"The English were well known throughout Europe for their addiction to ale and wine and cider. The French were proud, the Germans were obscene, and the English were drunkards. In English monasteries the daily allowance was a gallon (4.5 litres) of strong ale and a gallon (4.5 litres) of weak ale." Peter Ackroyd, Foundation: The History of England from its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors.
That reference goes back to the late middle ages, thirteenth century or so. It's nice to see things haven't changed over the past 800 years. London has a pub on every block and a rump in every pub's seat, ten nights a week. The role of drinking in that culture astounded me.