For the township man on the street and the woman who sells drinks in a tavern, the sight of people sharing a quart of beer surely does not look surprising.
But for the cheese boys and slay queens of this world, a whole host of images spring to mind.Sharing a beer is nothing new, but over the years sharing a bottle straight from one mouth to another has surely catapulted and it is just normal for people who practice it.
It has become very clear over the last decade or so that Batswana are thirsty people and some don’t hesitate to utter this common phrase “Tlake ke hupe hoo (“May I have a sip of that?)
While it is common to try someone else’s drink be it water or any other beverage, I have realised that sharing a quart of beer is as common as sharing food.
Recently when I heard more than three people expressing shock over the habit of sharing a quart of beer I decided to find out more about this tradition or should I say lifestyle or spirit of brotherhood.
First of all in Botswana a quart is a customary volume unit of 750ml. Most of the popular beer brands sold in Botswana like Black Label, Castle Lager, Castle Lite, Hansa and St Louis package their beer in these bottles.
In rural areas and townships where this tradition is widely practised, a crate of quarts (12 bottles) would be bought but despite the number of people, no one is usually allowed or expected to take their own bottle. They prefer to share one bottle per session until the cooler box is empty.
The drinkers also argue that if they share a bottle of beer by pouring it into individual glasses or containers, they run out of drinks prematurely.
It is a belief amongst this group that the drink is much more enjoyable when it is shared as a group.
What I have observed about sharing a quart of beer in these places is that one would find a maximum of 10 men around one bottle.
In Mogoditshane where this social behaviour is widely practised, I talked to one proud consumer, one Shakes of Nkoyaphiri ward. According to Shakes, sharing a quart prevents individuals from drinking too much beer in a single session.
He said sharing a drink shows brotherhood be it a quart or a carton of Chibuku. “Sometimes others run out of money when they still want to drink and that’s when sharing comes in,” he expressed.
He further said this starts as a spirit of brotherhood and eventually becomes a lifestyle whenever friends or people of the same social circle come together for a drink or two. “It is often done to avoid the beer
Although she could not reveal her name fearing victimisation, one of the women who sell beer at her tavern in Mogoditshane said sharing a quart is not her concern as long as the business thrives.
She said realistically sharing a quart slows down the business compared to when individuals take on their own bottles.
“However, sometimes it is a win for us because when so many of them share, eventually they run out of beer,” she said, insinuating that they will need refill.
Although some women are doing it, sharing a quart is a thing widely practised by men and it is rare to find women doing the same thing.
From what I observed, women prefer to pour drinks into their own glasses rather than the mouth-to-mouth shortcut men take.
While it is the norm that sharing is caring, medical doctors argue that diseases or other sicknesses can be transmitted while sharing drinks.
The most common ones are the sore throat, the common cold, meningitis and mumps. Since there’s almost certainly saliva involved in any sharing of drinks, salivary transfer of germs and viruses happens.
Some advisors say that people shouldn’t even share water and/or drink bottles with anyone they wouldn’t kiss on the lips.
Whether at a party, wedding or during music festivals people of all classes regularly practise this tradition of sharing quarts of beer.
But not all places sell or allow a quart of beer. But still that doesn’t kill the free-spirited vibe of people who share quarts and they would rather drink in parking lots.
Lifestyle is expressed in both work and leisure behaviour patterns. But for those who have made sharing quarts of beer their lifestyle know that it reflects their self-image and the way others view them.
While it may have started as a spirit of brotherhood this lifestyle is surely influenced by factors such as culture, family, reference groups, and social class.
The feeling of kinship with and closeness to this group of people has become a bond and the courage of sharing is built between them.
Now that this lifestyle has grown and is even popular in urban areas, producers have always fought for supremacy and in South Africa they have already introduced a 1-litre bottle, which is bigger than a quart.
Chibuku, a commercial sorghum beer, which maybe popularised the sharing of beer, has in the past introduced bigger containers that had become ideal for sharing with a group of friends.
Producers of these products offer consumers different styles, different options because they have realised what people do and like.