An artisanally crafted blog curated by Cooking Lager for discerning readers of beer bloggery

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Stealing beer glasses

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.

25 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

It's "glassware", mate. "Glass wear" is a solution to wonky eyesight.

Sid Boggle said...

That's telling him, BN... ;-)

Meer For Beer said...

You forgot the fourth way.... winning them. My partner managed to win a set of six peroni glasses at a charity pub quiz. Although I was more impressed he got them home unbroken despite having a few pints.

David said...

When a shop gives me too much change I give it back. And you know what? They invariably look at me as if I'm bonkers (while saying something like "ooh, thank you - there aren't many honest people nowadays...")

Barry M said...

I don't think I've ever bought a beer glass. I've been given packs of Weissbier glasses from my favourite pub, as they had too many, but the vast majority of my collection has been thieved. There was a stage I couldn't help myself, and one morning woke to find I had two Westmalle glasses in my bag (this was after I stopped wearing jackets that had ample beer pockets). After that, I cut down. Well, mainly because a friend said I was a klepto. Funnily enough, I've only pocketed two glasses in the past two years living in Germany, both Hoevels Victoria glasses. Things of beauty :)

ZakAvery said...

I've only ever stolen glasses once. They were a pair of stubby little barrel-shaped Cruzcampo glasses that I picked up Valencia.

Conversely, about 15 years ago, I woke up after not remembering leaving a party. Much to my surprise, I found had a whole wheel of Camembert in the front pouch pocket of my over-the-head parka.

By value, I'm more of a menace to cheese than I am to glassware.

PS - I find that if you call it "taking a five finger discount", it makes it seem like a harmless bit of fun, rather than stealing.

Martyn Cornell said...

You've missed out one very good route to a glass collection: the charity shop. Now, this is obtaining your glassware by third-hand thievery, since some old geezer nicked these glasses many years ago from his local, they hung around in his sideboard until he died, whereupon his grieving relatives oiked it all down Oxfam or Fara along with the rest of the tat from his former home that neither they nor his widow (if extant) wished ever to see again, and now you're giving a quid to cancer victims or Romanian orphans or whatever for the pleasure of owning a pint Watneys Red Barrel glass: something to treasure AND you give yourself a warm glow when you think of your charitable donation every time you drink from that container. I acquired a fair number of those old 10-sided pint glasses you see in "Beer Is Best" ads from the 1950s from charity shops in the Eighties, but they dried up because it was now a new generation of dead drinkers, those who had been nicking glasses in the 1960s, whose collections were ending up in the charity shops. It's an excellent source, though: you'll find everything from one-litre Mass glasses to old Camra commemorative festival glasses to branded pints from long-vanished national brewers, all at unbeatable prices.

The Beer Nut said...

How sweet. I'm definitely willing my glass collection to Oxfam. Except my Duvel one, obviously: that's going on the mantelpiece with my ashes in. And a beermat on top in case someone mistakenly tries to take it away.

Cooking Lager said...

Thank you all for both the corrections to my poor spelling (for which I unreservedly apologise) and suggestions for new sources of tat to fill my cupboards with.

It is important to fill cupboards with tat, as empty space is a lure for the squeeze to buy nice glassware from John Lewis that costs proper money.

Meer For Beer said...

Speaking as a female, you will never fill those cupboards to prevent that Cookie. We will re-organise the cupboard probably accidently breaking a couple of glasses and will get space for your tat plus new shiny things.

The Pub Diaries said...

As a student we had a fine collection but got into an arms race of who could out do the other. Outdone by King Klepto as he took a freshly washed drip tray from the bar and put it down the back of his jeans. Spotting another and liking the idea of a pair he stuck the other down his front
, zipped up his coat, drank up and headed for the door. He'll be out with good behaviour soon.

The Bocking Kellys said...

As a student, I managed to pinch about 7 glasses, some bradned some not, while on a crawl around the licenced establishments of Plymouth Hoe where I was spending the weekend for a sailing competition. I had a parka type coat with lots of pockets that made it easy.
After that pinnacle of achievement I haven't returned much to the ways of thievery although I did steal a Shepherd Neame pint glass from the pub up the road a couple of years ago.

The Beer Nut said...

Anybody have battle scars? One night in my early student days I had a pint glass -- an ordinary nonic, IIRC -- in the pocket of my big wool overcoat with my hand covering it. On the way out of the club someone jostled into me from the side. I didn't hear the crunch or feeling anything (mainly on account of being plastered) but there was a lot of blood, and I still have the scar on my left palm.

BMK said...

On holidays in France last year, I enjoyed drinking my hypermarket booty, especially as the on camp bar was rediculously expensive.

One evening they turned off an Ireland World cup match for some local swing band, teh place was full of Iriah familys who promptly left... as a further insult I pocketed a Hoegarden plant pot glass, its huge. I'm just glad we were on teh ferry not a flight as it would have cost a fortune in excess baggage

Rabidbarfly said...

To Beer Nut - I've had facial reconstruction after being glassed and set on fire by the local bridge club who were using the function room in a Dulwich pub I used to work at. I suggested a poker night - I used to look like Jonny Depp.

Sid Boggle said...

@Glyn: And now you look like Johnny Rotten... brrmm ttssscchh! I'm here all week - try the chicken in a basket... ;-)

The Beer Nut said...

Sneaking a glass out by having it embedded in your face is pretty hardcore all right.

First Stater said...

Hey Cooking, someone is stealing your blog. I guess you can't be upset as this post is about justified thievery and it's place in British society.

http://movies-number-four.com/Classic/the-branded-four

Mark, Real-Ale-Reviews.com said...

I have a shelf of branded glassware and I hate them all, I pretty much ate anything branded (unless it's a very cool post-modern self deprecating brand). Except my Brooklyn pint glass, which is f***ing cool.

Cooking Lager said...

People are welcome to steal this tosh, first stater.

Ales to Lagers said...

"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." That's just classic...I am lucky enough to have a girl that doesn't mind doing the dirty work...plus she has some get out of jail free cards sitting on her chest.

Jhames Stewart said...

Wow. How many have you collected so far? I have a huge collection recycled glass containers too -- aside from wine glasses. Some of the small ones are being used by my lovely wife to hold her candle collections. I know a lot people who steal glasses from pubs, too. It's quite funny for me, actually. LOL. Doesn't matter where you got all those glasses. The only thing you should be worrying about is, where and how to get 'em! HAHA!

Thanks for sharin' this, man.

Arrrrrrr said...

I don't think stealing beer branded glasses is going to cost the pub anything at all - the breweries usually send vastly more than any pub would ever need for free.

It is a tad rude though.

Cheers666 said...

I know it's a long time since the last comments but you can and should acquire glasses however and whenever you can. I no longer try to nick them but offer British Publicans "a donation to their favourite charity box" most are agreeable and everybody's happy but if they won't oblige or take the proverbial regarding the level of donation, I usually inform them not to worry as I'll nick it next time their're not looking! Sad as I am, I have in excess of 6,000 from over three centuries, must be worth a bob or two now! Cheers!

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