Friday 2 October 2009

If beer didn’t make you drunk…

I was walking to the pub (FYI: check out that link to see what beers are on this week - that's a wicked line-up!) a while ago with Pete and his brother, David, and the discussion turned to this horribly obese chap who had a (mythically?!) super-efficient liver that enabled him to drink gallons of beer every night and not feel any effect (except, of course, that his 20+ pints contributed to his already-monstrous girth). This then turned to a musing along the lines of: would you like to be able to drink and drink and drink and never get drunk?

So that’s the question: would you enjoy beer as much as you do if it didn’t come with the drunkenness?

I’m not saying the falling around, slurring, loss of motor controls and all that, I’m more interested in the stages from the first beer, through relaxing, into the merriness. You know how it is, a few beers in, where you talk shit, laugh more, feel happier; that fug of warmth and belonging and relaxation. And this isn’t about getting drunk, per se, it’s more about that 'beer feeling’.

This can probably be separated into further questions: would you prefer drinking if you can go all night and never get pissed? Given a choice between never getting drunk no matter how much you throw down, or getting drunk after one beer, which would you prefer? How important to your enjoyment is the whole inebriation process? What do you think...


  1. I think that the ‘getting a bit drunk’ is an intrinsic part of the enjoyment of beer. Take away the alcohol (but magically keep the flavour) and it’s a different thing. It would be like enjoying a good meal and never getting full; there’s sensory enjoyment to be had, but it loses its unique power. There are times when I wish the drunkenness would come less quickly, or that I can press pause at a certain level and then carry on, but I always want it to be there. Basically, I like the stages of tipsy, I love the buzz that comes after the first beer, I enjoy getting a bit silly when I’ve had a few and I like sharing all of this with mates. Beer wouldn’t be the same without it. (I hope this doesn’t make me sound like an all-out piss head, dependant on being drunk to have a good time… a couple of pints is enough!)

  2. I see where you're coming from with that, I know a lot of lads who just go out to get drunk but thats not for me anymore (i must be getting old ;o) )

    however I do like the buzz and the relaxed feeling it gives after a couple of pints, the getting silly bit comes with that too,

    There is no better way of getting to know someone than having a few pints with them, sometimes you can't beat the conversations when everyone has had a few.

  3. Now, yes, I would drink beer if it didn't get me drunk. The enjoyment from the flavours and variety and the social aspect of drinking in the pub with like-minded people is more of an attraction than getting a bit pissed. Would I have done so originally and would I now be so heavily into it if it was non-alcoholic? Probably not.

    (As an aside, I probably wouldn't be so into ale either if I didn't have such a dislike for crap lager as a teen).

  4. I'm with Mark, Moggy and Dubbel - I enjoy the drink and the drinking but not the being drunk or the having drunk too much.
    I enjoy the relaxed, comfortable feeling of a good beer buzz, especially in the pub with a few good friends, a few laughs and some good conversation. But I'm less keen on the 'one more than I really should have had stage of the evening, when you realise that the last one was the one you're going to pay for in the morning... in which case, might as well squeeze another couple in, eh? (always seems like such a good idea at the time...)

    I think it actually helps that the stronger, more interesting, more flavourful beers tend (imho) to be the stronger ones. Actually makes it easier to slow down and savour your pint, rather than dashing it down just so you can move on to the next one.

  5. When I first saw this I wondered why I'd never asked the question myself. I think it's one of those "why is the sky up?" questions, "Do bears shit in the woods?". Of course we wouldn't drink beer if it has no alcohol in it.

    Of course, one effect is the fact that alcohol is a diuretic and so makes you thirsty the more you drink. Pints and pints of liquid that is non-alcoholic would make you feel waterlogged quite quickly and slow down.

    Flavour, as has been pointed out, is generally less satisfactory in weaker beers, although this is something of a debatable point but personally I agree with everybody on this one. There is no way you could make a 3% beer taste like a 9% beer, it's just not possible.

    But thinking about the word "dry" to denote lack of alcohol describes the situation wonderfully. We understand the term dry humour, which can be quite amusing. A dry pub would be no joke. Quite humourless, in fact.

    Alcohol is a recreational drug. A legal and quite useful one. It is a "social lube" and can also be used to grease the cogs of commerce. I've seen many working relationships enhanced outside the formal workplace environment as a result of a social drink.

    The question that Mark askes is as important to the alcohol industry as Newtons question about apples falling was to physics.

