While The Courier will not shy away from the damage that alcohol does to many parts of our society, it is refreshing to note that a major event on the weekend whose principle focus was alcohol occurred without a single reported major incident.
The organisers and attendees are to be applauded that a major event with all its tourist and business benefits could have been so trouble-free a result. In fact, to have 10,000 people drinking beer in the sun without any trouble is the kind of happy miracle that almost beggars credibility.
In many of the discussions relating to alcohol consumption, its abuse and control, one of the most complex and seemingly unsolvable issues is that of alcohol culture. Why is it in countries where alcohol is the least regulated, most notably in some parts of Europe, there is such a conspicuous lack of a binge drinking culture? Simultaneously in many English speaking countries, despite the best efforts of periodic temperance zealotry and hegemony of some fiercest regulation known for any substance, they have failed to curb a binge drinking culture.
In Australia we have inherited our share of the Anglo-Celtic drinking tradition and it has wrought its own ugly legacy. But perhaps the bid to curb its worst excesses needs a new way to address and rethink this culture.
Beer consumption per capita in Australia has been declining for several decades. Many would argue this thirst has simply been transferred to wine, cider or spirits but at the same time it is worth observing the rapid rise in popularity of craft or artisan beer.
From a drinking culture that knew only one homogenous beer, this is something of a revolution for Australia. This trend is potentially more than a taste for new things but part of a growing emphasis on quality rather than quantity of the amber nectar. All the attendant elements of provenance, craftsmanship and appreciation have the potential to come into play. While it might seem like making the simple complex, a case for quality over quantity has a strong part to play in any cultural change to curb excesses.
So quite apart from the other benefits a major festival like the Ballarat Beer Festival brings to Ballarat, let’s hope it is a sign of things to come. Cheers.