Thursday, 13 June 2013

Here we go down the slippery slope

The Grocer reports that the Home Office is “poised to hold talks with police chiefs about a nationwide rollout of ‘voluntary’ retailer bans on high-strength booze”.

I’ve written about this at length before, but going nationwide is a deeply worrying expansion of the scheme. It is an obvious restraint of trade in aiming to prevent the sale of lawful products, so the Office of Fair Trading is quite right to take an interest.

And if you try to separate out “responsible” from “irresponsible” products, where do you draw the line? Are Duvel and Old Tom high-quality craft products consumed by discerning connoisseurs? How about Henry Weston’s Vintage Cider? And much of the production of farmhouse cidermakers is well north of 6.5% ABV and is primarily consumed by rural pissheads, not aficionados.

Don’t forget that Special Brew started out as a premium product and was only later adopted as the tramp’s drink of choice. Cooking Lager has reported seeing a Belgian tramp necking Chimay Bleu from the bottle.

This is also a tacit admission that High Strength Beer duty has been a complete failure in achieving the effects that were claimed for it, and has only served to discourage the production and consumption of low-volume “craft” products.


  1. HSBD is the law of unintended consequences at play.

    This illegal nonsense should be stopped though I doubt, since it is could not be enforced, that it would affect "craft" products.

    Well dodgy.

  2. I have seen Belgian tramps neck Chimay but would not claim it to be their grog of choice. Clarkey is the man to ask about brands most often seen in the hands of Belgian tramps.

    Augustiner is the tramps choice outside the main station of Munich. A beer sold in specialist off licences in the UK. Becks is the tramps choice outside Hamburg main station, a mainstream product if ever there was one.

    A little bit of the local lingo and you can ask the tramp where the cheapest grog shop is, it isn't always the nearest newsagents. Tramps are a good source of cheap grog intel.

    But the issue isn't the product the tramp chooses, it is a society that does little to help people with the mental health issues that lead to that life. If you want the council flat & welfare cheque you have to be able to fill the claim form out and stick to paying the rent & bills on time.

    Removing white lightening achieves nothing other than reassuring a certain middle class paternalistic type that they are stopping harmful self destructive behaviour whilst doing fuck all about it.

  3. CL: your final sentence is completely correct, and I've made similar points myself. When I worked on Crisis Loans in the DSS, the alcoholics were among our more regular customers. These people would do anything to get booze, and if that meant not paying fuel bills and eating irregularly and then only the cheapest rubbish available, then that's what they'll do.

    Politicians, who can drink all they like (perhaps to the point of alcoholism) and yet have enough wealth to pay all their bills and eat a healthy diet, cannot understand the complete fixation upon booze that causes penniless addicts to disregard all other considerations.

  4. Another point is that this type of things tends to come from the home office which is concerned with public order rather than welfare.

    If there are problems in certain area the council can ban street drinking and the police can enforce that. If groups of tramps are congregating, drinking and intimidating shoppers there are laws to deal with that.

  5. the home office (and politicians in general) adore things like this because they can get some minister to make a speech about it and pretend they are doing something.

    The reality as Ive probably mentioned before on this :) is its completely misguided and doesnt help the people its supposed to be targetting, even less so when they claim "success" simply by measuring the drop in the number of people calling the police about street drinking, not cheap high strength beer/cider street drinking, just street drinking !?!

    I mean I did ask when it started whether it only affected certain drinks or was a blanket ban, which seemed daft as these places still quite happily sell bottles of cheap wine and spirits, and the guidance I got sent was quite wooly on it, almost in some cases that they hadnt thought it through properly, or prefered not to think of those things, especially with things like Aspalls cider which obviously has a big market round here.

    but you could still get Special Brew in Tescos in Ipswich last time I specifically checked for it and I definately saw Old Tom on my last shop as I almost bought one :)


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