Since starting this tosh up, to share my joy of cheap lager with anyone that wanted to read it, one aspect of my world view has arguably generated a degree of disagreement. Not only do I like drinking dirt cheap lout on special offer at supermarkets but I like drinking the lout from branded glassware. My acquisition of branded glassware comes from three sources, buying it, getting it free and stealing it. It is the stealing of glasses, primarily from pubs, that some commentators, kind enough to comment, take issue with. I think it worth addressing those concerns.
Firstly why drink your cheap can of lout (or any beer) out of a glass branded to the lout you are necking? This is a difficult one to answer, and I’m not sure I can fully explain it. It’s just better. That’s the only argument I can make. Nice glassware adds to the appeal of the drink you are drinking and I happen to prefer a can of Foster’s in a Foster’s glass. The beer is no different, for sure, and the glass isn’t in or of itself an object of beauty. I just like it. I think just liking it is enough of an argument. One aspect of European beer I like is the glassware it comes in, from the unusual glasses of Belgium in wooden frames, the Maß glasses of Germany and a particular favourite of mine, tall Weissbier glasses. I think they are neat. Those are objects of beauty. I just like them. It’s a free country, I’m free to like what I like, and I don’t think I need any more justification.
Next, how does one acquire beer branded glassware? There are plenty of legitimate routes to acquisition. Especially if your prime interest is craft beer. All the websites flogging interesting and relatively more expensive craft beer do indeed appear to stock the branded glassware of the beer brands they are retailing. I would suggest that this is often the best route to acquisition. Many of these beers are difficult to find in pubs, occasionally available in what you might call specialist beer enthusiast multi beer houses, and in all probability you won’t be served it in the snazzy glass. You might be, and if you know of such an establishment, nicking one is a route to acquisition. Be prepared to pay through the nose and be stung for P&P, though. Might as well get a collection all in one go if this is your preferred route. If you only want one, nicking remains the intelligent choice.
For mainstream beers the prime legitimate route to acquisition is the beer gift pack or box of lout offer. At Xmas for instance, beer gift packs appear in supermarkets with a glass or two and couple of bottles or cans. It is a relatively expensive way of buying the lout, but you get the snazzy glass you were after. Also through the year you often see an offer of a free glass on a big box of lout if you buy a couple of boxes and send the tokens in. Also a fair enough offer, though consider whether the box of lout is on special offer or not. If not, this can be a box of more expensive lout bought for the free glass. But if you covet one, you covet one. Who can really say where the desire for the acquisitions of mortal man originate, in a world only of process and impermanence?
I feel I have to mention EBay. EBay is not a source of legitimately acquired beer paraphernalia. It is nothing more that the contracting out of theft by those too scared to steal their own booty from boozers to people stealing from pubs for profit not pleasure. I feel this is a corruption of the noble art of the amateur petty pilferer. A removal of the amateur ethos and Corinthian spirit of petty theft. It represents an attempt to professionalize a sport played for fun not profit. That is only my perspective, but buying a Carling pint glass off EBay represents to me a slightly dirty, squalid and repugnant approach to a sport played for its highest ideals. There is no victory if in winning the game if you cheat.
Next up comes the matter of stealing glasses, and I think I’ll attempt to justify it. I could mention all property being theft and paint myself as an exploited member of the proletariat striking a blow but that would be disingenuous. We all know that is bollocks. It’s theft. For the record I also download free music and that is theft. I don’t shoplift from shops, but I do nick pens from the stationary cabinet at work. I would not steal money from your wallet and if you knew me you would consider me trust worthy but if a shop gives me too much change I keep stum and pocket it. Morality isn’t an absolute. It isn’t black and white. I think there is a scale with shades of grey. Otherwise I would feel guilt wouldn’t I? The absence of guilt may be a poor excuse, for it can be said that the definition of evil is not philosophical or theological but merely the absence of empathy. Empathy allows us to see and consider others as we do ourselves, and without it humanity is able to commit all manner evil upon his fellow man without an ounce of guilt. Anyone from serial killers to suicide bombers to concentration camp guards do not feel empathy for their victims, do not see their victims as fellow humans requiring the dignity they afford themselves, and thus are able to do as they do. Thus is my absence of guilt in and of itself a moral or psychological deficiency? Is it a pathological condition requiring correction? I cannot say, as I do not possess the self awareness to analyse myself to that degree. I guess I am grateful my deficiency is restricted to pub beer glasses and company pens, and does not extend to listening to the voices in my head that tell me to kill, for I know that to be wrong.
