IMPORTANT: If you are easily offended, please do not
read on without first reading the Special
Disclaimer. This article is purely an attempt at humour and
is not intended to cause any offence.
A treasure trove of variety beer – top-fermented, bottom-fermented,
bottle-fermented, fruit (pear, peach and strawberry), strong (up
to 14% - stronger than wine!), and always served in the correct
glass. Unfairly labelled boring in the past (probably by tee-totallers),
Belgium is a beer drinkers paradise. Put it this way: “exotic”,
strong beer like Stella is just run of the mill ordinary beer over
there! All of this can be a recipe for drunken disasters –
the drunkest bar owner I have ever seen insisted on waltzing with
us whilst wearing a gendarme cap that made him look like the Fat
Sarajevska Pils is the standard brew in the capital, and jolly
nice it is too. Preferable to neighbouring Croatian beer, search
it out of you can, as not everywhere seemed to sell it. Drinking
in Sarajevo can still be fraught with problems, as the Squaddies
and UN workers often take over the Irish bars, leaving the other
places hang-outs for locals. Having said this, we had no problems
with being accepted wherever we were. Local drunks were quite thin
on the ground (even in the superb Cafe Muppet) - probably because
Ronnie McD had snaffled all the beer - although the 24-hour Marquee
bar on the riverside, with it’s night-viewing of adult entertainment,
seemed to be a jakey-magnet.
Like it’s Balkan neighbour, Croatia is still feeling the
hangover from the wars of the mid-90’s. As a result, many
of the drunks seem to be ex-soldiers, so you may want to avoid talking
politics here! The beer isn’t bad: lager-ish “Ozzie”
(Ozjusko) is preferable to the darker, stronger “Tommy”
(Tomislav). Try the cocktail bar next to the Hobbit for a bit of
The Czech Republic is the birthplace of modern lager (pilsner was
invented in Plzen), and is a top drinking destination. Once you’ve
had your fill of some of Europe’s finest lagers (Staropramen,
Pilsner Urquell, Budvar, Branik, Radegast), you can move on to the
benilyn-ish Becherova, or the paint-stripping absinthe. Hardcore
drinkers have been rumoured to water down the “Green Fairy”
with Smirnoff Blue Label (clocking in at a liver-pickling 50% abv
itself) – sounds like a challenge to me!
Aside from the drunken stag parties, the Czech capital Prague has
no shortage of local contenders for the international crown of “Drunk
of the world”. Seemingly obliged to dress in jeans and a tight
fitting lumberjack shirt, Czech men have no problem escaping their
daily troubles with several 25p pints of fine beer (well, at that
price, it would be rude not to!).
is home to both Carlsberg and Tuborg lagers, as well as being rammed
with trendy bars and clubs, so it goes without saying that there
are drunks to be found here. However, they do save most of their
caning for weekend nights. During the week, different bars offer
happy hours, and this where some of the determined jakeys can be
found. Ex-pats and tourists, however, seem to congregate in one
of two places: "Rosie McGhee's Scottish pub", complete
with vibrating dance-floor immediately opposite the station, or
The Dubliner, a Scottish-managed pub halfway down Strøget
- both have a healthy smattering of smashed locals too.
Some of the finest beer known to man (I’m talking real ale
here, not Carling Black Label!), it is unfortunately wasted on the
majority of the lager-supping (not forgetting Bacardi Breezer bolting)
nation. Real ale comes in a variety of weird and wonderful flavours:
hoppy, with honey, with chocolate, nutty – it doesn’t
seem to matter to Helen’s delicate English palette –
“It tastes of gardens”. Another speciality in the West
Country is scrumpy – this has to be drunk to be believed (preferably
as a “chaser” with another pint!) – this is not
to be mistaken with the chemical compound that is Strongbow. Drunks
in this country are, unfortunately, personified by stripped-to-the-waist,
Ben Sherman wearing neds who like to fight up an down the high streets
of every major town on a Friday and Saturday night (“Are you
looking at my breezer?”). Like I said, wasted.
Saku beer, or battery acid amongst friends, is strangely highly-regarded
by many. Unfortunately, they’re all sadly deluded –
the stuff is rank. Stick to the top-notch voddy instead, although
the more adventurous may be tempted by the Vana Tallinn liqueur
– apparently this can double up as a Castrol GTX substitute.
The drunk score is ramped up by the scores of drunken Finns roaming
the streets of a weekend, high on (battery) acid at a much cheaper
rate than Helsinki.
Some of the worst beer in the developed world- tasteless, sharp,
acidic, and very over-priced. Still, the locals don’t let
get in their way of oblivion, so good luck to them! For years alcohol
was strictly rationed on these rocky outcrops, and with good reason
– the lack of genetic variety has obviously hampered their
ability to process the booze (this is especially true amongst the
Inuit population, who share a genetic trait with those of oriental
descent that does affect the body’s processing of alcohol).
Couple this with a strange, yet entertaining law, that prevents
bars from ejecting drunken customers, this provides every bar with
it’s very own cabaret show. Which is handy, seeing as there’s
only 3 proper pubs in the whole of the capital city! One legacy
of the prohibition days are “key clubs” – local
hideaways for fisher-folk, described by Tom Small and Maurice as
“something out of Star Wars”. Stories also abound of
the locals “coming out of the trees” in the early hours
armed with bottles of vodka and whisky, although the more cynical
of us suspect that this may be a case of the DT’s. Class,
pure class. Special respect is due for the ability to get so drunk
on such poor beer.
