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How much of a good thing is too much?

June 10, 2014

Lobethal_smallInteresting debates surfacing in the wake of Good Beer Week 2014 out in the Blogosphere as writers pose the question; “Does craft beer promote binge-drinking?” As a beer writer, former blogger and craft beer fan I feel qualified to offer an opinion. As someone who has never used apps similar to Untappd I also feel I have a different perspective to some others.

So here goes.

First, it’s probably worth heading over to these two well written blog posts at ‘Ale of a Time’ and ‘Beer is your friend’ to get the genesis of the discussion and from which wise words I shall draw my response. Both Luke and Glen have put forward some interesting points to get the conversation started.

I too was posed the question by a proper journalist (i.e. someone who gets paid to write things that get published) after the Good Beer Week opening party at The Terminus Hotel. He’d observed the swirling and sniffing and the appreciating of the beer and had emailed with some posers – I suspect (hope) with the aim of pitching a ‘good news’ beer story for the mainstream press. With his kind permission I shall quote him where relevant.

“Just wanting to bounce something off you if I could.

I noticed last Friday night (probably the first time I’d been in a room full of beer aficionados) a number of subtle differences – beards aside – than I would normally experience when among mainstream beer drinkers. Chiefly, it was the absence of any obvious ‘get it down your neck’ binge-drinking. Everywhere I looked people were swishing, holding their glass up to the light; savouring.”

His observation took me back a bit as it was (a) not something I’d ever really been conscious of doing or seeing and (b) not something I thought in any way unusual. I admit I have, on rare occasions felt like the proverbial shag on a rock when swirling and sniffing a schooner of brewery-fresh Carlton Draught with a group of mainstream-drinking mates at a mainstream outer suburban pub sports bar but never have I thought the practice universally unusual.

The comment got me thinking – and here is where I might challenge the perception posed by others – that we (as a craft beer community) do have it different to the mainstream. There is talk of flavour, sharing of thoughts and debates on style guidelines. There are subconscious habits of swirling and sniffing and raising of eyebrows and unspoken games of ‘what’s that hop?’ as friends mingle and chat and further strengthen the bonds of community that bring us together. But a general culture of bingeing?

“Would you say, in your experience, the world of craft beer – in all its flavourful glory – is less conducive to bingeing?”

My immediate and honest reaction to this question was one of pride and pleasure in being able to state, hand-on-heart, that craft drinkers are a breed apart. That binge-drinking (and let’s not debate here the validity of the current medical professions definitions of binge-drinking) is not the aim, nor is it the common result of craft beer drinkers.

And so to Untappd. I admit I don’t really get it. I should. I am an avid collector. Footy cards, commemorative biscuit tins, beer bottles – ‘where two or more are gathered in my name then there shall be the start of a collection’ is my mantra. But I can’t help feeling that, for some, it’s an opportunity to start a pissing competition or to share what needs not be shared. Tell me in person or through your social media channels about a beer you had last night and enjoyed but don’t clog my already seam-split timeline with virtual trophies.

There’s a whole other article here regarding the use of terms like ‘Beer Geek’ and ‘Beer Nerd’ and how I think they don’t help the perception of unnecessary drinking but I won’t take any more space. I shall add it to the next article when I seek to find out how and when we decided that a pint was to be the standard unit of measurement for craft beer – and beyond.

“As you pointed out, it’s a small bubble, but it is growing – and at a rate of knots, it seems. If craft beer continues on this upward trajectory, can you foresee the nation’s boozy culture diminishing in favour of appreciation?”

So now it’s up to you. And me. And all of us who value the battle-cry of “Drink less – Drink Better” {M.Kirkegaard – and possibly Plato before him} to keep setting the example. We “drink for flavour rather than for effect” {MK again….or Churchill) and we owe it to beer and its image to do the right thing. Plus, Good Beer Week can be enjoyed rather splendidly if you treat it as a marathon and not a sprint.

2 Responses to How much of a good thing is too much?

  1. Don Smith on June 11, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Another great article Pete, however I think you are missing why most of us use Untapped. When I did my Cellar Masters Diploma we had it drummed into us that we must keep a journal and note all that is relevant to each particular wine that we tasted. Untapped to us is just the electronic equivalent to a journal in that it helps track what we drink, where we drank it what we rate it and allows comments about characteristics that we found in each beer. I have only been using it for a short time but already it has helped me in selecting new beers to try and avoiding beers that I have tried and not thought worth repeating. I just wish that I had had access to this back in the Courthouse days because I do not have a great memory for labels and retailers rarely let you taste before purchase it would have saved me from reselecting lesser beers (in my opinion) again which kept me from selecting better/newer beers. I agree that the trophy thing is a bit of a wank and I would be happy to turn that part of the app off if it was possible.

  2. Editor on June 10, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Great post Pete, and a great discussion started by Luke & Glen. Just to clear up though, I can’t claim credit for ‘Drink less, drink better’. I read that on a Unibroue bottle a decade ago and have flogged it mercilessly since. As for “drink for flavour rather than for effect”, it’s always dangerous to claim something as a first, but if I pinched it from somewhere, I can’t think where. Still, it’s a variation on the theme…

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