  6. Beer does contain alcohol, so discussions about whether we would still drink it if it contained none are rather pointless. Were you drunk when this idea came to you? ;)

    I love drinking beer and I hate being drunk, so I'd happily drink such hypothetical beer for the flavour and the crack.

  7. Moggy, I've made a few good mates recently from just sitting down and sharing beer with them - it's the best way!

    Brad, but would the pub environment be the same? It'd be like having a range and variety of fruit cordials or different teas... they have different flavours but it's the booze which makes the difference.

    Darren, the drinking, and the middle bit, is the best. The being drunk part is not good. The 'I've had one too many' is a bad place to be!

    Dave, awesome answer and you should've saved that one for your blog!! A dry pub would be no joke - I love it! In terms of more strength + more flavour I do disagree to some extent as I've had some sub 4% beers which have more flavour than beers of 8%-plus, not many, but a few - BrewDog Edge and HTDC, I'm looking at you!

    Barm, do you mean craic or are you admitting to a nasty habit...?

  8. Barm's in Glasgow. Could be either really. Or both.

  9. Professor Pie-Tin4 October 2009 at 14:07

    I love drink. I don't think there's been a day in the last three decades when I haven't had one.
    A Bloody Mary as a livener, or a G and T or three mid-afternoon, a two-bottle of wine lunch, a huge session in an Irish pub or in an American micro-brew pub, a proper margarita that rattles your fillings, a fabulous golden ale or six on a summer's afternoon watching cricket, Irish coffee made with poteen, an ice-cold glass of champagne at a funeral, many,many hundreds of ones for the road, a glass of Ouzo and some olives as the sun goes down on a Greek harbour, a big fat stonking red with an Italian meal in Umbria, chasing beer and bourbon in a classic New York bar, a very dry martini that's so dry you only show the bottle of Vermouth to the glass, a peaty single malt whisky in front of a roaring log fire as Hogmanay beckons, a glass of brandy and a cigar as you wet your baby's head with a big grin on your face and the look of recognition on your local barman's face as he starts pouring your favourite pint before you've even pulled up a stool to the bar.
    But I've only been drunk five times in my life and I've never felt I NEED A DRINK so I suppose as the old saying goes it is really all about moderation.

  10. You know anyone who waxes lyrical about booze in this way and then says he has only been drunk five times in his life has to be regarded as, well, dubious. Sorry, but just saying.

    It sounds like a cross between self justification and bollocks.

  11. Professor Pie-Tin4 October 2009 at 23:58

    Not only do I wax lyrical about it but I also read blogs about it including yours my dear chap.
    And yes it is only five times.
    I measure being drunk as the inability to remember the previous day's proceedings so whilst that 32-pints of Guinness 28-hour session in Dublin is still etched on my mind from 20 years ago I remember nothing that occurred after the Irish coffee with poteen session only last month.
    And one of those evenings of drunkeness round a campfire in Tennessee did end up with me waking up in a hospital with a number of broken bones and no explanation how I got them the follow morning.
    I guess it's moments like that which instil a degree of moderation and self=preservation in a person.
    Although drinking without enjoying the hit does seem to me about as pointless as eating Linda McCartney's vegetarian sausages.

  12. Mark,

    I reckon it's a two-way street. There is just something indescribable and just a little magical about getting your buzz on, and watching as others get theirs on at the same time. Jokes get funnier, walking to the dunny gets more 'staggerry' and, of course, the scrubbers get prettier and the titties seem more accessible!

    My only wish would be for either a larger volume bladder or being able to 'break the seal' and the time between subsequent visits not get shorter and shorter!

    Prof. Pilsner

  13. Prof Pie Tin, great comment. Alcohol means a lot, it punctuates our lives, good and bad.

    Prof Pilsner, I hear you mate!!

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  15. Beer without alcohol? It's an interesting debate. I don't think I would enjoy it though.

    Firstly I like the 'social lube' beer gives (although by no means the feeling of being very drunk)and have enjoyed times I might not have had without alcohol. Secondly I think you wouldn't appreciate it as much, the getting full analogy is good.

    Alcohol is a drug, no doubt about it. Fortunately it's one that can be enjoyed responsibly and is also a craft to produce. Good beer can and should be savoured and is much more than a tool to get inebriated.

    Having seen the effects of alcoholism first hand the whole debate over it's effects are quite close to my heart (if that's the right phrase) but I don't think it's beer (or alcohol) that should be demonised - unless there is promotion that actively encourages harmful effects of it.

  16. Some years ago there was a Usenet poster who enjoyed malt whiskies but claimed it was purely for the taste and he wasn't aware of any inebriating effect. I tend to think he was deluding himself.