I’ve been resident on the East Coast of North America for almost four years, and there are still things I miss about England. The English pub is most certainly one of them. An English pub is not to be mistaken for a bar. There are significant differences between pubs and bars. In America, so far I’ve only ever found bars.
Nowadays, at first glance, many English bars don’t seem that different from American sports bars, but in general, they are an all-around younger affair – both in the age of the establishment and the clientele. They often have screens on their walls playing all kinds of sports, from football (soccer) to rugby, indie car racing to Formula One. Naturally, British sports take precedence over other games – football and rugby being the critical ones in England, particularly if they are prominent matches. The English go crazy for a derby or an England game!
This Canadian bar in Covent Garden, London is an English bar with a bit of a pub feel, but it’s most definitely not a pub, pub. It reminded me of the American sports bars that are my new local haunts.
The English pub
In England there are both bars and pubs, but it’s easy to tell the difference between the two. The main differences arise when you find old pubs or what I call ‘true pubs.’ These always have a sprinkling of older patrons, often propping up one end of the bar or huddled in front of the open fire. Although, nowadays, the younger generation love an old pub too. There are also no screens; the focus is the roaring fire in the winter and the cold pints of ale in the summer.
Pubs usually have old wooden, uneven floors, or worn, stained carpet and a smell of stale ale and the inside of a real pub is much less flashy and gimmicky than a bar. Many of these establishments date back hundreds of years, and, when a pub is done right, it’s all about the beer and the conversation.
One thing that is often surprising to Americans, is the British pint. It’s not fizzy like lager, its flat and is often served at room temperature. It’s an acquired taste if you haven’t been brought up drinking it!
The English pub is where people come together. They sometimes serve food – mostly at new pubs called Gastropubs. However, in my view, the best pubs are the places where people only eat crisps (this is what the English call chips) and nuts.
Unfortunately, pubs are dwindling.
Pubs are everywhere in Britain, although, sadly, they aren’t as many as there were mainly due to high taxes on beer. According to this article from The Guardian, more than 25% of English pubs have closed since 2001. It’s sad state of affairs, because the pub is a British tradition and treasure that, I believe, we need to keep alive. There’s even a campaign called Camra for precisely this purpose. So, if you ever visit Britain, make sure you stop into a good old-fashioned pub and sample a real ale or two. It might just tantalise your taste buds!