Belfast Telegraph

Why I'd gladly raise a glass to downsizing the pint in my local

By Robert McNeill

Drinking patterns in advanced parts of civilisation like ours have changed enormously in recent years.

In city centre pubs, it's rare to see an old person, or indeed anyone over 50. Gone are the old worthies playing dominoes or the old dame nursing a glass of stout.

At the same time decent citizens of all ages are drinking more at home. You pick up the stuff from the supermarket, have a couple of pre-prandial snifters, then wine with your fodder, and a cognac or three to round the evening off. And that's on a Tuesday.

It's maybe not good for the health but I wouldn't want you worrying yourself into the grave about it.

I read recently about the late actor John Le Mesurier (Sergeant Wilson in Dad's Army) being told to give up drink and suffering terribly afterwards. It was only when he resumed tippling - though sticking to beer - that he got better again for a while, with colour in his cheeks and flesh on his bones.

This week a top economist stunned the world of social drinking by arguing that buying rounds was the main cause of binge-drinking. Surely not? If you're running ahead of your comrades, you might slow down to let them catch up. If there is an Englishman in your group, you could find yourself delayed by up to 15 minutes, and that's not including the amount of time taken to persuade him to buy a round.

I'm not a big drinker and never have a problem being pressurised into drinking during a round. I just ask the prospective buyer to give me the money instead, as one does at birthdays and Christmases.

One of many reasons for never going abroad is the peculiar drinking habits. Americans give you a bill at the end of the night. How does that work in a packed pub full of rowdies?

In a particularly frightening experience, I found in the Czech Republic that the bar staff used to sneak up and refill your glass when it was near the bottom. Then they'd add it to your tab. You'd nip in for a swift one in the middle of the afternoon and, quite unintentionally, emerge blotto at midnight. Someone said you could refuse the beer. But I have never been that assertive.

A new and terrifying proposal involves selling beer in 'schooners' instead of pints. This apparently is an Australian measure and equates to two-thirds of a pint.

Actually, that might not be such a bad thing. I like to try real ales but anecdotal studies show that 72.75% of them are horrible, usually because they've been stored for too long. Half-way down the pint, you think to yourself: "This is awful. If only there were some way I didn't feel morally obliged to finish it."

Two-thirds of a pint could be just the right size, avoiding the terrible embarrassment of a half-pint.

Holding a half-pint in your hand makes you feel like a gorilla clutching a grape. It's all wrong. Only two types of person drink half pints. One, hardened drinkers who use the beer to wash down whisky. Two, Englishmen.

As no one wants to turn into either of these. I say: Bring me a schooner, barperson! Now, what are you having? And don't say you'll just take the money.

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