I have written on this subject before, but I thought it was worthwhile re-visiting and exploring in a little more depth. The subject I am referring to is drinking on an empty stomach. It's an age-old rule about drinking that everyone knows and most people have broken, but always fill up on food before filling up on alcohol.
I am no exception, and like to have something more solid inside me, either before or whilst I am drinking. I know I am not alone in this, as logic suggests a simple reason, that drinking on an empty stomach will lead to intoxication more quickly. But just how much of a difference does eating before imbibing really make?
Studies on the effects of food on alcohol absorption have found that there is truth to this rule, and that ingesting food before drinking doesn’t just slow the rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream, but also lowers the peak concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream.
Looking back I must have been made aware of this rule quite early in my drinking career, but it wasn’t my parents who imparted this wisdom. Neither of them were drinkers, and both were definitely not pub-goers, so despite being the “black sheep of the family” as far as enjoying a few pints is concerned, something must alerted me to not drink on an empty stomach.
It is a rule I have followed for over 40 years, and it has stood me in good stead; especially at lunchtimes. Although I normally shy away from a lunchtime pint during the working week, due to the soporific effect which even a single pint can have on me when I return to the office, things are different if, for example, I am on a CAMRA outing, or have spent the morning walking around a picturesque or historic town. Then there is nothing finer than stopping for a few pints, along with a bit to eat, particularly when the pub offers good, honest pub food, served at a reasonable price.
The same applies when out for a ramble, and probably more so, as the combination of exercise and all that fresh air, are guaranteed to have worked up an appetite as well as a thirst. Some might argue that beer stimulates the appetite, whilst others would say that distending of the stomach, with all that liquid, is the stimulus responsible for the feelings of hunger. This may be true, and each to their own, but for me some form of "blotting paper", in the form of food, is essential when my stomach is empty and I've had a few beers.
Evenings are a little different, in that I will normally have my dinner when I arrive home from work, and then ideally allow a couple of hours to pass before heading off to the pub. Holidays are different again as the evening meal will invariably be in a local bar or restaurant, where I can enjoy a few pints with my meal. but at weekends, and especially whilst on holiday, I still prefer something solid inside me at lunchtime, even if it is just a couple of rolls or a pie, to soak up the beer.
Pubs have known for a long time, about the importance of serving food, particularly at lunchtime, and increasingly so have beer festival organisers. Having attended CAMRA’S national Great British Beer Festival over the years, I have seen the food offering slowly increase, from simple filled rolls, to full blown catering offering anything from fish and chips to spicy Asian street food.
Food also plays an important part at Munich’s world famous Oktoberfest, which attracts around six million visitors a year. As well as downing almost seven million litres of beer, festival goers munch their way through half a million grilled sausages, 250,000 chickens, umpteen giant pretzels and for those really wanting to soak it all up, around 100 wild oxen!
So next time you are sat there with a pint in front of you, and feeling peckish, consider that it’s your body telling you that something solid to go with your beer, is probably a good idea.