The report also shows that beer is considered a perfectly acceptable drink across a wide variety of occasions – at a wedding, at a restaurant meal, at home with the family. We all know that on here, but it’s nice to see that around 80% of people agree.

The report’s available on SABMiller’s website and, if nothing else, provides plenty of fuel for impassioned banter down the pub. Where, I believe, it’s your round.




I always think part of the fun is trying to avoid the round as you might have noticed…


PB: I can’t remember who’s round is it?
Also does the report have any way round the types who drink halves when it’s their round but pints went it’s yours?

Kieran Haslett-Moore

If I remember correctly I read a piece written by you in All About Beer Magazine once documenting the rounds system, including an account of the Irish custom of insisting that the obligation is settled on the night.

Fancy a pint?


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