September 5, 2019

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What Price a Pint

Sometimes when I buy a pint of beer, I am handed a receipt. I stare baffled at the limp paper, quivering sadly on the edge of a finger. Easily, it might drift from its resting place, going to and fro through the air like some whimsical orchestra conductor, before settling under a stool. Normally, it does not - I scrunch it angrily or leave it on the bar, proudly advertising that I have indeed spent £5.95 on half a litre of foamy fermented fluid.

Even now, I struggle to publicly purchase a drink that is not a beer - the drinkers of wine too pretentious, the drinkers of cocktails enjoying themselves far too much. It’s better with a beer - safer. No one will question my approach. I can sit sad company in a corner or alone amongst a group of friends. Beer is firm, stout, weight and all - a pint glass the evidence of this. I savour that hoppy taste of how it speaks to my character.

But I have questions about the receipt. I resent the reminder of the absurd sum I’ve just stumped up, this is true. But a receipt also fails to grasp what a beer, or an alcoholic drink of any kind, truly is. For I am not parting with such a sum for liquid alone. It is not just an economic transaction - not a magazine or a stick of candy floss to be consumed and then forgotten. Here is what you’ve paid, this is what you’ve received - no, not it.

In a glass of beer, there is much more than a pint. I am paying for a moment - a window of time snatched from the maelstrom of the everyday and given to this group of people I am with. A gathering feeling. Yes, practicality - meeting at a mutually inconvenient halfway point between my place and theirs. But really a drink is the pleasure of being in a place with a person at a particular time - to truly be in company.

I do have concerns about how dependent we are on it in this country. Alcohol is often needed to grease the wheel of conversation. In any number of social situations, you can detect a gentle stirring by the end of the first drink which blossoms gently into a warm, subdued comfort somewhere between the second and third.

It would be useful to have a wider repertoire of possible social arenas. I respect the people I know who go climbing or gyming or strolling together. Coffee is also useful. An alcoholic beverage is such a go-to I forget that social time does not just have to be spent in public houses. Indeed, a friendship is probably deeper if it is flexible and versatile, exists across a number of different contexts and formats.

But still - there’s value in a pint. So much of it that I’m alright actually, I don’t need a receipt.

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Photo by Amy Parkes on Unsplash

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