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14-08-2018, 07:15
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In recent years, licensing authorities have put a lot of pressure on pubs and bars to stamp out promotions that supposedly encourage irresponsible drinking, including offers of “all you can drink” for a fixed price. So I was rather surprised to see that, at next year's Manchester Beer and Cider Festival, CAMRA will be offering an inclusive all you can drink option called the MBCF Experience (http://mancbeerfest.uk/experience2019/) for £40. This will be limited to special sample glasses of, I believe, 120ml (just over 4 fl. oz). If an unlimited supply is available, there is no requirement to serve beer in officially-designated measures.
Clearly, given the very steep price and the small measures, this isn’t the same as “All you can drink for a tenner” at Porky’s Fun Pub, and it’s unlikely in practice that it will attract people who are simply setting out to drink as much as they can, or that it will lead to disorderly behaviour. But the difference is one of degree, not of principle, and it sits rather uneasily with CAMRA's External Policy 2.3, which states:
“CAMRA opposes promotions that encourage excessive or speed drinking, rather than providing a discount on the price of the product and allowing the consumer to determine his/her own preferred consumption.”
The reason given for this is to allow people to sample as many different beers as possible, and it follows the practice at many craft beer festivals. However, simply because someone else is doing it doesn’t automatically make it a good idea. Indeed, at some craft festivals it is the only payment option available, which really doesn’t seem consistent with responsible drinking and offers a very poor deal to those of more limited capacity. Frankly, I’m surprised that the licensing authorities haven’t questioned this. It’s another example of how the craft beer community imagines that it operates on a higher moral plane than the thick, Carling-swilling plebs.
CAMRA is always going on about encouraging “responsible consumption in a supervised environment”, so it offers up a hostage to fortune if its critics can then come back and say “well, but you allow all-you-can-drink at your festivals.” It’s rather like Jamie Oliver running an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant.
Presumably an offer of this kind would not be permitted under Scottish (and soon Welsh) minimum pricing, as it is theoretically possible (although highly unlikely) that the average unit price could dip below the minimum if there is no cap on consumption.
A further concern is that apparently, when beer is sold in this way, drinkers are inclined to throw away anything that isn’t to their taste and move straight on to another beer. The amount of food waste we produce is often highlighted as a problem – doesn’t this apply equally to beer waste? Although maybe the contents of the slops bucket could then be resold to the public, and no doubt some beer communicator would declare how awesome it was.
It’s also disappointing that they will be abandoning traditional British measures in favour of metric ones – what would be wrong with a quarter or a sixth of a pint?

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