While in London, we visited quite a number of London pubs (for research of course). I talked to several people about the difference of a London pub to a bar anywhere else in the world. Here were some of the responses that are worth noting:
It started with the Romans
When the Romans brought public roadways to England, they also brought with them public inns that would serve wine and food. These were called tabernaes or “taverns”. However, ale was the king of England and these tabernaes were quickly replaced with Ale Houses.
A tavern and an Inn – What is a London Pub?
There are very different terms for the different drinking establishments. Some still mean things today but many date back to historical laws or culture.
A tavern is any place that is licensed to sell alcohol. There might be a meeting room or other things on the premise as well as a bar.
An ale house is someplace that is exclusive to selling ale. They now may have other things, but Ale will be served.
An Inn is an alehouse that also has a few rooms for rent. It may not be as large as a hotel (but it could be). However, quite a few places would call themselves an Inn even if that wasn’t their main (or ever) purpose because alehouses in many regions couldn’t sell beer on Sundays unless they were an Inn.
Alehouses, taverns, inns etc all make up what is called a Public House, aka Pub.
Beer in Public Houses
There are two types of Pubs: A Tied House and a Free House
A tied house is required to buy at least some of its beer from a certain brewery. A free house can serve any beer that it chooses.
Try to know a bit of beer before you go
The pub might be crowded and you will need to order quickly. If it isn’t the bar keep will help you if you tell them it is your first time in a pub.
One of the things I heard over and over in London from people was that beer tastes different depending on who serves it. It is true. No scientific basis but something like karma or attitude goes into the brew. The bar keep will keep you entertained with stories and information as long as they are not serving.
Read here on types of beer and what to expect.
I was told over and over that the pubs close at 11pm. At 11:30 I asked the door guy when they close and he said around 2am. He said you could not stand outside and drink after 11pm and technically the bar is closed, although they still served and let people in or out. So, no standing outside but inside was just fine.
and that is another thing to know….
You get your pint and then can stand outside if you are not wanting to have a seat. It is kind of like the smoking area but not everyone is smoking. It is just nice to stand out with your beer on the street and people watch.
What else do you know about London Pubs?