|A schooner. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Actually, don’t.|
Recently I’ve done a bit of moaning about the relentless negativity from some quarters that immediately greets almost any topic you can think of in the world of beer.
Last night, I was approached by a TV station to comment on the new proposals to relax drinks sizes, notably to include two-thirds of a pint as a legal measure. However, they were specifically looking for someone who was violently opposed to it. When I told them I thought it was a fantastic idea, they thanked me and said they didn’t need me any more.
To be fair, I’m sure the station already had plenty of people in support of it, and they did say that they felt most sane drinkers would be supportive.
So why did they want someone who was against it then? For editorial balance, of coursee. But who on earth could be against it? That’s what startled me. And on what grounds? I couldn’t think of any reason to oppose it.
Of course, I soon found some.
The telly people thought I might be against it because of my stance on neo-prohibitionist measures, and because I’ve spoken to them before about the campaign to ban glassware from pubs.
But I don’t see this as a neo-prohibitionist move at all. A move that might encourage responsible drinking, sure. But those are by no means the same thing.
Some government people have said it will curb binge drinking, and when governments start saying that, it does set alarm bells ringing. But no one is saying anything about banning the pint. (And please, conspiracy theorists, don’t start with any of that ‘thin end of the wedge’ crap. The pint is not going to be banned. It’s not going to happen. OK?)
That brings us on to the traditionalist argument. The pint is a great British icon. The two-thirds measure or schooner undermines it, threatens its existence. Why? Does the presence of 175ml wine glasses, or 125ml, threaten 250ml glasses? Hardly. The point is, there’s a choice. Many people will still choose a pint.
This is why I don’t think it will do that much to curb binge drinking. The worst binge drinkers don’t do it on beer anyway. Those who do, who still want to get pissed, will still order pints.
What’s good is that it will give drinkers greater control. Someone driving, say, may be worried about having two pints, but can drink two schooners without worrying.
Closer to home, I think it’s a brilliant idea for stronger craft beers. I would never order a half of something like Thornbridge Jaipur (5.9%) because it feels like a cop out. But when I drink beers like this by the pint, it feels like too much. And if I do this on a session, that’s the only time I get drunker on beer than I would like. There are people who would never drink halves, but who would consider a pint of something above 5% ABV to be ‘loopy juice’. The two-thirds measure will actually make stronger craft beers more accessible to a wider audience.
Apparently some people have argued that unscrupulous publicans will use it as an excuse to rip people off, charging considerably more than two-thirds the price of a pint for two-thirds of the volume.
Well first off, that’s a classic example of that negativity I was talking about: could you at least wait and see if that happens before you start complaining about it?
Secondly, on the rare occasions where this happens with a half pint versus a pint, the difference is rarely more than a few pence. If you think that’s a rip-off, don’t buy it.
My final word on the whole subject: if both Brew Dog and the British Beer and Pub Association, so often at opposite ends of various arguments, are both delighted by this move, it’s kind of hard to imagine who could be vehemently against it.
This is the first bit of good sense we’ve seen in drinks-related legislation for some time.