The Humble Economist has made my day by posting on the topic of the Polish Beer Lovers’ Party (PPPP). The group was formed in the early nineties, by the satirist Janusz Rewinski, with the declared aim of encouraging Poles to drink beer rather than vodka. It won 16 seats in the 1991 election and although it has since dissolved, its former members can take heart from the buoyant state of the Polish beer industry.
Ironically, given the perception that many of Britain’s health problems are fuelled by a fondness for beer, in much of northern and eastern Europe its consumption is viewed as a healthy life choice. Three Thousand Versts’ medical team confirms that vodka drinking is statistically more likely to result in alcoholism and it is more probable that the spirit will contribute to digestive problems, due to its acidity.
In Russia, Ukraine, and indeed Poland, beer is popular amongst young people and ‘beerhalls’ have become trendy venues. Admittedly, it is also drunk throughout the day, from breakfast time, as if it were a soft drink. The ‘vodka belt’ clearly hasn’t achieved instant success in its attempts to curb alcoholism by edging towards a beer drinking culture.
Still, there’s something to be said for the Humble Economist’s view that beer drinking societies need not necessarily exhibit more problems with alcohol than societies in which wine is the tipple of choice. He advocates lowering the legal drinking age to 16 for licensed premises, an arrangement which seems to work in Holland. The idea would be to encourage teenagers to become acquainted with alcohol in a controlled setting, rather than, presumably, on a park bench.
It is a seductive thought that 16-18 year olds, policed by responsible landlords, might choose to learn the art of sophisticated conversation whilst growing accustomed to the subtle pleasures of half a bitter. However, with a pint in a pub costing upwards of £3, I’m not sure that the plan would prove effective, on its own.