History of the English Pub

The Pub as Social Center

Renowned the world over, English Pubs are not only the place to grab a pint or eat a comforting meal, they are also the social center of a community. You meet your friends at the pub when you need to vent about your job. You bring your in-laws to the pub when they come to town for a visit. You fly solo at the pub hoping to strike up a conversation with someone. People from all walks of life, all professions, all persuasions meet at the pub. The pub is where worlds converge.

Introduction of Gin to England

When the Dutch introduced gin to England in the 17th century, townspeople began overconsuming on the hard spirit, and gin gained nefarious notoriety. During the mid 1800’s, beer was considered harmless and even healthy as water was often unsafe to drink. Children were allowed “small beers” and even the evangelical church viewed beer as a benign pleasure. Ale houses sprung up from this collective acceptance of drinking beer and differentiated from inns and taverns as they did not offer lodging.

“The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue…” – James Joyce

Inns and Taverns

The English Pub has roots in the traditional inns and taverns scattered across Europe, which date back to ancient Greece. Inns of the Middle Ages commonly catered to society degenerates, but innkeepers quickly began to clean up their act to appease royal creeds. Over time, inns became “Public Houses” (as opposed to private homes), responsible for the well-being of travelers using honest money in need of food, drink, and lodging. The tavern, the predecessor to the modern restaurant, originated the custom of providing a daily meal at a fixed time.

“Payday came and with it beer.” – Rudyard Kipling

By the 16th century, the dining-out tradition was well established among townsmen of all classes. Most taverns offered a good dinner for one shilling with ales available for an additional price. Taverns offered companionship as well as refreshment, and some of the better houses became regular meeting places.

The Inception of the Gastropub

As the centuries rolled on, inns and taverns focused on the lodging aspect of their business and became modern-day hotels, while the pubs took to the tradition of the old ale houses. These pubs were primarily drinking establishments and placed little to no emphasis on food aside from the occasional bar snack. In the 1950s, British pubs began to offer “a pie and a pint”, ale pies made with care by the owner’s wives. Soon, British food was embraced in the pubs with dishes like fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and welsh rarebit, which launched the genesis of serving both craft beer and craft food.

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The Barleycorn Pub | (828) 774-5598 | 697-A Haywood Road | West Asheville, NC 28806