Tag: glass

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The ‘death of the pint’? How?

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.

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How “87000” glassing injuries a year gave the neopros a bit of a headache

We had a bit of fun yesterday over the latest hysterical media circus around the dangers of drinking.

The Home Office have employed a design agency to come up with a new, safer beer glass in an attempt to reduce violent attacks with broken glasses in pubs.
The most important bit first: the design agency claim to have come up with a glass that looks the same as a normal beer glass, feels the same, and costs the same for pubs to buy, but has a laminate coating that means the glass will not shatter into shards if broken. Here’s what it looks like when dropped:

And here’s a link to a BBC video of how it works.

This is a clever move – when the initiative was announced back in September they scared us with the prospect of banning glass from pubs. Newspapers pronounced the ‘death of the pint glass’ and its replacement with some crappy plastic/polycarbonate thing that would probably be the wrong shape and have pictures of flowers on it to calm everyone down. So if this new glass is everything it’s cracked up to be (sorry), and if the laminate coating doesn’t impact upon the flavour, aroma or carbonation of the beer, you’d have to be a bit of a mental to think that it’s not a good idea.
So what’s the problem?

The problem is the epidemic of broken beer glass assaults that this new design is going to help solve. The money and attention given to this initiative is necessary, we are told, because of the sheer number of assaults, the terrible injuries they do, and of course the cost of all this to the NHS and society at large.

The Times tells us that ” Last year 85,000 people were attacked with glasses, leaving many scarred for life.” The BBC agrees, reporting that “Nearly 87,000 injuries are caused by glass attacks each year in England and Wales, according to the Home Office. Many more are hurt as a result of accidents.” The Mail tells us there are “around 87,000 violent incidents involving glassware each year, which costs an annual estimate of £100m in NHS, police and court costs.” The Telegraph goes further, with “Up to 1,000 youngsters a week suffer serious facial injuries in drunken assaults with many left scarred for life”, and that “Treating such injuries costs the NHS £2.7 billion a year”.

Pretty conclusive, right? So where does this 85,000-87,000 figure come from?
I spent an hour yesterday trying to find it somewhere. But the only Home Office figure I could find was 5,000 – a figure quite different from that quoted in every single newspaper report that covered the story. But the newspapers clearly said that 87,000 was a Home Office figure.
What was going on?
When I couldn’t, I asked my followers on Twitter to help me. The results they brought back speak volumes about how anti-alcohol scare stories are being spread.
Melissa Cole phoned the home office and was told that the figure was 5000 when the initiative was announced, by had leapt to 87000 in the intervening months. Given that alcohol-related crime is down, and that violent attacks of any kind are down 33% over the last 12 years (none of the newspapers seemed to find this relevant either), that seems unlikely.
@junklight went back to the Telegraph story and found that, even though the headline claimed 1000 people a week were scarred by glass attacks only 5000 of these attacks took place every year. Skipping over the physics-defying possibility that every single glass attack somehow results in scarring injuries to ten people, the Telegraph goes on to quote a figure of 80,000 ‘threats’ as well as the 5000 actual attacks to get to that 85,000 figure.
Peter Haydon of Meantime Brewing was at the press launch for the new glass and asked where the figure came from. He was told by the Home Office representative there that 87k was the total number of alcohol-related assaults, and that the number involving glassware was actually 5,000.
@Iamreddave found a home office report on violent crime and worked out some stats from that. This data gives a total figure of 2164000 assaults of any kind in the Uk, and in a different charts says that bottles or broken glass are involved in 4% of all assaults. Divide the total, and you get 86560.
So looking at it, I’d suggest Red Dave is right about where the 87,000 figure comes from. The trouble with that is that it relates to ALL assaults of any kind with any glass or bottle, anywhere – and yet the media is claiming every single one of these assaults is someone with a broken pint glass in a pub.
Elsewhere in those Home Office tables, there’s a figure for all violent crime ‘in or around pubs’, and that figure is 623000 assaults. Here it claims glasses or bottles were used in 10% of all assaults – which gives you a figure of 62,300.
Another antineopro blogger with a source close to the action confirmed to me last night that the official Home Office figure is 5,500 reported assaults, but that there are another 37,000 that go unreported. As he points out, if they’re unreported, how do they know?
In other words, this is a news story that is based upon a complete and utter fabrication.
Here are some real facts:
  • The £2.7 billion figure quoted as the cost of glassing accidents to society is actually the estimated cost of ALL alcohol related conditions treated by the NHS, according to the NHS.
  • NHS data shows that the other figure – £100 million – is the cost of ALL glass-related injuries treated by the NHS, accidental or otherwise, alcohol-related or not.
  • The Hospital Episode Statistics from the NHS list all external causes of hospital admissions. In 2009 it treated 10413 for unspecified ‘contact with sharp glass’ and a further 5226 people for injuries sustained by an ‘assault by a sharp object’. The former covers every single accident involving glasses, the latter includes knife injuries etc. The true number of beer glass-related injuries is buries somewhere within one or both these figures and is therefore clearly much smaller than we are being led to believe. It’s not clear why the ‘many’ of the Times‘ 85,000 who are ‘scarred for life’, or the Telegraph’s ‘1000 a week’ who receive horrific glassing injuries, are not going to hospital to have these injuries seen to.
  • To put this in context, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reports that 40,000 people are injured in accidents in the pub. So should we ban pubs then? Hardly – people might go home instead, and that’s far more dangerous – 100,000 people injure themselves each year trying to assemble furniture, and last year there were 5310 accidents involving trousers.

Home Office data shows that 2% of all pub-goers are involved in any kind of assault each year. 43% of these assaults are described as ‘grabbing or pushing’. Only 16% of assaults result in cuts of any kind. Around two thirds of victims in alcohol-related assaults describe themselves as being affected ‘not at all’ or ‘just a little’, with around 15% affected ‘quite a lot’ and 15% ‘very much’. Only 4-10% involve glasses or bottles, The vast majority involve fists, feet or blunt instruments.

So why such a huge focus on the pint glass? Why has the government spent so much time and money on something that, while horrific for those exposed to it, affects fewer people than those hurting themselves trying to put together a crappy IKEA wardrobe?
Now we’ve established that those are actual figures, and that no one in the media or the Home Office seems to know what this 87,000 figure is or where it came from, and that 87,000 is actually sixteen times higher than the REAL Home Office figure, go back and read those newspaper quotes on stats again. And get angry. Get very angry.
Just don’t get angry enough to glass anyone.