Apart from Lille, a beer enclave in the Flemish part of France,
our Gallic neighbours are better known for their love of wine. And
that’s not to say that some of the wind passes as good 5hit.
It’s just I’m a beer drinker (and a “zider drinker”,
but that’s another story!), and most of France is not a happy
hunting ground. Blighted with top-whack prices for bottom-of-the-barrel
beer, Kronenbourg and 1664 (these are actually different beers in
France) are the best of a bad lot. Stick to pastis and water instead,
and look contemplative as you sip it in a pavement café and
smoke heavily. French people on the whole seem to be too graceful
to get “pissed up and lairy”.
Well dress me in leather shorts and slap my thigh. The un-fussiest
of Europe’s beer connoisseurs (Czech’s only drink pilsner,
and Belgians insist on the right glass), German’s are blessed
with a wide variety of different brews, from the sublime Krausen
in the north, to the weissbier of Bavaria, with the fun sized glasses
of Dusseldorf Altbier in between. Top this off with a far healthier
pub culture than back home, with most cities boasting at least a
couple of all-night bars, a far more relaxed outlook on sleaziness,
and a host of men in silly costumes and feathers in their hats (sound
familiar?), and you’re talking a top drinking experience.
Unlike our southern cousins, my experiences with German drunks have
always been friendly, if a little dribbly – a very sociable
country to get out of your tree in.
Schtop! Dutch beer (Grolsch, Amstel, Heineken, Oranjeboom) is pretty
well regarded on the European pilsner front, although I have to
admit I’ve had better. Of course, Holland is also well known
for it’s other “recreational options”, so beer
may or may not be your first priority. Dutch drunks appear to be
as genial as they are when sober, so all in all a pleasant place
to drink (or whatever). One word of warning when staggering around
the red light area looking for your hotel (“it’s next
to a canal”) – you will come across a lot of dodgy looking
characters wanting to part from your hard-earned. Everytime I walked
past a group I was constantly asked “Charlie? Charlie?”
– I don’t even know the man!
Local bevvy is restricted to three options: Tsingtao (fruity, yet
rank at the same time!); San Miguel (Spanish, yet brewed in Hong
Kong, yet still reassuringly rank); and Carlsberg (Danish, but not
wishing to break with tradition, is still rank). There are of course
plenty of imported drinks, but bear in mind that a Guinness will
set you back the price of a small house in Dundee. Some readily
embrace the high-earning, heavy-drinking and wild-partying ethos
of the ex-pats in HK, others are far too fat to cope with the humidity,
and resort to drinking lots of iced mocha at Starbucks in an attempt
to stave off the drowsiness. Prices are stupid, but every bar has
“happy hours” that conveniently run from 11am-7pm, i.e.
until just when you’re drunk enough to sell your wife for
a beer. As a result, the drunks tend to be on the wealthy side,
and have that swagger about them that the city types have on the
Friday evening commuter trains out of London. Steer clear of local
markets when hammered!
Blessed with a variety of excellent wines - from the sugary sweet
white Tokaji to the dense, chewy Bull's Blood - and "wine bars"
that serve the stuff in half pint tumblers ladelled out of soup
canteens or from plastic jerry cans, you would think the locals
would be hammered on a regular basis. It's just not the case, and
mashed Magyars are much rarer than trashed tourists staggering around
the Budapest streets.
With some of the worst beer, and highest prices, in Europe, Icelanders
are not particularly well catered for in the booze department –
stock up on duty free on the way in!
Like a ghost town during week-day evenings, Reykjavik is transformed
into a sea of drunken, punchy youths come Friday and Saturday nights.
With beer only becoming legal in the early 90’s, it seems
that alcohol tolerance (something most Scots seem to be born with)
is not a genetic trait amongst Icelanders (despite their proud claims
to be of pure Viking descent!). Beer is some of the poorest in Europe,
despite being some of the most expensive. If you’re looking
for top-notch entertainment, try Nelly’s (especially the dance
floor on the top floor).
Guinness – you either love it or hate it. I’m a fan,
after first properly drinking it on a Scotland trip to Dublin in
1999, mainly as it coats my stomach lining and avoids the indigestion
caused by gassy lager. Of course, Guinness does come with it’s
own price to pay, and the bill is usually settled by the hotel plumbing!
Jameson Irish Whiskey is also pretty passable, for a blend (but
it doesn’t taste of frazzles).
As for drunks, you’re in luck. Avoid stepping over the bodies
of prone hens and stags in Temple Bar and head for the bars in the
backstreets, where there is no shortage of old men in bad suits
falling off bar stools. Typically, the drunkest person we encountered
wasn’t a local, but a girl from Maryhill who had moved away!
This is a light-hearted look at the sort of alcohol-fuelled mayhem
a Tartan Army footsoldier on foreign manoeuvures can expect to find
himself in abroad. It is not intended to generalise or offer a stereotypical
view, rather it is aimed to give a humorous composite view based
on the evidence available. In no way does it mean to imply that
the English can't hold their drink. Whatsoever.
Although no offence is intended, and I would implore anyone likely
to be offended to simply stop reading, if you would like to object
to anything contained on this page (or have any other comments),
please email Paul on this link