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

Saturday, 9 January 2016

The puritans are winning

By now I’ve read most beer bloggers have got off their chest their disdain for Dry January and the new alcohol guidelines. There are too many to post links to all but this article on the Telegraph is worth a look, By Charles Moore.

I add my own two pence not to disagree with anything I’ve read but to add a point I think many have not considered. Off course beer bloggers, evangelists, communicators, writers, pissheads are going to ignore the new limits and try lots of new beers in January to support the great British pub. They will ignore the new guidelines and carry on!

Beer enthusiasts fall into a category I like to call “committed drinker”. It’s going to take the first hospital scare for many to cut out the pop. I’ve had the fortune to meet in person many and the 30 year old guy that likes a skin full of strong beer every night but thinks that’s different from doing the same with the Spesh because it's "craft" and seems to genuinely believe his gout is genetic is always a pleasure to meet as an example of the power of self-delusion. Something I think is more common the better educated and intelligent people are. The committed drinker will pull apart the stats and convince himself he is right and carry on.

The point I’d like to make is most people are not committed drinkers and the market cycles to a new generation every 10 years. People drink from 20-80. A 60 year customer life. Every 10 years a sixth of the market is replaced. The new puritanism will have an effect and it is having an effect. A bigger chunk of people will listen than the small number of committed noisy drinkers alongside I sit. When I was a kid people smoked on the top deck of buses. It smelt horrible and I didn’t like it. Within my lifetime this habit is all but prohibited. The process has been applied to drink and they are well on their way to drinking being as socially unacceptable by the time my nieces are my age.

It’s the kids the guidelines are aimed at. Those not even in the market yet, and from what we can currently see most young people prefer the new temperance bars of Costa and Starbucks to the pubs. So it’s working then. I’ve nowt against Costa, I like their mocha and carrot cake but the hang out for today’s youth isn’t a place with drink. Lager fuelled lads like me were inclined to try out your beardy beer festivals and accept a pint of bitter can be nice, you just need to drink it in a place they keep it well. Not sure how you are going to convince people that don’t drink to come along and try it. People that don’t drink ain’t interested in the more discerning booze you are hawking, pal.

On my first day back in work after Xmas an email greeted me from the HR department of my client site encouraging all the employees to do a Dry January. The people doing it were not exactly boozers to begin with. One chap doing it drinks on average one bottle of wine a week but thinks a January detox is a good idea. What toxins he was trying to expel I didn’t bother asking. I pondered for a moment my first graduate job. We all went for a drink Friday lunchtimes. I’d hover near the boss so that she would buy me a pint. Good strategy that. The grad trainees went out into town a couple of nights a week. Booze was the social lubrication of that moment in time. Today my work colleagues are more likely to go to the gym and have a protein shake. Nobody goes out to the pub anymore in offices. It doesn’t bother me so much, to tell the truth, but it’s a change worth noting. Whether a Friday lunch or after work. Maybe they will live longer, but drink is already well on its way to being a denormalized socially unacceptable hobby.

The puritans are winning and us boozers are losing.

You will resist, you are committed enough to intellectualize the pop and call it a hobby. I will resist but I won’t be mentioning my beery hobby on client site as I don’t want people thinking I’m a pisshead. But maybe it’s time to decide whether you are a puritan or not. Whether you stand with those that think it okay to stop others enjoying something of which you disapprove (buying cheap wine from Asda), or whether you stand with those that advocate the personal freedom to damage your own health seeing as you're busy damaging your own.

Whatever it is you want. Whether it’s a healthy market of craft beer, open pubs selling cask bitter, or simply a cheap slab of beer to sit on your own couch with whilst watching Death in Paradise (it’s good that show). It’s puritans you’re up against, not each other


Coxy said...

I don't see it as puritanical to get pleasure from things other than booze, let us let the people decide, we are not as easy to influence as everyone makes out.
Having children I have noticed there is a lot to admire about this generation, there seems to be so much less racism, sexism and name calling of the disabled. They are also less influenced to only like one kind of music, all be it they dress like their fathers. If they decide booze is not the right direction to go , so be it, don't think they have been brainwashed.
Having said that , if they do decide to drink and drink cooking lager , well they are no sons of mine!

