When I was a kid in the ’80s and ’90s, I spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time in the back of a car, travelling around the UK to visit family, who lived all over the place.  My dad likes to take a lot of driving breaks, and so while we visited a lot of motorway service stations, when we were out on more remote roads our pit stop of choice was always some random country pub.

Country pub in 1988
Country pub, 1988, with my mum and younger brother. Pub drinking starts early in my family.

I don’t know where my hoarding/collecting/general possessiveness tendencies come from (some family members have suggested it’s genetic, as a lot of us are like that), but they’ve always been there, and so as a small child I soon started to notice the brightly coloured and highly collectible bits of cardboard that were always sitting there on the pub tables, preventing my glass of Diet Coke from leaving an unsightly ring.  I think you all know where this is going.

Beermat collection
A small fraction of my extensive beermat collection.

As an adult, I’ve turned part of my large beermat collection (i.e. as many as will fit on the above corkboard) into a slightly dubious-quality ‘piece of art’ that hangs in our hallway.  The display is an exercise in nostalgia as much as anything else – I often pause in the hallway and marvel at the way that some of them are painfully of their time.  The Furstenburg one in the top-left corner is absolutely classic ’80s advert styling, the competition advertised on the Martini one in the third row has a closing date sometime in 1986, and the ‘Head Out To Marlboro Country’ one in the second row brings back memories of an impossibly long-ago century when you were actually allowed to advertise smoking as cool and adventurous with only a tiny, hard-to-read government warning along the bottom edge.

At the same time, some drinks are so classic that I don’t think they’ve updated their beermat design in the intervening 20-30 years (Strongbow and Newcastle Brown, I’m looking at you) and I still see identical ones in the pubs of today.

I stopped collecting beermats around the point in my mid-teens that the alcohol itself became more interesting, but I’ll always have a soft spot for this particular hoard.

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