Another year, another couple of Christmas Work Do’s to negotiate.
My boss has already informed me of the wine he has ordered for the table of our first gathering; the one with the meal. “You’ll probably sup all that to yourself, Mark,” he chuckled to me.
For the third year running I wondered whether it was worth going on the non-compulsory first Work’s Do. The past two years I’ve made it on the simple basis that it’s free food and booze. I only need turn up and consume all I want. This has, apparently, earned me a reputation as a bit of an old soak with wine. Interesting. But in the absence of tasty beer, I do turn up to these events and hammer the table wine or order Gin & Tonic’s. The wine’s okay. The gin is tasty. That part of the evening isn’t a problem.
But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that for some Beer enthusiasts that such a lack of choice is a problem. At first I just assumed it was a little hubris - “There’s no Northern Monk available, how will I possibly survive?” Yet a few conversations, a few Tweets on my timeline and finally the discussion on this Beer O’Clock podcast have confirmed that people actually do turn social situations down due to the quality of the beer available. Many, it would seem, use it as a reason to not attend Work Socials.
I appreciate that there will be different factors for some – hatred of colleagues, awkwardness with an ex, business around the festive period, etc – but this beer stance seems to apply to every social occasion. I just can’t fathom how it works. Are you around at your brother’s on Boxing Day – “Would you like a drink?” “Got any Cannonball?” “Sorry, just bottles of Estrella. Maybe a wine?” “No thanks. You may as well burn your kitchen to the ground. Just a brew for me then you craftless filth.” I just... no, this can’t be the truth.
I’ve seen people make this applicable to weddings; actual pleas for help on social media forums. One person even told me when I challenged this that the bride and groom have the responsibility to make sure all drinkers are catered for, so suitable beer options are compulsory. Sorry? No, actually I’m not sorry. Nobody is required on their wedding day to approach your very selective, spiteful beverage needs. If it was a dietary requirement: sure. If it’s not, then I sneer at the thought of you sitting in the corner of the room, arms folded, occasionally sipping water. I'm sure my sister's day would have been extra special if I'd spent it loudly complaining about the beer quality over canapés. Or not turned up at all.
What about friends? I call mine the “non-beerys.” You have those, right? You haven’t reached a point in life where you refuse to be friends with people who don’t drink your perception of a quality beer, right? I’m fortunate that on social occasions my non-beerys are happy for me to recommend where we drink and visit and are usually happy with where we go. Most of them drink good beer when it's available but they can also give or take it. On the odd occasion when they’ve chosen somewhere perhaps a little devoid of quality beer, I don’t turn the invitation down. I haven’t shunned friends due to beer. You haven’t shunned friends because of beer. Surely you haven’t shunned friends because of beer.
This is rather close to promoting excessive binge drinking at all times. I am a stereotypical Brit who rarely does anything socially that doesn’t involve a drink. In retrospect, those that can turn down a drink based on quality in favour of nothing at all are probably approaching this correctly in regards to their health. If that is the main reason...
I just can’t picture being stood on that Wembley concourse at the Playoff Final, without a beer like everybody else, because I deem it inferior.
I'm not saying anybody is wrong in their choices; this is just a huge culture shock to me, another Wittgenstein-esque moment. I simply cannot get my head around it, other than to think this is the clear definition of that derided phrase beer snob.
I’ll be drinking that wine at my works do next weekend. For the third year running of saying I’m not attending, I’ll end up dancing enthusiastically and hugging the colleagues I shout at the rest of the year – all for the price of £0. I look forward to all those family gatherings and Christmas dinners around this season with people I love. Maybe I'll take a couple of bottles of good beer for people to try and see if they enjoy; if they don't, no problem. It won’t quite beat an Autumn afternoon in Victoria Baths or a Summer’s day at Bakewell Showground as a highlight of my beer calendar year. The drinks consumed may not quite be my first preference but I won’t be concerned with it or thinking of what could have been. I’d suggest any thoughts like that would be indicative of an addiction to a social media persona.
There is more to this time of year than craft beer.
There are more people out there than your Beer Twitter pals.
There are other drinks available.
Enjoy the season.