Anonymous said...

Well written piece Cookie. I agree with all of that, and also with what Coxy says about youngsters today, at least while they don't make fun of me at gigs.

I'll be cutting down a bit, mainly taking more dry days in the week. Not a pleasant topic, but anyone who reads as many CAMRA branch obituaries for blokes in their 50s and 60s as I do will know that not all committed drinkers make it to their 80s in good health.

It's the sitting down that does the real damage though. Kill your TV.

Cooking Lager said...

My point is not that "not drinking" is puritanical. It's personal freedom. Only that the puritanical message has influence and that can be readily seen. We are all influenced by different things. Fashion, trends, what our friends are doing and what is and isn't acceptable.

When young, you go out to the places your friends go out to and hang out where it's cool. Seems to me that's now a coffee shop. The only reason booze was part of my youth is because that was the norm. I would not have bothered if my friends didn't. I didn't start to intellectualize the pop until after 30 when I decided I quite liked it and turning it into a hobby makes it more respectable than just saying you like going on the piss.

If I were 18 today, I doubt I'd drink. It may not be a problem, but look what happened when the smokers became a small minority. They all got put in dirty pens outside buildings.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Very well observed Cookie.

I have two teens and have never prohibited them from alcohol. The only advice I've given them is that it is their choice but they don't require it to live a good life. One has never touched it, the other will have a glass of wine on special occasions but never more than that. Whether that will change in future I don't know but I wouldn't expect it to.

The one thing I do tell them is that whatever they choose is their own personal matter and it's not their business to dictate the choices of others. I'll disinherit the buggers if they do. ;)

Curmudgeon said...

The decline in workplace and workplace-related drinking is one of the most dramatic changes I've seen during my drinking career.

As I said in a past blogpost, "I suspect if I was thirty-five years younger, and just embarking on the world of adulthood, regular pubgoing would be something that would not even feature on the agenda."

Back then, going to the pub was a normal part of everyday life that most people did. Now it isn't.

Also, back then, you might well have thought that your experience as CAMRA branch chairman or beer festival organiser would enhance your CV. Now you wouldn't mention it.

Cooking Lager said...

I'm sure your children would never advocate puritanical policies, Dick. But the recent smoking prohibitions have been passed because the vast majority of us do not give a toss. Why should people care about what doesn't affect them?

In other European countries, with more smokers, they got some resistance.

I expect the current generation of youngsters, in ten years time, to shrug their shoulders at the next stage of the anti booze ratchet.

An interesting point about beardy volunteering Mudge. I think you are right. Any career minded 30 something today would not volunteer for anything in the beards that took enough time they would need to reveal it to an employer. They would be marked out not as an organizer but as a drinker.

Robin Oldfield said...

Thought provoking as ever. Here are my predictions of how things will pan out.

In 2025 the newly elected government will introduce a law requiring drinkers and smokers to be registered on a national list. This will give them a card to allow them to buy drinks in pubs, supermarkets and off licences. This will be done in the name of fairness because the current arrangements are ageist forcing the young to prove they are over the age of 18.

In 2027 the chancellor will have a funding crisis and will say all those on the register will have to pay a premium in order to be able to use the health service. This will be done in the name of fairness. After all why should teetotallers and non smokers pay for the feckless.

In 2029 there will be a further funding crisis and this time the list will be sold to insurance companies and employers. After all its only fair that a potential employer knows whether their employee is an 'alcoholic' or not.

I am not saying that this will happen, but the fact that I can predict it and that its not so fanciful is very depressing.

Paul Bailey said...

“On my first day back in work after Xmas an email greeted me from the HR department of my client site encouraging all the employees to do a Dry January.”

What a load of patronising nonsense. I’m certainly glad I don’t work at your place, as it sounds like your HR people have far too much time on their hands. They’ll be encouraging staff to tip buckets of ice over their heads next, or badgering them into walking across a bed of hot glowing coals – providing someone has done a proper risk assessment, of course!

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