/ Food & Drink, Health

Will two-thirds pint measures change our binge-drink culture?

Pint of beer two-thirds full

Imagine a pub where you can buy a two-third pint measure and your glass provides unit information. These changes could be coming to a pub near you very soon, but will they make any difference to how much we drink?

We’ve talked about the government’s new Responsibility Deal in a couple of Conversations recently. Will it help make our food healthier, and could it encourage food chains to display calorie information more clearly?

But the reports that have caught my eye have been related to drink, with big alcohol companies making pledges that are set to dramatically change the way we’re served booze.

Responsibility Deal alcohol pledges

Molson Coors, the brewer of Carling and Grolsch, has said it will start providing alcohol unit information on its glasses as well as rolling out a two-third pint measure across all its brands. Heineken will also be distributing millions of branded glasses to pubs this year displaying unit information.

Both companies also plan to develop more lower-strength drinks. Molson Coors is focussing on coming up with more mid-strength products, while Heineken’s going one step further and creating a new low-strength version of one of its key brands.

Will these measures work?

This is all a great step forward for encouraging pint-drinking lager lovers to consume fewer units, but as someone who doesn’t fall into that category, I’m not sure it will do much to help me cut back.

What about the ‘buckets’ of wine we’re given if we forget to specify a small glass? I know I’d be shocked to see unit information on those. And that’s before you even consider the massive variety of strengths between different wines.

I’m glad to see such big names leading the way here, but others undoubtedly have to follow to make any real impact on everyone’s drinking habits.

When we discussed minimum alcohol pricing opinions were divided, with many commenters suggesting that stronger measures – such as hospital charges for treatment on drink-related illness – were just as important.

So what role do alcohol companies play in all this? Is it right for them to promoting more responsible drinking through their products – or should it be up to the individual to look after their own health?

Comments
Member

Of course it is down to the individual. Anyone who cannot look after themselves perhaps need to move back in with Mummy 🙂

It’s not the amount of alcohol we consume, its the toxic chemicals that are added to give shelf life, yield and aesthetic appeal. Yet none of them are forced to list their ingredients.

Case study – I drink 4 pints of 5% lager in Germany – I am barely drunk and wake up fine the next day. In England, I drink just 2 pints (maximum) and it’s gone straight to my head and gives me a hangover.

It’s NOT the alcohol which is our problem and until we find out exactly what goes into our drinks that are “brewed under licence in the UK”, this argument is erroneous

Member

People differ in the effect of alcohol and other chemical compounds present in alcoholic drinks, so I’m not sure that referring to addition of ‘toxic chemicals’ is a useful description. Not everyone has the same problem.

It is an anomaly that we label food composition and not alcoholic drinks, though the Co-op started to label the ingredients of wines in the late 90s. Until this changes it’s a case of avoiding whatever causes a problem.

Member
Michael Wilkinson says:
23 March 2011

spot on Dean.
The laws governing what you could put in beer were quite strict when I lived in Germany back in the 60s.
I understand that EU laws have now changed this and the breweries are no longer confined to water hops and barley,bad news indeed for the consumer but it means that any eu country can now sell its chemical brews in Germany.
Its the EU at work

Member

If there is any evidence that this might work, then try it.

Can I qualify for a card to be allowed a full pint of real ale, on top form?

Binge drinking is a huge problem and it is about time that we deal with it, but it is a shame that control measures have to affect those who enjoy a drink rather than getting drunk.

Member

Not sure what you mean there wavechange. “binge drinking” to me is a tabloid phrase and meas nothing to me. I would call it “escapism”, but that’s just me 🙂

Real Ale is different, it is the anti-thesis to mass produced lager or bitter. Real Ale actually means that they brew it the traditional way from local breweries and sell it locally, just like lagers in Germany. This means that they don’t have to add any preservatives or any other chemicals to make it look better and make a consistent yield.

Sure you will get a bad batch now and again, but that’s the whole point. Drinking lots of real ale just makes me feel warm and fuzzy, drinking lots of mass produced lager makes me aggressive and intolerable.

Drinking lots of German lager (served from the barrel in Germany) makes me warm and fuzzy like drinking real ale in England, why can’t we have real lager in England?!! 🙂

Member

I only used the term binge-drinking because it’s in the topic. There is a definition of the term though it is arguable how useful it is. What is clear is that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

While some real ale labelled as free from additives, I have been told by those with first-hand knowledge that additives are used in real ales. For example, heading agents are used for foam retention and having a decent head is important to some real ale drinkers. (That was the case in the 80s and early 90s and I’ve not heard anything different since.) Incidentally, there are a handful of real ale lagers, but I don’t know whether they are chemical cocktails or brewed with only malt, hops, yeast and water.

We had better get off this interesting topic before Hannah makes a polite comment asking us to stick to the topic. My apologies.

Member

Ha, no problem wavechange – all very interesting 😉

I agree about the difficulty of defining binge drinking. I’ve researched this heavily in past jobs and found there to be many – and varied – definitions, and it seems that most people have their own opinion on what that phrase means.

While I can see your arguments about the chemical make-up of alcohol (I can’t drink lager at all because the chemicals affect me so much), I think these new measures are more about people understanding the actual unit count of what they’re drinking.

I’m sure that, while they don’t give you such a bad hangover, your German beers are just as alcoholic – and therefore still a threat to your long-term health. Do you think that having information about the unit count on your glass would make you think twice before pint number 4?

Member
Mark says:
24 March 2011

This is only a small step to change the perception around alcohol. It won’t change our “binge-drink” culture over night, but along with other initiatives, it may help push people towards responsible drinking.

Member
Sophie Gilbert says:
24 March 2011

There was a time when you would have been laughed at and shamed if you couldn’t hold your liquor, ie know when to stop. Now it’s a sign of glory. Our culture has to change. I’m not convinced the size of a glass and information on it is going to help toward this.

Member

No it won’t change it, because then you just drink two thirds of stronger ales or bottles of alco-pops.

This idea is like curing a child of fever by taking its temperature, rubbing out the scale and writing 36 degrees where the mercury is.