Wednesday, January 28, 2009


“Reino Unido: El consumo de cerveza baja con fuerza por la situación económica.”

That’s the headline that greeted me over breakfast yesterday in the business section of La Opinión de Málaga. Now you may be surprised, even impressed, that I actually read the business news but then I am a man of many facets.

When I was young, which was many a year ago, there was a slogan drinka-pinta-milka-day – or words to that effect. Now it appears that Britain’s brewers might well encourage the nation to do the same.

It appears that due to the recession beer sales in the UK have slumped by 8.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2008. That equates to an astonishing 2.2 million pints less a day.

Drink has always been the last resort of the poor in times of hardship. Beer in its various forms may have been the British drink of the last century and before that the working class areas were awash with gin as the populace deadened their minds against their extremely poor lot in life.

Back in 1889 George Sims, who was a supporter of the Temperance Society, wrote: “Drink is the curse of these communities; but how is it to be wondered at? The gin-palaces flourish in the slums, and fortunes are made out of men and women who seldom know where tomorrow’s meal is coming from.”

Sim continued: “The gin-palace is heaven to them compared to the hell of their pestilent homes. A copper or two, often obtained by pawning the last rag that covers the shivering children on the bare floor at home, will buy enough alcohol to send a woman so besotted that the wretchedness, the anguish, the degradation that await her there have lost their grip. The drink dulls every sense of shame, takes the sharp edge from sorrow, and leaves the drinker for awhile in a fools' paradise.”

Which begs the question – are the British in this latest financial crisis abandoning the traditional solace of drink? Or are they simply shunning beer and downing more chardonnay? The answer to that La Opinión didn’t tell me but it did impart that McDonald’s turnover rose by 80 per cent last year – yes 4,313 million US dollars more. Perhaps people have simply given up drink and are opting for obesity instead.

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