This months Friday Session hosted by Booze, Beats and Bites, we were challenged to write about drinking alone, not something I have done often, but here are my thoughts.
Going to the pub alone seems to be something which, like many subjects surrounding alcohol, has a stigma attached to it. I think that this has come about for all the wrong reasons and that people should try it more often. But not too often.
A few months ago I took a trip to Bristol to go round a few of the pubs which I had not been to before. This raises the first reason you should try going it alone to the pub on occasion – new pubs. The average drinker does seem to like comfortable unadventurous drinking, this is evident in the way bland beer seems to be so prolific.
Drinkers in their requirement for familiarity might walk straight past some very good pubs with a fine range of beers, just to get to their regular pub with it’s comfortable regular beers. Even a group of friends will fall back on a pub, not just because it is good but because it is familiar.
So going alone gave me that opportunity, I could go to pubs which some of my friends would not like and not be swayed by “nah, they always serve horrid beer”. This I enjoyed, I stayed in the pubs that I liked for longer than the others. I drank up quickly and moved on when I came to a pub which I found less interesting. There was nobody influencing which pub I went in except me – I even stopped at a few extra on my walk because I could and they looked interesting.
I also fully controlled the rate I drank at, if I liked the beer I could have more, if I didn’t I could drink it quick and switch beers. The lack of rounds was slightly liberating.
My other realisation when drinking alone was that I thought about the beer even more. I drink with a few people which aren’t that interested in beer. They are my mates so I tolerate this heresy, I even buy them their wine and spirits when it is my round. But it was a good opportunity, not only was I master of my own beery destiny, but could also savour the beer without being outright rude to my mates by ignoring them.
On the negative side of this I could of course not discuss the beer with them, could not get any feedback on what they though – so I found the next positive to drinking alone – new friends. The lone drinker actually gets a whole lot more attention. Couple this with the fact that I did this on a Saturday afternoon so the pubs were not very busy and I had a good chance to talk to people.
On my own I spoke about beer to landlords, the occasional group or other lone drinker. I met a man I had not seen in years and spoke with him for over an hour – prior to that I had only met the guy in a shop where he was behind the counter. I received and made recommendations, learned new things, met a brewer and introduced people to my blog.
All of which I don’t think would have happened if I had not been going it alone that afternoon.
The thing is, people want to talk to you if you are alone, they feel uncomfortable that you are there on your own and try to engage. This behavour might seem odd if you were with a group, which I think is a shame. It would be really good if two groups started spontaneously talking to each other more often – double the friends, double conversations.
Even more positive for me, I was speaking about beer for an afternoon. The pub visit inevitably contains some discussion about beer and drinking, however unless you are amongst beer drinkers it will usually (and quite rightly) diverge to other subjects. As a lone drinker I got a whole lot of beer discussion in one day and for me this was great – I do love to discuss beer.
And it was a whole load of different perspectives. I know what my mates like to drink, their preferences are pretty well known as we have been talking beer for years, but these new people brought new tastes and opinions and challenged mine.
At the end of the day I had met new people, learned some stuff and visited pubs which I would never had been into if I had been with my regular group. I also tried some stunning beers.
So why does lone drinking seem to have such a bad reputation?
I don’t think that people realise these positives exist. Coupled with the dark shadowy figure of alcoholism the notion of lone drinking becomes something sinister. As with binge drinking and the poor reputation beer can sometimes have the misunderstanding of lone drinking is associated with all it’s negatives rather than the positives.
I would not advocate always lone drinking, in fact the novelty of it was a good reason to not make it a regular occurrence. But my one day out going it alone in the pubs of Bristol taught me that the lone drinker is not necessarily the least social one in the bar – they may be there for the complete opposite reason.
So try it some time, grab a map or good beer guide and visit some pubs on your own, meet the people there and maybe make some new friends – then maybe next time you can bring your friends to meet them.
Check out the other contributions to The Session at Booze, Beats and Bites blog.