Reading: The British pub

Reading: the British pub
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

English pub in Woodstock, near Oxford

Going to the pub should be on your list of things to experience. The tradition probably goes back to pre-Roman times.  

Two thousand years ago people drank ale, which was a kind of beer that was flavoured with honey, herbs etc. Places that sold ale and wine were called ‘tabernae’. This is where the word ‘tavern’ comes from. Later, around the year 1,300, you had the choice of 3 different places if you wanted a drink. The first was the alehouse, the second was the tavern (which also sold wine), and the third was the inn (where people could stay the night).

In the past, people typically drank a lot of ale but most ale at this time was much less strong than modern beers. In medieval times, ale was often brewed at home and drunk within a week. When hops started to be used in brewing in Britain (around 1,450), a new drink called ‘beer’ started to become popular. Hops gave a bitter taste to the drink and helped to keep it in good condition. Today, if you ask for ‘a bitter’ in a British pub, you’ll get a British beer. However, the word ‘ale’ is now being used to describe live beers in which the yeast is still fermenting. If you want a continental blonde beer, you should order ‘a lager‘. If you love Guinness, you should know that this kind of beer is called ‘stout‘.

Pub names have a very wide variety of origins. Some are named after animals e.g. ‘The Fox and Hounds’ or ‘The Swan’. Others have heraldic origins such as ‘The Red Lion’ or ‘The White Horse’ or ‘The Rising Sun’. Some pubs got their names because of some historical incident, for example, The Drunken Duck or The Bucket of Blood!

Today, people use the word ‘pub’ for taverns, alehouses and inns. When you have a chance, why not try a pint (568 ml) of beer, lager or cider (apple beer) or even a shot (35 ml) of whisky in a British pub. You might also be able to enjoy a game or dartspool and sometimes snooker.

Bar person / barman / barmaid: ‘What would you like?’
Customer: ‘A pint of bitter and a half of dry cider.’
Bar person / barman / barmaid: ‘Anything else?’
Customer: ‘Two packets of cheese and onion crisps.’

Click here to watch a video about making beer in a brewery near Oxford Wychwood Brewery


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