Monday, 14 November 2016

Sixteen going on seventeen

Wetherspoons owner Tim Martin's call for 16 and 17 year olds to be allowed to drink in pubs, where they'd be supervised by bar staff, has attracted a bit of comment, most of it negative (either the usual "Won't someone think of the children" line from the temperance lobby, or people thinking it's just a ploy to boost his slumping post-Brexit vote profits).

As I commented here, the legal drinking age rose throughout the twentieth century in parallel with the school leaving age, both of which are now 18, although 16 and 17 year olds can legally drink beer, wine or cider (not spirits) in a pub as long as it's with a meal and someone else buys it for them, a trick demonstrated by this guy.

My own drinking progression must be fairly typical: bottles of coke with a straw in beer gardens and holiday camp bars as a child, cans of Shandy Bass in my early teens, halves of keg Greenall Whitley bitter in the local Labour Club (now, ironically, a children's nursery) in my mid teens, and pints of keg Whitbread Trophy bitter in one of their tied houses in my late teens, before moving on to cask Holt's bitter and mild in one of theirs.

In his memoir A Sort of Life, the novelist Graham Greene, who was related to the owners of Suffolk's Greene King brewery, remembers his own teenage beer drinking: "We stopped at an inn for bread and cheese, and I drank bitter for the second time and enjoyed the taste with a pleasure that has never failed me since."


  1. Thanks for the link to my post on this subject. It's bizarre that you can legally be the parent of a child who is 15 months old before you are allowed to buy an alcoholic drink. Obviously there are more risks in sipping a pint in a pub than being in charge of a baby.

    1. In Germany sixteen year olds can legally buy and drink beer and possibly wine as well. They need to be be eighteen though in ordering to buy and drink spirits.

      This all sounds perfectly reasonable to me.