I was going to start this off with a lyric that Ian MacKaye wrote when he was in Minor Threat, but that would detract from the focus of this piece.
One of my mates commented that I can now disguise any heavy drinking I do as “part of my hobby.”
A quick flick through the vast ways I can keep track about what I drink (this blog, Twitter, Untapped, photos, good old-fashioned memory) highlights that over recent months I’ve imbibed a lot of beer, but seldom was it in pubs.
I drink bottles at home, bought from a vast array of local beer shops, many of whichthemselves now serve alcohol in the increasingly micropub (or microbar) vane via keg and/or cask.
I’ve been to a hell of a lot of beer festivals and even the breweries themselves and/or associated brew taps.
I’ve been to beer tastings and meet the brewer events, which though held in pubs seldom see me venture into the reaches on the actual pub and purchase anything from the bar.
In fact as I type this (while not drinking) I do think; I could buy myself a laptop or tablet and quite easily stroll down to my local and compose this there.
But that in itself it quite an insular thing – why would I go out to a social environment and then put my face into a big electronic screen for the entire time I was there?
What there is, is a feeling, the pub was and still very much is about a community spirit and about comfort.
I’ve been to beer festivals and some just feel too regimented- you are there to drink, interaction with anyone outside your social circle is minimal.
Many modern bars that just feel empty. Hollow carcasses where people wish to been seen to be drinking rather than getting any actual pleasure from the experience, but I suppose if you are surround by plywood, IKEA-lite furnishings or the very strange industrial-chic stylings, what is there to enjoy?
Beer can only cover-up so many things.
Some of the newer beer festivals also fall into this trapping and where they may be blessed with having lovely surroundings or interesting opportunities to meet brewers or go to lectures they still just come across as a place to be seen at; something that was read about in some trendy publication and needs to be ticked off some frivolous bucket list.
In writing this I open myself up to my own hypocrisy. I am an anti-social, social drinker.
I go to places on my own and confide in the warm, glowing, warming glow of my phone until inebriated enough to possibly grumble at someone sat near me, or maybe ask a few questions of the bar staff.
I drink less in pubs since I started “my hobby” that I did before – but a pub is like riding a bike, in which that provided the community is still there, you aren’t ever quite forgotten.
There is one pub in my locale which is possibly the worst when it comes to beer selection. They had casks for a year and then ripped them out to replace them with more generic keg lagers. But I can go in and even though my palate might not be satisfied, my soul (and my wallet) and more than comforted.
The theme to Cheers would be appropriate now, but no one knows my name.
The problem is people are treating beer and the social experience it brings as a commodity of lifestyle. The community feeling is ebbing away, save only for Christmas or those tedious weeks when England play football in some corrupt tournament people don’t seem to go out much.
People drink less, pubs keep on closing, old communities fracture and splinter and the uptopian vision of amalgamation of new cultures grind is replaced by them wearily jarring against each other.
Of course, these is just the witterings of a sober, pessemistic man – tomorrow I could go out have a few beers and feel the world of the pub is safe; that drinking habits are evolving and they will merely take a while before settling down into the old regime and away from this cliquey glad-handing charade.
This isn’t solely the fault of customer, the pubs have to meet half-way, but that is a different discussion.
Anyway, I’ll leave you with this final thought…