When I was commissioned to write a book on drunkenness I had a definite plan of what I would be writing about and my approach to the subject, but this has been a book that has taken me on a writing detour; as my research has uncovered so many elements of British brewing and drinking that I had not previously considered.
The subject of female brewers and female drinking was not originally in my book, but now there is a large chapter on the subject, and I think I would love to dedicate a whole chapter to ale hags and the women that brewed and sold beer. A chapter has also emerged on the lost pubs of Britain, this again could easily be a book in its own right. This really has been a book where my neatly laid out writing plan has been tossed to one side and re-written, because the history of British drinking is such a long and complex one.
In the 1970’s Christopher Hutt wrote ‘The Death of the English Pub’ and at this point most people were still enjoying their pint and ploughman’s lunch thinking that the loss of British pubs was impossible; however, incredible, as it may have seemed the British pub has been in decline since the 1960’s. The great British pub has joined the endangered species list and is a dying breed.
Whilst, in the Uk the population has risen by a quarter since 1960, the number of pubs has halved. There are plenty of campaigners for real ale and for protecting the traditional British pub, but what is the real cause of the decline? It is certainly difficult to find a good traditional pub; one that is independently owned and not part of a chain. When I was researching the decline in pubs, I noted that plenty of things are cited as the culprit from the nation preferring continental larger as opposed to real ale, the rise of supermarkets and their ever-swelling alcohol aisle’s. It seems from my research that the real shift is in our attitude to entertainment; there is now a larger percentage of people that prefer to stay at home and enjoy a glass of wine or pint of beer with dinner, with home being the new center of entertainment. Certainly, high taxes on beer, high staffing costs and our relationship with alcohol have also changed the face of the British pub.
I was reading an article in The Guardian about the drinking patterns of the so called generation X (mid 30’s to 40’s) and it did highlight how I haven’t heard of people out for boozy lunches for many years. Whilst, I am sure that there are some that still revel in a boozy lunch I don’t think it is as common as it once was; it no longer being part of the business lunch culture and it seems very much an historic activity that is resigned to the days of prawn cocktails and Bernie Inns. Meanwhile there are plenty of reports that suggest that the younger Millennials or generation Z as they are sometimes referred to are sick or drinking. Indeed, many that belong to this generation are not interested in consuming alcohol and are the new generation, of sobriety.
Well, I must have another coffee and continue with my Chapter on lost pubs and the women that ran them, but my final thoughts are that pubs for the most are now more like restaurants than pubs and they are certainly led by food sales.