The culture of alcohol in our industry and at our events

Before I start, sorry if this was the wrong category was not really sure where to place it. Feel free to move it if appropriate.

I have been recently appointed the organizer of a local user group for elixir meetups. In all of the past meetups we have offered beer and pizza to the attendees of our group. There has been in the past a single case of one individual who abused alcohol and made a bit of a spectacle of their self. I feel that was a very isolated issue and in general beer has been used very responsibly by the members of that meetup and many other meetups that I’ve been to.

I personally have enjoyed a beer or two while at the meetups, though as of lately I’ve had reasons to be concerned with my health and now I want to avoid beer. That said I’m finding temptation at every meetup I go to now. Beyond my own perception of this I feel there has been a bit of a culture of alcohol in the tech industry and I wonder if its had a negative impact on us in general. I’m currently playing with the idea of no longer offering beer for the meetup I’m now managing and wonder if that would be perceived as a bad thing or possibly a good thing. I haven’t seen too many people speak up on this issue. I have seen one tech group that I very much admire and think has done an amazing job of organizing their event not offer beer. I wonder if that had helped them grow that group to the size that it is now.

Any how I thought it would be worth trying to have a civil conversation with all of you about your thoughts on the matter.

– Josh


Honestly, it would probably be something I wouldn’t even notice.

I wonder if they just didn’t know. Now that I think about it… If I was planning a meet up my default would be not to have alcohol. One reason is someone under 21 could be there.

A good middle ground might be to have a “bring your own beer” policy to let people who do like drinking beer at meet ups bring their own.

I think it’s a non-issue though. If you don’t want to offer beer, then don’t. I doubt anyone would notice :slight_smile:


Not offering beer is a great filter for people who seek excuse to get drunk to NOT visit your events. It’s a win-win.


All meet-ups and networking events I’ve visited here so far had some beer in the fridge, but always there was at least twice as much of alternatives. At least in Hamburg it seems as if much more people are asking for a local cola.

In general, no event I have participated had any problems with people beeing drunk.

And to be honest, I do not think that the alcohol is related to tech in any way. My wife worked 10 years in the medical sector and she sayd to me, some of her co workers weren’t even able to start the day without their morning dose of random booze. Similar to my dad, who worked for an airplane manufacturer. About every other worker put something into his coffee…

So, no, even though I do not necessarily drink a beer on those events, I’m fine with those that do, as long as its on events and other free-time only, and not to get through their working day.


When I was running the meet up group in Copenhagen we never had beer; unless the venue provided snacks and beer. I don’t think anyone ever noticed the absence of beer.


Unless you order your pizza from real pizzaioli, I wonder how you got to the conclusion that beer was worse than pizza for health. If I ever eat industrial pizza after noon you can be sure I will have trouble sleeping during the night!

This said, it seems that most devs have a tendency to enjoy beer, so if you offer only water (most juices contain way too much sugar and thus is worse than beer for health) I am afraid quite a few would not come, and unlike other posters I do not see why those would be the ones you do not want to come (in my experience the best devs tend to drink more than average, and handle it just fine. I have yet to see one make a fool of himself during an event with beers involved).

If I were you I would offer beer and gently throw out anyone who starts acting funny.

And to be honest, I do not think that the alcohol is related to tech in any way. My wife worked 10 years in the medical sector and she sayd to me, some of her co workers weren’t even able to start the day without their morning dose of random booze.

+1. In France at least, most devs enjoy beer whilst remaining in control of their bodies, which is order of magnitude tamer than the average. Medical sector is crazy, and a close friend of mine who is a doctor knew a world class surgeon who could not operate without alcohol in his blood. He had to drink to work, literally.


Now I’m not a doctor, but if I were to guess I would bet a lot of doctors would disagree with your assessment that alcoholic beer is no worse for you than pizza or sugar. That said alcohol is literally converted sugars so :man_shrugging:

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Standard pizza causes real digestive problems, for me at least so my choice is easy :wink: But yeah, sugar does much more bad things to your body than low alcohol beverage like beer, and it is a bigger problem because manufacturers put high doses of sugar in everything because it’s cheap and addictive. Until we developed water treatment plants, every one used to drink beer or wine (not strong ones of course) as alcohol kills bacteria, and obesity was not a problem :wink:

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This is a good idea, just make sure to offer water, soda, coffee etc.

Offering alternatives like soft drinks, water, tea, and coffee usually works well. It also helps in case you have designated drivers coming around, or just any people who prefer not to drink alcohol.

