The Rant: Why We Need To Call Time On The Humble Pint

Adam Clery on why Britain needs to let go of its unit of choice

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Hello there beer drinkers of Britain – which, let's face it, is almost all of you. We need to have a serious chat about the humble pint.

It's been the standard volume of bad decision-making since the end of the 17th Century, and while it's comforting to know that your ancestors were blaming precisely the same unit for knocking over an oil lamp as you are for texting Coldplay lyrics to your ex, some sort of revolution is largely overdue.

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You see, the pint’s a busted flush. Its time is over. The liquid traditions of the generations before us, noble as they were, just aren't fit for purpose anymore.

Despite the recent trend for fancy-sounding craft ales, the majority of men still opt for lager when they get the bar. The problem is that the standard British lager of old – that used to clock in at well under 4% – has been slowly replaced by export strength continental options.

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These drinks are a lot stronger – meaning when your ‘quick pint’ inevitably turns into two or three you’re far more wasted than you used to be. They’re also considerably tastier – until they inevitably get warm, at which point they start to taste like children's medicine. Two factors that make serving them by the pint, rather than something smaller, utterly ridiculous.

Even the government, despite knowing fine well what you all call them when you've got a beer in your hand, sussed as much in 2011 when they changed the law to allow pubs to serve beer in a 2/3s measure called a “schooner”. Heineken – who owned Tiger, Amstel, Fosters, John Smiths and their own brand at the time – then dropped half a million quid on getting new glasses sent out to pubs to cash in on it.

And yet take a moment, if you will, to recall how many times you've overheard someone order a ‘schooner of Smiths’ since then. If you're in a rush and don't have time to count, it's never.

This was the perfect opportunity to modernise our drinking habits for the better, and we blew it. The question is: why? Why do we cling so stubbornly to the pint, to the point where ordering a smaller measure is somewhere between an unmanly social faux pas and an arrestable offence, depending on what sort of pub you're in?

Part of it, of course, is nostalgia. Being given your first one is a rite of passage growing up, and successfully buying your own instils a teenager with the self-confidence and swagger of a lion in new jeans.

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We were all that group of kids huddled around a dirty table in a city centre boozer, telling each other we love the taste as we spend years gradually wincing a bit less with every mouthful. Decades later, when seemingly everything else in our lives has changed, the question we ask each other remains the same: “fancy a pint?”.

In a broader sense the pint, a bit like Nigel Farage, seems to represent an age in this country we just can't let go of. An age when smoking indoors was fine, not letting women into certain bars made sense, and foreigners trying to make us drink out of a different sized glass was something to be resisted at all costs.

Don't get me wrong though, I understand why the pint caught on in the first place.

It's because up until the last 30 or 40 years everyone had proper jobs that actually required a modicum of sweat and exertion, and throwing high volumes of low strength beer down your neck immediately afterwards was as good for relieving the stress as it was for quenching a powerful thirst.

But you and I aren't bolting spitfires on the side of battleships or pulling rocks out of the ground with our hands, we're keeping spreadsheets updated, cold-calling pensioners or hoping our twitter jokes get the number of retweets they deserve.

And so here we are, sat by the window of a bar, looking at a pint of beer as it exists in 2015.

It's probably a lager. It’s probably over 5%. And it's been served in something the size and shape of a deflated rugby ball.

What comes next echoes so much about life itself: the anticipation of a bright and bubbly start, followed by the reality of an increasingly bitter slog, until finally, a drawn out, flat ending that serves only to sour the experience as a whole.

I don’t know about you, but next time I'm getting a schooner.

Follow Adam Clery on Twitter.

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SEE ALSO:

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16 Things You Didn't Know About British Boozers 
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