Actually my only justification is that for some glasses there appears no other way. Once you’ve checked out the brewer’s website, googled the object of desire, you discover there isn’t a legitimate way of acquiring say a stemmed Stella glass that you might covet. You could live without it, or you could choose to nick one. A difference I have noticed in UK bars to European bars is the reaction you get when you ask a member of staff whether you can buy one of the snazzy glasses. I’ve never been refused when abroad. The card I play is one of a tourist after a souvenir, with a polite demeanour and smile. I have a bit of a collection of tall weissbier glasses, all of which I didn’t actually rob. My prized one was given to me free by the proprietor of a German restaurant after I enquired about buying one. He wouldn’t hear of it, and wrapped up a clean one in paper and gave it to me gratis, nice man that he was. Probably because I ate in his restaurant a few times, on company expenses, tipped well, spoke a bit of his lingo and never mentioned the war. The answer you will by and large receive from a British pub is “no”. Why that is the case? You tell me. Maybe they are offended I want to drink a cheap can at home (why else covet a branded glass) and think I should always drink in pubs. I don’t know. But by and large it is a waste of time asking a UK publican for one of his glasses. Like asking for a free glass of water for the driver with the 4 pints of lout you are buying or expecting the toilet to be clean and contain toilet paper, UK publicans are a miserable bunch who think they are doing you a favour in serving you a pint. A smile costs extra. If you want one you have to nick one.
So how to nick one and not get caught? Stealth and discretion is the key. A useful tool is to have a receptacle to take it home in. Don’t just do a runner down the street, glass in hand. Men don’t usually carry bags, and I find the squeezes handbag a useful tool. When she powders her nose (lady talk for having a slash) slip the glass in her handbag if she leaves it, or shopping bag otherwise. Upon arriving home you might get a bit of earache about her handbag and its contents smelling of beer, but ignore that, you have your prize. For some reason lasses are a bit embarrassed about nicking glasses from pubs so don’t expect a partner in crime. If you regularly drink with a male friend, you can corrupt your friend into the twilight world of nicking glasses from pubs if you suggest robbing a couple of Guinness glasses. Everyone wants a Guinness glass, even people that don’t like Guinness. Girls don’t really get it though. Sit in a quiet part of the pub where eyes are not on you. If without the company of your woman, carry a small rucksack or briefcase. Bob is your proverbial aunty. Often beer gardens provide a route to take your drink outside, offer access to the road, and are beyond the eyes of bar staff. Walk calmly out with your booty. Always monitor quality control. Often pubs and bars are quite lax when it comes to giving out the proper glassware and when they do the glass can be tatty or scratched. That’s the lay of the land. There is no point in nicking crap so be prepared for both minor disappointments and grasping an unexpected opportunity when a piece of quality comes your way. Like the Boy Scout motto, be prepared. If you have a local you are fond of, do not nick from it. Keep your nicking to establishments you are not known. This is minimising risk should you be unsuccessful in an attempt, and avoiding empathy towards the proprietor of the establishment. If empathy is a problem, drink somewhere expensive or that you do not like. Your theft is thus a statement of protest. Remember that stealing glasses from pubs is an art that requires regular practice, and be pleased rather than disappointed when breakages or a new style of glass emerge that require your Raffles like ingenuity. Never let success go to your head and get sloppy. Treat your prey with respect, and always apply caution to your endeavour by disguising your activity and planning your escape route. Oh and if nicking more than one glass, be aware of the golden rule. Glass makes a “chink” noise in your bag when glassware touches. For the price of a newspaper you can avoid this.
If asked where you acquired the glass, never be ashamed to admit to the truth of its origins. You got it free with tokens, it was in a beer gift set or you nicked it from a pub. Nicking glasses from pubs informs your guest that you are a bit of a geezer. Be proud and unashamed. Most of all enjoy it. Sit on your sofa, pour your lovely ice cold fizzy lout into your snazzy glass, and try to quantify the extra pleasure you have gained. If you can quantify and explain that pleasure I suspect you could also look deep into the very essence of the quandary of existence and come up with an answer that would astonish and perplex theologians and philosophers alike.
EDIT : Thank you to The Beer Nut whose standard of English exceeds my own.