If you ever provide these beverages for free, a good way to encourage moderation is to function with a drink ticket mechanism; provide 1…N tickets to everyone for drinks, after which you charge for them. This tends to ensure a limited amount of free drinks after which people have to pay, and which limits the frequent abuses of open bars.

Places where drinking is seen as more integral to the activity would offer the non-alcoholic drinks for free in order to encourage designated drivers to stick around. If you want to discourage alcohol while making it available in a friendly way, you could always offer a limited number of drinking tickets for alcohol, and only keep the non-alcoholic beverages free after that. However, this may end with non-drinkers giving their tickets to drinkers, so most places I’ve been to did offer the non-alcoholic beverages on the same ticket system as the alcoholic ones

Theres been a lot of conversation around the health, responsibility and alternatives to having beer.

I’m surprised many have not touched on the culture of drinking in general and how that may broadcast a culture to others that wish to avoid that culture. For example I’d like to start to appeal to a broader demographic of people, I would like to learn more about how our culture is perceived. Not making any kind of accusations of toxic masculinity but I feel like that the culture of drinking could fall in to that same category in certain ways in that it maybe perceived as insensitive to offer or allow alcohol at these kinds of events.

All that said I could just be overthinking it.

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This is obviously not an issue for people who already attend these kind of events or maybe ignored by many who do take issue with it. I guess I was looking to see if there are people out there who have avoided events based on this. Though it looks like its not as much of an issue as I have made up in my mind.

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For the meetups I used to run I never offered any sort of alcoholic drink for a few reasons.

  • Expense
  • Liability due to NYS being sue happy

No one ever complained.


I have run many meetups I haven’t found a difference in attendance between having alcohol and not having it. I also have never had anyone show up to a meetup just because there was alcohol. I’ve not run into the drunks showing up just to drink like @dimitarvp. In fact, I’ve never had an issue where people became drunk. It is normally just one or two beers per person.

I understand that there might be a temptation for some when it comes to alcohol. There is also a temptation for some people when it comes to food. I have a hard time saying that one should be taken away and the other is fine.

I think that you should talk to the community around you and decide what kind of group that you would want. If you want to have alcohol or byob then do it. If you don’t want it then don’t have it. Same goes with food.


As a rather heavy drinker, I would never avoid a tech meetup because there won’t be alcohol. The purpose of a tech event is to learn and exchange about tech. When I want to drink I have no problem finding opportunities to do so outside of tech :slight_smile:
If the presence of alcohol makes some people uncomfortable to the point where they would avoid the meetup, then I think there shouldn’t be alcohol.
Drinkers present at the meetup can always head to a local bar after the events if they wish to.


In my case, I would avoid a meetup if there’s alcohol. I have zero problems with people getting high if they so wish, or drunk, or whatever – just not during a supposedly professional meet.

I’ve met people who exlusively came to a tech event for the alcohol and pretended to actually know anything at all related to the meetup (and it was clear they didn’t).

Hence, to me having alcohol at the meetup == potentially non-interesting or even toxic meetup. When I go out and sacrifice my free time for a tech meetup then I’d like some sort of a guarantee that this is what I will get.

Not having alcohol there is one such half-guarantee in my eyes. Not a perfect criteria of course.


One approach is to have a dry tech meetup followed by an optional after-party with drinks (maybe in a different venue). This way people have a chance to talk and hopefully get to know each other better. A separation of concerns, if you will.


This is what the Portland Ruby Brigade did for years and it worked very well. No drinks at the event, but we’d go to a pub afterwards. Even there, no one ever got drunk that I can remember.

I don’t drink, never have, never will, and as long as people are well behaved and respectful, I don’t have an issue with alcohol at an event. That being said, I’d love to see alcohol-free events with good alternatives. We should remember that we’re there for the tech and the people, not the alcohol, and I think this is the case the vast, vast majority of the time.


No idea who started this trend of offering alcoholic beverages everywhere in the industry, as if our profession wasn’t unhealthy enough already: remember that ethanol is a group 1 carcinogen, thus its intake should be just occasional at most… I mean, you wouldn’t install a cigarette vending machine for your employees, so why kegs are so common in startups?

Seriously, if I want to drink a beer I just go to some beer garden and have a nice pint of ale :slight_smile: but when I go to a meetup what I’m really looking for is some good presentation or conversation with fellow programmers. Just replace beer with water and club-mate.


I like me some beer, but man oh man club-mate is good stuff. Wish it was more popular in the states.