The 1970s weak beer joke
I was in a certain well-known public house in the middle of Bristol the other day. This is a place which has been hugely popular for decades not on account of the quality of its food or drink, but because of its atmosphere.
So it was here that I had a couple of pints of old-fashioned squirt bitter. Didn’t think you could get this rubbish anymore.
It was all rather nostalgic, though, a throwback to the 1970s and early 1980s before the “real ale” revolution. Some years ago, the Conservative politician William Hague got himself into awful trouble when he claimed in a lad-mag interview that when he was doing his student summer job in the late 70s he would regularly get through eight pints of bitter of an evening.
He was accused of either exaggerating, or of being a teenage dipsomaniac. I’m certain he was neither, as we’re about the same age and I did heavy physical labouring jobs as a student, too. Back when pubs served beers like Double Diamond, Whitbread Trophy or Toby you could indeed get through eight pints. You’d feel bloated and need a slash every ten minutes, but you could walk home, unaided, in a fairly straight line, and still be able to load sixteen tons of Number Nine Coal the following day.
Part of the historic context to all this was that the government had regulated to reduce the strength of beer earlier on in the century to prevent us from losing World War One. At the time this, and other measures, particularly restrictions on opening hours, were so successful in combating alcoholism and public drunkenness that they pretty much remained in place until the 1980s. When pissed up idiots on the streets became a problem once more is was because of strong lager, not old-school British bitter.
Okay, okay, the joke … While the “real ale” revolution was under way, there was this quip people used when they started to realise how weak the big industrial beers were. I’ve mentioned this in public house company to contemporaries twice now, and they didn’t remember it. So here as both public service and minor item of social history is the 1970s weak beer joke:
I say, I say, I say, why is this beer we are drinking similar to making love in a punt?
I don’t know, why is this beer we are drinking similar to making love in a punt?
Because it’s fucking close to water!!
Yatatatatata-yatatata ner ner ner ner ner nerrrrrrr-uh-uh! (Ok, OK, I’m going…)
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