I began 2022 with a couple of dry weeks in the month of January. It wasn’t the entire month but still the longest I’d gone without a pub visit for a good number of years. I needed it. I’d actually looked forward to it.
It was a necessary break to hit reset. I was drinking too much. I hadn’t handled a couple of big personal losses in 2021 well and this was an extension from excessive drinking during the lockdowns of 2020. I felt awful and needed some time away from beer; concerned that I was spiraling into reliance.
A short break served as a reset. I realigned my attitude to drink. I had defragmented my inner workings. My dry days were more frequent again. My wet days were not as heavy. Balance was restored. Breaks are good.
And so it is that we arrive in January 2023 and I find myself requiring the same optimisation program. Towards the end of the last year my number of post work pints increased by one or two and my visits became more frequent. It is time for another mini break, to kerb any potential dependence.
January is the optimum time for such resets. The Christmas period is a relentless endeavour of booze. This festive period alone saw me bounce from mixing supermarket IPAs with red wine until 2am at a friend’s house – to being in the pub drinking pre-match pints just a few hours later – to going on a pub crawl with another group of friends the following day – to suddenly finding it is New Year’s Eve and that the traditional pub visit is required. When the fun season has ended and normal life resumes, who doesn’t want a break from that?
Of course, this is an individual’s story and doesn’t mean that everybody requires the same period of leniency. But that is exactly my point – individuals need to take care of themselves.
You don’t know the story behind somebody desiring a break from beer in January. It may be that they have concerns for their own drinking patterns. It may be for financial reasons, especially after the pressures and expense of Christmas. It may be for fitness reasons as there are plenty of calories in this stuff, despite what people argue. It may be for mental well-being to have a break from a known depressant.
Or it may be for any other reason unbeknown to others. It is a personal choice and everybody has the right to make it.
But I’m tired. And I’m bored. And I’m sick to death of the irresponsibility of people within this industry. I’m tired of the shaming and guilt tripping online by people in this beer bubble and community being far too flippant about the mild poison that they peddle.
“Drink loads of beer in January otherwise breweries will burn and pubs will perish and every part of it will be your fault.” Is that verbatim? It isn’t too far off.
Once again we have the crucifixion of those taking a needed break from beer drinking and pub visiting during the first month of the year. The prats are out in force on social media to tell people that it is reckless to stop spending money on beer at this time of year; citing a moral obligation to keep businesses afloat.
The industry is on its proverbial and there are plenty of people that the finger of blame can be pointed at. We can look at those that support a severing of international trade deals that has caused a large increase in import and export costs, in ingredients and in equipment. We can look at those that exploit the cost of fuel and energy in this country and have caused the enormous increase in utility bills. And we can look at the government that enables all of this and continues to do nothing about any of it.
Or you can blame some individual sat at home who just wants to make sure he doesn't cut his life too short or needs to save that extra £200 this month. You can blame the people who can do nothing to stop the fixable rise in expenditure to small businesses. You could be that person.
And some of you are.
I'm sorry that I budgeted poorly in December. I'm sorry that I treated the people that I love. I'm sorry that I had fun over that festive season. I'm sorry that I need to balance that with a leaner January. Sorry dear – it’s just a tangerine and a pair of socks this year - I need to save the beer industry in January. Without me then businesses will go under. I'm sure you'll understand. You can put that tin of Quality Street back too. Are you okay? You've barely touched your boiled rice Christmas Dinner.
I'm equally sorry that I need to look after myself for a time and make sure I'm okay. You probably have your shit together. You can probably temper your drinking to healthy levels. How many times do I have to flippin' say it? Just because you've got your stuff together, IT. DOESN’T. MEAN. THAT. EVERYBODY. ELSE. DOES.
The hypocrisy is rife of course. The likelihood is that people that need a break in January spend more than you do down the pub in the other 11 months than you do across 12. That isn't mentioned of course. That doesn't roll over. You kill it in January. We should binge in the first month of the year and have the rest of the year off instead to sate the absolute claptrap of the bating crowd.
It might not last. I might be reading any responses to this in the pub, deciding that I want a pint after all this negativity. That's fine. It is my choice. Maybe I'll have a break at another time of the year. If I decide to have a dry April then I doubt I'll see any comments saying that the "industry needs me now more than ever."
Not that it is any of your business, but I will be supporting the industry whilst having a break. I'll be putting in a few online orders, building up a nice stash to give me something to look forward to. I'll go to pubs that do food and have a glass of coke with my meal. I might even put a nice alcohol-free beer box, although I prefer to go completely beer free when I have a break.
That's the other nonsense of course - "drink alcohol-free in your pub." That's your experience but not everybody's. Alcohol free options have improved on the whole but that doesn't mean that they are readily available. The vast majority of pubs haven't moved beyond Beck's Blue or Erdinger Zero. Why not ask your local to stock some different varieties? Stop talking shite. Have you ever been in a pub? We've had 15+ years of improved beer options and they still haven’t had anything more exciting than Pedigree on. Do you know how many times I’ve asked for Jarl? What makes you think they are going to break that for alcohol free beer? Live outside the bubble.
Not everybody doing a dry period in January is in trouble but I'm tired of asking that beer drinkers give those that are some consideration. I'm tired of having to continually ask this industry to stop encouraging people that don't want a beer to drink. If you think people having a bit of a break in January is terminally damaging for the industry, imagine what it will be like when they are told to stop drinking forever? Actually, I imagine you'll be in the doctor's office, telling the GP that his diagnosis is "crippling the beer industry." That is how you sound. That is who you are. Think.
I am well aware of the health benefits and toxicology thoughts on brief abstinence. Do not dare use that as counter argument.
I am aware that there are some great pubs with some great AF options. Good for them.