#TrainBeer? Save it for when you get there…

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in Editorial | 2 Comments

There is nothing more British than drinking on trains. Well, maybe drinking in airports before dawn, but that’s about the only exception. Anybody who travels on public transport has seen it for themselves on pretty much every train trip – the buckets of lager, the crates of beer, the bottles of fizz and plastic cups. It’s an expected (even accepted) part of rail travel in this country. Find a seat, find an opener. As someone who often shares trains with Geordie oilmen travelling home after a month offshore, I have seen things you couldn’t possibly imagine. But it’s all fine – if you want to drink on the go, more power to you. But the other reason why doing so is just so British is because it is also inherently crap. There’s nothing good about it.

Ok, so it might help dull the pain of your immediate surroundings or companions within earshot – but these days everyone is plugged in, even in the Quiet Coach (aka the Middle Class Tutting Zone)* so a simple volume raise and tactical close of the eyes cuts out anything and everything. Maybe you’re pre-loading before arriving at something you don’t really want to do (which again might actually be the most British thing ever, instead). But all the people getting stuck in, from the carrier bags of Strongbow to the Prosecco to the multi-coloured new craft #trainbeer cans – they are missing out on one of life’s true pleasures. For every foil-covered plastic cup of station concourse wine or buffet car beer – there is a much greater reward waiting later. The beer when you get there.

*I once almost saw a fight break out between two guys over a phonecall before the train had even left the first station. Sometimes a Tut is not enough.

The tedium of long journeys – if you are unlike me and don’t derive some weird satisfaction from pressing your nose to the window and mentally keeping note of every wild animal you see – can be instantly rendered obsolete by that first, thirst-quenching pint when you get to where you are going. Take every photo of #trainbeer, even the Cloudwaters and the like, and would you honestly trade them in with that pint of London Pride at the top of this post? The one poured at the Parcel Yard in King’s Cross and enjoyed in long slaking gulps after nearly five hours of rattling around on a Virgin East Coast service from Edinburgh? It’s all about context – you know this – and the pint pictured above is going to be better than any NEIPA in a plastic cup.

That’s what ruins #trainbeer for me. Firstly, the inevitable explosion when it opens (that is a true story for me; Kernel London Porter bought from Sourced at St Pancras. I think that’s the real reason why East Coast changed their interiors). Then there’s the crappy plastic cups, like drinking a beer in a hotel bathroom. Unless you bring matched glassware on a train, of course. Then there’s the elbow room, the rumbling around as you try to take delicate sips of the 11% mango IPA whilst the train jars your fillings loose. And then to top it all off, it makes you need to pee and you have to venture into the toilet, or travelling wet-room to give them a more realistic description.

Instead, waiting until you arrive means you’re clear of head and (relatively) empty of bladder, you can go to an old favourite haunt or try somewhere new. Even venture into the railway bar which these days are a billion times better than how they used to be – case in point, on that trip that ended with a London Pride two guys behind me were travelling from Newcastle to York to spend a day in the York Tap and get the train back. So they were never even going to leave the station. Clear those dusty pipes with a pint. Something sessionable, carbonated and lip-tinglingly bitter. After all, deliberately depriving yourself of something that everyone around you is enjoying so you can have the last laugh later – that, surely, is the most British thing of all.


  1. adrian Tierney-Jones
    April 11, 2017

    Oh I quite the odd beer on the train, usually when I’m going home, or on the Eurostar at a decent time, I recently came across mentions of the Bulleid Tavern cars which was an attempt by BR after WW2 to replicate a pub on the train, ‘a pub on wheels, complete with draught and bottled beer’, according to a passage in The Railways by Simon Bradley, there was painted mock brickwork, black and white timbering and they got given a publike name. There was an outcry against their naffness by the then guardians of taste which led the youngish Jim Callaghan (whose department they were part of) to declare that ‘no one liked them apart from the public’.

  2. Oliver Coningham - The Fork & Carrot
    April 11, 2017

    An interesting counterpoint to the popularity of train beers and a piece that has engendered much discussion on Twitter too!

    When travelling by public transport I’m usually either on the way to a beer related event or one the way back home from one. I find that if I were to have a drink on the way it’s one less drink I can manage when I’m there and that is the point for me; to enjoy the beer on offer when I arrive. Plus, when I’m coming home it’s usually because I have had enough and chosen not to drink any more.

    I do agree with your comment about the anticipation and reward of a pint at your final destination and is very much how I see it. On a Friday evening I look forward to arriving home and opening the first cool beer of the evening. Would I experience the same feeling if I had a beer as soon as I left work?

    However, the way other people use trains may be far different to me. I appreciate some have long commutes and do not arrive home till late so may wish to enjoy a beer during the journey.

    It’s another one of those interesting topics like murky beer or the iceman pour that is ultimately subjective and however you experience beer and gain pleasure from it is up to you.

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