Let’s call him Dave (that was, after all, his name). Years ago, when my friends and I were on the cusp of legal drinking age, we’d go to the pub every Friday and Saturday night, simply because we could. Standing there self-consciously holding our pints, trying to grow wispy moustaches, we were a bunch of boys who together became men.
In Britain, “Fancy a Pint?” is arguably the most important phrase in the language.
Nearly twenty years later, when life events draw us back for a rare reunion in the village where we were raised, the only one of the old gang who is missing is Dave. None of us have been in touch with him for about fifteen years. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, within our circle, his full, official name is Dave-Who-Never-Bought-His-Round.
In the world’s pubs, round-buying is one of the most important parts of beer drinking. Wherever people drink alcohol in the world, there are complex rules surrounding it, and people stick to them rigidly. Not the government regulations – which drinkers often challenge – but social norms that everyone just kind of knows. The main one is that drinking is a first and foremost a social activity. As beerheads, we may be jealous of the gastronomic associations of wine, or the connoisseurship of spirits, but beer has something far greater. When people come together over beer, they put aside the stresses and hierarchies of the outside world and commune as friends. As equals. Which is why we drink beer in rounds.