You made it through Dry January, then. How’s February been so far?
Anyone had this experience?
Off to the pub at 7pm, intending to have 3 or 4 drinks. Had to go home by 9pm because you were already ratfaced and didn’t want to get into a worse state or spend the rest of the evening sipping pints of water. Better to sober up at home.
I remember idealising smoking so much that when I stopped for no-Gan Jan, I had the mindset of a victory lap when it ended, like – now I’m free. I never really anticipated or activated the joy of sober, cos I was so excited to be free at the end – that was the focus. I remember I had all my friends round the house on day 30, and they rolled a foot-long and I remember feeling sick and thinking – well, that was pointless, that whole month.
The same On/Off switch mindset often controls our drinking.
Maybe a binary of ‘drunk or sober’ is actually a harmful way to approach intoxicants; modernity socialises us into dualisms like ‘drunk or sober’, while capitalism actively works to keep us addicted – but only to certain substances. Caffeine to crank you up for work and alcohol to damp it down in the evening.
Drunksoberdrunksoberdrunksober. Can we interrupt that dance?
As our alcohol intake creeps up over December, we reach high levels of tolerance. Dry Jan reduces that capacity and then when we re-start in February, it’s like a sledgehammer.
As you weave home at 8pm to raid the fridge or order a high-carb takeaway to mop it up, you can’t help but think –
Wouldn’t it be good to stay out longer, put less alcohol into myself?
Solutions to this abound. Practice-based ones, like learning to sip instead of gulp. Then dilution ones. Alternate each booze drink with a glass of water. Singles instead of doubles for the spirit drinkers. Small glasses of wine instead of mega fishbowls for the ‘wine lovers’. Then there’s wine spritzers, of course, (Shhhhhhh, just don’t tell a real wine lover what you’re doing here). I even went through a phase of red wine spritzers once, when I was in with a heavy drinking crew and felt I needed to keep up. That phase ended one evening in a flurry of horrible pink vomit in the loo and a realisation that I didn’t actually need to keep up – and that red wine spritzers were a vile idea. What was I thinking?
But what about the beer drinkers? You can’t spritzer a beer. (Oh god, someone will tell me now that you can and that they do). And alternating pints of beer with pints of water (something else I’ve tried – I’ve tried it all over the years) soon leaves you floating in fluid and finding it hard to get your belt done up again over your horribly bloated belly after the 4th trip to pee.
Enter the small beer, table beer, low ABV beer ranges. Different names, similar intent.
If you don’t fancy any of the increasingly good AF beer options, and still want a bit of a buzz – but more of a moderate buzz than a full-fledged vicious sting – then these beers are brilliant. I’ve been trying a few, and loved many of them – but I wanted the opinion of somebody who knows their brews better than I do.
Joe Brew Reviews The Brew
For this post, WoBy teamed up with local legend Joe Bunn, erstwhile Bard of Worthing (never sure if he still is Bard or has rescinded the title). Joe has run a series on YouTube for a while where he Reviews the Brew.
Joe’s advice – in this specialist series about drinking good craft beer without getting into those heavy beers so beloved of many old-school CAMRA folks – is: 4.2, don’t touch that brew! 4.2 is his upper limit for the review beers.
When he ran a pub, Joe saw plenty of the nasty side of too much alcohol in the body; and, as he cheerfully recounts in the video below, he’s no stranger himself to falling down asleep on a roundabout. (What is it with roundabouts? One of my own This Is Not Good turning point/reality check moments came when I was stranded at Lewes roundabout after attending a wedding and spending the evening on pints of Guinness).
As a regular drinker (and ex-publican), Joe knows his drinks and has interesting opinions on what makes a good craft beer.
If you’re used to wine tasters’ talk about nose, austere, oaky, nutty and so on, you might find Joe’s reviews startling. Remember – he’s a poet and writer and humourist, so of course, he’s not giving us the standard hoppy, hazy, bready, woodsy and so on. He’ll use some of that terminology but also throw in his own on-the-nail observations.
This is Part 1 of a 2-part series on low ABV beers.
If you don’t know where to source this kind of beer, you’ve not been hanging about around Worthing station much. Fair enough – you don’t need to justify your lack of familiarity with the central station area (and you probably have good reason to avoid it and use the flyover route). Anyone who passes down South Farm Road has spent months of their life waiting at the railway crossing there. Romances have come to inception and ruination during long moments of boredom or tetchiness at that crossing. Dogs and children whine why, why when they’re told again and again that they cannot move – yet. (There’s still another train coming through, apparently, although we’ve seen 2 pass by already).
Whether you’re reading this while you’re held up standing at the crossing or whether you’re sitting sweet indoors – take 10 minutes out, see the gorgeous cans, admire the colour and body of the beer – and hear Joe’s reviews.
Good crack! Some of these cans have a meek crack (as he opens the can). I’m grateful to Joe for getting the concept of a meek crack out into the world. This is inspiring stuff and I will probably steal that phrase. I’m savouring the thought of contexts where it will be appropriate.
This one smells like fruit sweets … smells like a chewit … mango, passion fruit … smells like Umbongo – but it’s made in Salford. (Esters? Citrus? No idea, but I snort in recognition as Joe pinpoints highly specific flavours and characteristics in relatable language). The appraisal of this aromatic, fruity, tropical beer? – Stinkin’ good!
On to the next.
This one has a more rounded taste. Almost like butterscotch. It’s like a Werther’s original. This beer turned out to be Joe’s favourite – this time around. He still has 2 to go in his next episode. I’ll be tuning in.
Over 4.2? Don’t Touch That Brew!
This is relatable, demotic beer tasting. And – you need to know just this much – Joe confirms that the beers were good. And all obeyed Joe Brew’s famous review criteria: Over 4.2? Don’t Touch That Brew!
Like a classic pale ale, but one you could drink all afternoon and not feel like you’ve ruined your life.
As Joe points out, these ales offer – all the flavour, without any of the danger. Sounds like a plan.