Thomas Thurnell-Read, ‘Did you ever hear of police being called to a beer festival?’ Discourses of merriment, moderation and ‘civilized’ drinking amongst real ale enthusiasts,” Sociological Review (online version)


While the real and perceived excesses of ‘binge drinking’ have received considerable attention in policy, media and academic debates, the concept of ‘sensible drinking’ is poorly defined and has rarely been subject to empirical analysis. Using qualitative research, this article explores the drinking discourses of ale enthusiasts as a means of highlighting how understandings of sensible drinking draw on notions of taste, sociability and self-control. Drawing on Elias’s concept of the ‘civilizing process’, the article analyses how these narratives highlight self-control and social regulation as central features of acceptable drinking practices. Emerging from these accounts is a rejection of elements of the night-time economy and the unruly and hedonistic ‘determined drunkenness’ often associated with it.