Friday, April 20, 2012

Beer at Lunch? Good, Bad, or Ill Advised?

If you are like me, you enjoy a good beer as much as the next person.  A nice cold beer is pretty much my beverage of choice when I am out and about with friends or getting home from a long day at work.  If it's not beer, it's probably a glass of Irish Whiskey.  When I get done with a good run on a hot day, my beverage of choice is an RJ Rocker's Son of a Peach.  When I hang out with my brewing partner Dave, it's generally beer we sit around and enjoy.  On vacation I'll start drinking beer as early as I can and go pretty much all day.

About the only time I do not drink is when I am working.  Granted, with my job it's not really an option.  I work in the restaurant business, and my breaks tend to be short and often interrupted.  Sitting down at the bar at work to eat my cold lunch and have a beer is not something upper management tends to look upon with anything remotely like goodwill.  Not to say I haven't in my younger days taken the opportunity to have a beer during my break off-site (an event which I saw fit not to duplicate after sweating like Nixon during the Kennedy debates throughout my evening shift).  And in any event, I generally prefer quality over quantity these days.

So why is it, with a recent study showing limited alcohol consumption during the day to be beneficial to concentration, that here in the United States alcohol consumption at lunch is frowned upon?  No one really bats an eye when you order a beer on the weekend, but (myself included) people tend to look askance when someone orders a beer at lunch during their workday.  People see it on Mad Men, and associate it with excess and poor judgement.  Many stateside companies go so far as banning alcohol consumption during business hours and functions completely.

Granted, I am not in any way advocating drunk driving or driving to excess.  What we are talking about here is a beer or two at lunch, consumed with food, and then heading back to work.

In Europe, alcohol is routinely consumed during the day.  In Germany, many labor contracts actually have it written in that drinking beer at lunch is ok.  Many businesses actually serve beer in their cafeterias.  And let's face it, when was the last time you heard anyone complain about how inefficient the Germans are?

Heck, even in England, the pint at lunch is a time honored tradition.  Pubs open early, serve lunch, and beer till late evening.

If you're having a tasty session beer (~5% abv or less) or two with a meal, it it really going to effect your performance?  Assuming you are of average size and weight, and not eating like a bird, the amount of alcohol should have minimal effect on your output.  Heck, a number of distance runners have recently been quoted as enjoying a beer during their runs because of the carbohydrate intake as well as the alcohol and flavor.

Some lucky fellows get to drink as part of their jobs.  Liquor reps, beer reps, brewers...  All these folks tend to enjoy alcoholic beverages as a part of their work and seem to get along just fine in society.  Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewery spends a couple days a year tasting (half pours) of beer from every barrel his company brews.  For one beer, that may be as many as 50 or more barrels.  Not such a bad day on the job, eh?

Perhaps it's the perception that anyone drinking during the day is lazy or an alcoholic that drives the American aversion to lunchtime drinking.  Maybe part of it revolves around the feeling that alcohol will slow you down in the afternoon.  Some of it is likely the fear that lunchtime drinking will result in your termination at work.

So at the end of the day, what do you think of having a beer (or two) at lunch?  Good or bad? Something you are in favor of on the rare occasion, or an everyday choice?

Leave a comment, I'm curious as to your thoughts...


  1. Hello, I have randomly come across your article from a google search because I happened to be wondering the exact same thing. It has come to my mind recently since I moved to Madrid, I am from the US. I have personally seen how much more excepted it is here. My thoughts are that it is completely fine to enjoy a beer/glass of wine with your lunch and then function good the rest of the day. If you are person who can, as I know some get very sleepy and whatnot, it should be a personal choice. The problem with the US is alcohol isn't integrated into everyone's life in the way it is here. When you're seen drinking in the US its viewed as you're out "drinking", if you know what I mean. The main thing to consider is lunch time in the US during work is WAY too rushed and turns into just lunch, not a lunch-BREAK. In my office everyone sits at their computer and eats in front of their screen, as fast as they can, then get back to work. We don't need to adopt a system like a 3 hour siesta in the afternoon, but lunch should be taking by everyone, at the same time, for the same duration of time, so that the entire workforce has that break given to them and they don't feel rushed because other people are still working. Anyone?

  2. Agreed. Lunch should be a group event. It just isnt practical in this day and age and country though..... Times have changed..

    Lunch is no longer a given. If you want that break, you have to go hide and eat somewhere, or else you are looked upon as if you are the devil...

  3. I'm provided with unlimited alcohol at my company. I work in high tech, very stressful, long hours. You can do whatever you want as long as you get your work done.