I walked through the crowd on pint night and someone shouted across the room, “Buy you a beer?” I scanned the group and recognized a member of our festival volunteer team. I yelled back, “No, this one’s on me.” He replied, “You’re always buying. Let me return the favor.” In a moment, beer’s social foundation was revealed.
Along with enjoying a beer at lunch (a lost art for our country, it seems, and one I’m crusading to revive), buying a friend a pint seems to have slipped somewhat into the recesses of time. It has always been my habit, but I’ve had the good fortune to have spent all of my post-college life serving the craft brewing industry. It was my job to support beer enjoyment and introduce people to good beer.
I remember one of the first times I bought someone a pint—actually, many someones. It was at the Austin Ginger Man during a Craft Brewers Conference years ago. As a struggling magazine publisher, I simply couldn’t get over the pleasure of being in the middle of dozens of good friends, good brewers and great people.
The atmosphere crackled with conviviality. By the end of the weekend, my credit card, conveniently left at the bar for three days, had gotten into the mid-three digits—no decimal point, mind you.
However, there is something more universal about buying someone a pint than just an expression of professional duty. Deeper down, that gesture connects to a reservoir of passion for both life and colleagues that lies at the true heart of beer.
I carried that special moment in Austin forward into my company, bringing together the magazine team or the festival team or the brewcrew or the volunteer captains. Sitting amidst this dedicated company as beers are ordered, discussed and shared is pretty heady, as the conversation rolls around the common topics of beer, publishing or events. All of these elements conspire to create a unified sensibility.
These gatherings at favorite watering holes see a lot of elbows on tables, or chairs tilted back or heads bending together. The conversation never falters and the decibels remain appropriate. In every pair of hands lurks a fine beer. The bonds of common interests and passions make buying these pints grist to a mill, the furtherance of a shared goal.
But these are collectives that come together over a common purpose, the pursuit of a beer culture. One step away lies a network of individual relationships, where one of the deepest forms of communication can be that simple act of buying a friend a pint.
Reaching over the space of a bar, or sending a pint with a server across the room is a statement of kinship. The words “This one’s on me” or “Put it on my tab” reinforce a social bond. These expressions of connectivity speak to the pleasure of another’s company, a pleasure eloquently expressed with this token of hospitality.
With little effort, a relationship is strengthened. Gone are the trappings of social convention, the rituals and routines of mass culture. The gesture of offering a pint opens a doorway to a special type of intimacy and equality.
Anyone can buy someone a beer. If you are having one yourself, then obviously you enjoy it. And equally as obviously you can afford it: it’s one of life’s affordable luxuries. Greeting someone else with the offer of a pint is taking your beer enjoyment and sharing it with just that one other person.
When the festival volunteer buys the festival producer a beer, as happened that pint night, he makes a statement of friendship, recognizing a common spirit and acknowledging it with one simple offer—a pint of beer.
Daniel Bradford has worked in the craft beer world for three decades, as a festival director, writer, speaker and association executive. He is the publisher and co-owner of All About Beer Magazine.