Australian craft beer lovers look longingly to overseas countries such as… well, anywhere, really, as bastions of relaxed drinking cultures. Almost everywhere outside the Islamic world seems to be free of the nanny-state restrictions we are increasingly shackled with. Plastic cups, restricted trading hours, horrific excise, no drinking in public, even being forced to drink midstrength beer at festivals in Queensland – the list of can’t-do-that’s goes on. If I were more jingoistic I would say these infringements of our drinking liberties were downright un-Australian, but we’ve somehow ended up here and I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it.
Germany in particular is one country that has always seemed to have it’s drinking culture sorted. A nation where you can legally drink at 16, buy a beer in pretty much any retail outlet, and celebrate beer for a whole fortnight at Oktoberfest seems like a pretty fun and relaxed place. They’re still not free of their own fun police, though, as this recent article in The Local attests:
Vehicles for city tours such as multi-person bikes offering free-flowing beer are increasingly sparking the ire of both motorists and pedestrians in Germany, leading some cities to consider banning them. The wide, multi-seat conference bikes, often converted to “beer bikes” with a keg in the middle, create traffic jams on narrow streets, according to Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel.
The beer bikes, which allow for passengers to imbibe while a sober driver guides them on their tour, are particularly controversial, the paper said.
The rolling keg parties have been visible on Berlin streets for some time, but were allowed to hit the southern city of Stuttgart’s streets just this summer following approval by the Baden-Württemberg state parliament.
Meanwhile the Rhineland city of Düsseldorf is concerned about the “indiscriminate peeing” and noise that accompanies the beer bike tours. The municipal public order office there tried to have the vehicles banned last year with a successful case in the city’s administrative court, but failed to convince an appeals court.
The state’s top administrative court in Münster will now address the case in October, and the nearby city of Cologne plans to model their regulations accordingly, the paper said.
Officials in the German capital have also decided to wait for that ruling.
“Then we’ll discuss it,” Mathias Gille, spokesperson for the Berlin city government’s traffic control office, told the paper. “There are no motions to ban them. The beer bikes and rickshaws are not to be overlooked, though.”
But deputy leader of the Berlin Free Democrats, Klaus-Peter von Lüdeke, told Der Tagesspiegel that he wants the vehicles banned.
“These rolling beer bars take up the width of a car and are real traffic impediments,” he said.
Beer bike drivers are required to remain sober while they guide the tours, but Lüdeke said they still could not be trusted to negotiate traffic.
But Green party state parliamentarian and member of the committee for traffic and development Claudia Hämmerling rejected a ban on the vehicles.
“There’s also a danger from regular bike riders,” she told the paper.
Now I don’t know about you, but riding a beer bike around a beautiful German city on a sunny day sounds about as much fun as one can possibly have while sitting down. It also boggles my over-regulated Australian mind that such a thing even exists, although I have heard of similar contraptions operating in Portland, USA. It would be a shame for such beautiful and practical pieces of machinery to be regulated out of existence.
Granted, the Germans have a long way to go before the fun police bring things down to the level we’re on here in Australia now. But it’s worth keeping in mind that we’re not the only nation that has to deal with wowserish fun police.