Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Let Them Drink Session!

Obviously I can't speak for you, but I remember my first beer, it was a half pint of my dad's homebrew when I was about 10 years old. We were living in Wales at the time and had built a huge patio behind our house, so naturally my parents had a bash to celebrate it being usable. I can't remember exactly what kind of beer it was, though I remember it was brewed in a polypin, most likely from a kit bought at Boots, and that it was brown, perhaps it was a generic bitter of some kind?

As kids we were allowed the occasional glass of wine with dinner, or cider during the summer. With the onset of the teenage years we were allowed a can of beer from time to time, by which point we had moved back to Scotland and said cans were Tennent's Lager featuring women in various states of comtemplating undress. By the time I had my first legal pint on my 18th birthday, I was no stranger to beer, cider and wine.

A couple of days ago, a friend on Facebook posting this article from the Huffington Post about how America's ridiculous legal age for alcohol consumption when compared to Germany's actually serves to create a culture of binge drinking. What though does this have to do with craft beer?

Let's assume the existence of some mythological American youth who when they get to their 21st birthday has never had a drop of alcohol pass their lips - yes I know such a creature is somewhat rare but for the sake of argument let's assume that the law isn't entirely out of touch with reality. On said young person's 21st birthday, having waited 3 years longer than their British cousins, they go to a brewery for a tour and tasting. Every beer they try is over 6% abv and they walk out having bought a case of double IPA or Foreign Extra Stout, whatever is on special that day. They chose the stronger beers simply because "it get's me where I want to be quicker", which is of course young person speak for , "I want to get pissed and pass out as quickly as possible, because that's what drinking is for". Still the question remains, what does this have to do with craft beer?

I suppose directly the answer would be "not much", but tangentially I wonder if the industry's reticence, and I am painting with broad strokes here, to brew session beers is contributing to binge drinking among beginner drinkers? I dread to think what kind of state these kids get themselves into as a result of going from nothing to high octane brews literally overnight.

Is there an answer? Well, yes I think there is. More sensible laws would be a good place to start, acknowledge that older teenagers are going to drink, so why bother making criminals out of them? Bringing the legal age for alcohol consumption down to at least 18 would be a good start, though personally I would bring it even further down, to 16, though I would make the minimum age for being in a pub 18. I would stagger what is available to kids of different ages like so:
  • 16/17 year olds, nothing over 3.5% abv
  • 18/19 year olds, nothing over 4% abv
  • 20 year olds, nothing over 4.5% abv
Assuming the Jesuit concept of getting them while they are young, this would be a good time for craft brewers to introduce younger people to flavourful session beer. It would also, and I claim nothing but self interest here, mean that there would be more session beer available for the rest of us, which is never a bad thing.


  1. Great post mate. I wholeheartedly agree with your idea for age/percentage tiers, it would work not only in America but over in the U.K. too.

    I remember being a young teenager and drinking cheap and dirty cider just because it was rebellious and getting drunk was cool. I think if I was actually allowed the occasional beer at home instead of having to rely on older friends to buy whatever they could afford with the £6 we'd all chipped in then going to drink in a park somewhere I'd be more educated on the matter. Disallowing kids from doing something usually makes them want to do it more!

    Booze, Beats & Bites

  2. I just found your blog so apologies for commenting on a really old post. However I agree wholeheartedly with this post. An this actually used to be the way it was in some states, such as Colorado and Kansas, back in the day. I've heard many a story from my Grandfather about his teenage years trying to get his hands on the "Premium" beer the older kids were allowed to drink. I say bring it back!


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