Sunday, 24 May 2009

Why do old men drink lager?

In a pub yesterday, ticking over nicely, good mix of age groups and diners and drinkers, only one cask beer on, but it was in good nick and they do have guests at other times. Guy sitting at the bar, must have been at least 70, probably 75, with a pint of Carling. He’s old enough to remember when mild and bitter ruled the roost in British pubs, and must have been in early middle age when the lager revolution swept the country in the 1970s. So why on earth is he drinking it now?

I can fully understand the appeal of standard lager – it’s cold, refreshing, consistent and undemanding on the taste buds. I’m not one of those who thinks it’s vile muck, because it plainly isn’t. But it still baffles me why an old bloke should choose it as his standard tipple, especially given the inevitable deterioration of the personal hydraulic system which is likely to be adversely affected by ice-cold beer.

13 comments:

  1. I was at a beer festival yesterday, held at the Halfway House, Brenchley. It's won the local CAMRA pub of the year award several times; in the normal course of events it serves up to 10 cask ales, all in tip-top condidtion. Yesterday there were 50 cask ales on sale and yet a group of "lads" turned up and to a man all ordered Carlsberg.

    There's obviously bo accounting for taste (or rather the lack of it). One of my friends did hear the bar staff question one member of this group as to why he should want to drink such a bland and inoffensive drink when there was such a choice of beers on offer (including Schiehallion cask lager)! The reply was "I can't get on with that real ale stuff". Makes one wonder why bother turning up at a beer festival in the first place?

    ps. Some of this group had added blackcurrant cordial to their Carlsberg. Presumably they found even this bog standard lager a little too challenging on the tastebuds! Puts a whole new slant on "lager and lime".

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  2. When I was younger, "lager and black" was quite a common drink.

    I once even saw someone order a pint of Taylor's Landlord with blackcurrant!!

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  3. The question about older drinkers could also be applied to Mild. I've seen many, presumably at one time cask Mild fans, drink, say, Theakstons keg Mild. Now, ok, cask Mild isn't often available, but they presumably want the taste of it. Why then settle for the terrible keg version which bears no resemblance to the cask version? Nostalgia?

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  4. That, Mr Curmudgeon, is a fantastic question. It is one that I think is extremely difficult to answer.

    I think the answer has something to do with the overall beer marketing culture in the UK.

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  5. As you identified, it's coldness is the appeal

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  6. Tyson,

    Many of the older generation who aren't too well versed in the dogmas of CAMRA tend just to drink beer by style without being too concerned whether it is cask or not.

    Hence a "bitter drinker" will drink Holts in one pub and John Smith's Extra Smooth in another.

    Actually in my limited experience I have found keg milds among the more palatable of keg beers - Sam Smith's Dark Mild being a particularly good example.

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  7. There is a certain generation that was brought up to believe that processed food and drink were the future, such as bleached fibre-free white bread, processed meat and cheese, tinned vegetables, with tinned fruit with evaporated milk for dessert. The same applied to beer: kegs of beers and lagers were seen as cleaner and better than those fusty old casks. The elderly men you refer to were young at the time that this approach to food and drink was seen as new, exciting and the way forward ~ young people tend to be drawn to novelty. In its defence, processing of food and drink did ensure you weren't consuming stale or 'off' food and drink a time of little or refrigeration in many homes, when unscrupulous shops were skilled at making old food look fresh in the days before sell-by dates, and pubs would often put slops back in the barrels.

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  8. Could the answer be a simple one. He drinks it because he likes it? I think you can say younger drinkers are heaviley influenced by effective marketing, but after the age of 30 people drink what they like.

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  9. I seem to remember an inveterate Lees bitter drinker switch to Lager for no apparent reason. These things are cannot always be rationalized.

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  10. "especially given the inevitable deterioration of the personal hydraulic system which is likely to be adversely affected by ice-cold beer" - perhaps he likes to live dangerously, or, he's growing old disgracefully.

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  11. Alex: you're right of course, presumably they enjoy drinking lager, but all you've done is take us back the original question, which is WHY, seeing that cask beer was the norm when they were young? I've offered one possible explanation, but it's only a conjecture.

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  12. I’m uncertain, RedNev whether you can ever adequately explain why anyone likes anything. Why does my girlfriend like white wine? Or like me for that matter? Why do I like cask ale? Why do I like lamb madras despite having never been to Madras? Lager is the most popular beer in the world. In the modern global village, you’d expect lager to be popular in the UK regardless of advertising and marketing spend. As for UK lager being bland rubbish, most of the lager of the world is bland rubbish, and millions love it. The good stuff, the interesting spicy Belgian brews or Bavarian helles bier or crisp Czech Pilsner is a small amount of global lager. Most of it is fairly poor. As for expecting the old timer to drink mild because that’s what old timers do, who’s to say he ever liked mild? Many people don’t really like beer, hard but true, and if they drink it, it’s the blander tasteless stuff they neck. The social convention among men is to have a pint, and these days the norm is a fairly bland lager. The more interesting question is why do people like cask beer? As a teenager I disliked my first taste of beer, I disliked lager the least and drank it for no other reason than men drink pints. How and why did I start to like dark hoppy bitter brews that most people in the country don’t drink and has an old fashioned beard and beer gut image? That’s the question to ask. Oh and the answer is practice

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  13. As the Romans said: De gustibus non est disputandum

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