Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Beer and pub myths

This post by Pete Brown and my response to it led me to think about the pervasive but often largely groundless myths that have grown up about pubs and beer over the years. So here’s a few, offered without comment (although some of these are themes that I have addressed here in the past):

  • Pubs used to be male-only bastions where you would scarcely ever see women
  • Before the breathalyser, a substantial proportion of male drivers would regularly drive home drunk
  • Before the smoking ban, there were virtually no non-smoking areas in pubs
  • In the early Seventies, there was very little cask beer available in the UK
  • CAMRA brought about a dramatic increase in real ale sales
  • In the past fifteen or twenty years there has been a revolution in the quality and availability of food in pubs
  • “24-hour drinking” is now widespread in Britain
  • Mainstream beers in the 1970s were much weaker than they are now
Another one, which has been disproved now, but was surprisingly prevalent maybe fifteen years ago, is that alcohol consumption had considerably declined and the British were a much more sober people than they used to be.

Are there any other misguided ideas knocking around?


  1. Proper cider has dead rats in it?

    CAMRA members all have beards and eat children. OK I made the beards bit up.

  2. Maybe a more serious one along those lines is: "Real ale is made from natural ingredients in small, traditional breweries. Keg beer and lager are made from chemicals in vast industrial plants."

  3. Martin, Cambridge17 November 2009 at 22:16

    People only go to pubs to get drunk ?

    Actually, I wasn't drinking in pubs in the 70s and 80s - I would have believed all but the 24-hour statement to be true, based I presume on retro TV series and adverts in football programmes.

    Were there many manistream beers above 4% in the 70s ?

  4. "Before the smoking ban, there were virtually no non-smoking areas in pubs"

    I know you like to get the smoking ban into as many posts as possible, but is that really a myth? I mean one that you hear people come out with? Of course we disagree on just how much no-smoking space there was before-If I recall you think quite a bit, whilst my evidence says not as much as you'd have us believe, but "virtually none" implies close to zero, which I've never heard anyone say.

  5. Please tell me you old timers did wear flares though, that bits true isn't it?

  6. This is only partially true. Recent growth in the wine industry has cannibalized some of the beer industry. While as a nation we could consume more, there is of course a limit. At that point growth of one industry will come at the expense of the other.Perhaps the point is, for most of us, there is a time to enjoy both.


  7. Martin – stronger beers were much less widely available in the 1970s but, with the exception of some lagers, most "cooking" bitters and lagers were of similar strength to today. I have more than once heard it said that most standard beers were around 3% ABV, which is nonsense.

    Tyson – dealt with here.

    Cookie – of course we wore flares. And platform soles. And shirts with round collars.

  8. As I said, I’m aware of your position and remember that post. You picked a selective list of pubs local to you to try and demonstrate your point that there was plenty of non-smoking spaces. And my retort was basically not round here there wasn’t. But that’s not the point now.

    What interests me is your particular claim that a myth has grown up that “Before the smoking ban, there were virtually no non-smoking areas in pubs”. I’ve only heard you say such a thing and yet for a “myth” to spring up, I’d imagine this to be a view widely held. This is not to have a go, just puzzlement as to where this idea comes from. You obviously believe it, but it’s not something I’ve come across so I have difficulty believing that there is actually such a myth.

  9. Cooking - I wore flares!
    There I've admitted it.
    Complete change of wardrobe in 1977 though.


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