The myth of “drink less, drink quality”

craftbeerLuke over at Ale of a Time wrote this great post yesterday about craft beer and binge drinking that touched on a few things I’d been thinking about for a while but hadn’t gotten around to writing about. So thanks to Luke for giving me the kick in the pants to put my thoughts into words.

Drink less, drink quality.

If you’re a beer geek you’ve no doubt heard this pithy little phrase. Perhaps you’ve even said it a few times yourself, and even believed it. God knows I have. And there was a time I even believed it.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that this phrase is just self-serving bullshit. It’s something us beer geeks say to make us feel better about what we do. As if to try and prove to ourselves that our intense enjoyment of a form of alcohol is somehow totally responsible and perhaps even healthy. As if to set ourselves apart from the mass of disgusting Philistines who drink mainstream beer for the purpose of getting drunk.

And so we say “drink less, drink quality”. But what does “less” mean? How much is less? Three beers? Six beers? One beer less than the point at which you’d throw up? Or is less some arbitrary mark that the speaker never actually reaches?

So we have a statement that implies moderation, but never actually sets a benchmark for what that level of moderation is.

More crucially, how many people who have uttered this phrase have actually put it into practice? I know there have been a number of different reasons for me to call it a night, but none of them have ever seen me say “Sorry, guys. That’s me done. Had enough quality for the night”. I don’t think I’m on my own here either – I see plenty of people checking in six or more beers on Untappd over the course of a night. I read beer geeks on Twitter complaining about a hangover.

I see people stumbling out of bars during Good Beer Week, GABS, Sydney Craft Beer Week. I see people bragging about how many different days they’re attending an event at these week-long beer events. I’ve even seen brewers, distributors and other industry types absolutely shitfaced having obviously drunk quite a lot of “quality” and clearly not bothered with the “drink less” part of the equation.

Look, can a beer geek who will drink a pint of a beer that pushes the 10 per cent mark and then follow it up with a few more seriously say they’re drinking less? No, they can’t. Can a beer geek who has one, maybe two, AFDs a week really say they’re drinking less? No, they can’t. Can a person drinking a beer for no reason other than to win an Internet badge from Untappd really utter a statement that implies they’re drinking responsibly? I don’t reckon so.

This isn’t some anti-alcohol rant. I’m not saying people shouldn’t drink beer. Nor am I saying people should avoid drinking too much beer. As long as it doesn’t impact on me, do what you want. What I am saying, is be honest with yourself about it. Don’t tell yourself some bullshit about drinking less but drinking quality when you’re still ending up drunk at the end of the night. Don’t throw out those meaningless four words that exist to make you feel like you’re more cultured than those drinking Toohey’s Extra Dry, even if both you and then will drunk by the end of the night.

I’m certainly not saying I’m better than anyone either. I can still find it very easy to find an excuse to have a beer during the week (my aim is to go alcohol-free Monday-Thursday). I also find it tricky not to go a little overboard on those three days where I can drink.

But at least I’m honest with myself about it.

11 replies »

  1. Preferred mantra: “Drink for flavour, not affect.”

    Also, the “drink less, drink quality” is also often voided by the lack of quality in craft beer.

    • I reckon “drink for flavour, not effect” is way better. It probably more accurately describes what most of us do. Yeah, we get drunk from drinking good beer but I’d suggest that is a by-product rather than the aim of the exercise.

  2. I find the ‘drink less, drink quality’ applies because of a cost factor. I drank two exceptional Clown Shoes beers on Saturday night. They cost a total of $36 and I got shit-faced AND had a hangover. I didn’t drink those nine and ten percenters to specifically get shit-faced – I drank them because they were quality…and I drank only two because of the cost.

  3. Agreed. It’s all about moderation. I think it is safe to assume that most ‘beer nerds’ do not drink to get drunk, hence the ‘drink for flavour, not effect’. I just recently wrote a piece on the release of Duff on the Australian market which is currently being torn apart by the AMA which is another huge problem. The whole perception of alcohol really needs a shake up in this country, if the idea of the ‘forbidden fruit’ was taken from the equation and gradually introduced at the family table and PROPERLY EDUCATED ABOUT, it would really help. It all starts at home…

    • I agree. In my opinion we don’t seem to talk all that much about the health-related impacts of loving good beer.
      Sometimes I’m left with the impression that some people believe that good beer just doesn’t have the same effect as mainstream beer – that it’s somehow more healthy. So they won’t accept the idea that drinking two or three double IPAs is – in terms of alcohol – no different to someone knocking back six schooners of Carlton Draught.
      At the end of the day, these sorts of posts are aimed to get people thinking seriously about the issues rather than pretending that it doesn’t affect them.

      • Couldn’t agree more, I eat very healthy and run a fair bit. So why not treat this beverage with the same respect. We all play up very noun and again and get sucked on by the social pressures of mates etc. But every noun and again my better half kicks me back into line and reminds me what I told her. Respect anything in life and you will be respected also.

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