British Pubs – A Beginners Guide

By: Chris Kevin | Sep 12, 2011 10:37 AM

Pub culture is interwoven in to British life

The pub or public house has much significance in British life. To British people, their pubs are more than drinking holes. They serve as places of entertainment, meetings and the centre place of a community. The pubs are perfect places to meet local people and to experience the local atmosphere. Whether you want to just taste a beer or relax after a weary day, British pubs are capable of offering you the best form of relaxation. This article gives you an insight to the nature of British Pubs, so that you can make your visit to them a joyful experience. It has been rightly said that if you have not visited a British pub, it is similar to you not seeing Britain! Beyond the general tourist attractions, the pubs of Britain bring more insight to the country as well as its inhabitants. The British Beer and Pub Association or BBPA calculate that 80% of adult population of Britain are 'pub goers' and about 15 million people visit pubs minimum once in a week. 

I don’t know where to go!

People, especially beginners are often confused as where and which pub to go. There is no thing like typical British pubs, as some assume. Pubs come in various styles and features. They can be traditional pubs with country atmosphere. You can expect a welcoming open fire and ales here. City pubs are bustling hot spots invaded by teens and above twenties. The atmosphere here can be quite noisy with youngsters shouting and enjoying ear-splitting music. 

Some of the very old traditional pubs can be found in larger cities of Britain. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, located in Nottingham is one of the oldest pubs in England. It is said to be as old as 1189. Changing times are making us witness many pubs coming under large chain corporations. Pub lovers watch on helplessly and sadly, the pubs losing its age old traits in the process! Today there are theme pubs and high-end European-style bars. The suburbs of England houses pubs called locals. The varying atmosphere in these pubs is sometimes friendly and other wise not-so-friendly. It can be even unwelcoming to outsiders. Nothing should stop you from walking out of them as there is enough number of friendly pubs to be found. 

Who runs Pubs? 

Usually breweries run pubs. They are known as tied houses which should sell only the beer of its owner brewery. They are permitted to sell one or two guest beer as well. Generally these pubs are run by local landlords who will be tenants on lease. A manager appointed by the brewery also may run the show. Further, there are chain pubs run by former brewers. While tied house has restrictions to follow, free houses enjoy full freedom to sell any type of beer. 

Can we eat and drink in Pubs? 

No doubt, pubs can be more interesting if we could get something to bite with our favourite beer. Peanuts and crisps were the only food we could get our hands on till recently. However, the trend is changing and pubs are concentrating more on offering tasty food in pubs. Sandwiches, meat pies and sausages are served at pubs and the special setting for eating has made the whole process enjoyable. 

Should children stay out of Pubs? 

Though under-18 are not expected to consume alcohol, children barely 14 and above are welcomed to pubs, though they have to stay away from alcohol. Over 16 are exempted from this, if he is having meals in special eating areas and if they have adult company. A child, even if he is below 14 has adult company, is permitted in to bars with 'children's certificate'. Cigarette smoke which was blended to pub life has started to fade off due to the bar on smoking in public places. 

How to place an order? 

Beers come in various types; hence it is wise to order for specific type of beer in a pub. You can order by brand name as well. A pint of bitter can give you the real taste of British beer. The name ‘bitter’ is suggestive of its taste. Brownish-red in colour it is seasoned with hops. The varied type of strengths, aromas and flavours offered due to the advanced brewing methods of various regions has created variety and added spice to beer. Guest beers are stored only for few days. 

LAH-gur is a kind of light and sparkling beer which is popular throughout the world. Lager though not popular earlier, is sold all over the world now. Mild beer is very much like bitter. They are darker. Thick black beer of Ireland and Cider produced from apple juice after fermenting, are other popular beers you can try at pubs. However, Cider should not be confused with the American wine that bears the same name. The difference is that American Cider is made of unfermented apple juice. 

The strength of Scotland ales are calculated by the number they carry. They come in numbers 70 shilling, 80 shilling, 60 shilling etc. 60 shilling is mild and 80 shilling is strong. Draught beer which is served in pints and many bottled beers along with foreign brands are available. When you order your beer, you have to order for 'a half of', 'a pint of’, 'a bottle of’ etc. Alcopops and spirits are served in pubs. A popular alternative to low-alcohol beers is Shandy. It is a 50-50 blend of lemonade and draught beer.  You can order for bitter shandy or lager shandy. Soft drinks, fruit juices, coffee, mineral water, tea and sodas are available at pubs. 

Serve yourself please!

Do not expect any service in English pubs. You may sit for ages with nobody taking a glance at you! If you want to get something, even food, you have to go to the bar. Bar etiquette is of utmost importance. Shouting to place an order, waving money around etc is looked down by Brits. Being polite is important as bar staff will not tolerate bad treatment. Payment is made as soon as you are served and tipping is unheard of. However, if you order a large round or plan to be in the particular pub for a while, it is not unusual to buy a drink for the barman or maid.