traveling and meeting other cultures: ideas, destinations, reviews and tips
London Pubs for Dummies, Part 2: Vocabulary and Tips
Lightbox (44) Tags: alcoholic-drinks england europe food london pubs restaurants united-kingdom Posted: Jan. 29, 2010 by Serge
The Grenadier, a tiny pub in London (United Kingdom) near to Belgrave Square and Hyde Park Corner. Because of its history, it is one of the interesting pubs in London to visit.
Sherlock Holmes pub near Trafalgar Square, London. It offers a bit of Sherlock Holmes atmosphere to appeal to tourists which does not make their food better (perhaps, quite the opposite).
The Old Shades pub in London located in the historic area of Whitehall. This pub is one of the so-called traditional pubs that are characterized by ambiance such as dark wood panelling, stained glass and old-fashioned décor.
Nice, old fashioned pub in the heart of Victoria among high rise office complexes. If you avoid the food, it can be a good experience.
The Red Lion - self proclaimed "London's last village pub" located in picturesque Crown Passage - a narrow old street between Pall Mall and King Street.
Another Red Lion pub on Duke street in St. James's, London, area. It is small, offers great beers and has a very nice interior.
Leicester Arms - an old fashioned pub located in Soho. While decor and ambiance are nice, I would not expect too much form a pub that close to Piccadilly.
The Windmill - they call themselves the 'Institute of Pie Excellency'. Well, if you like steak and kidney pies, perhaps you should visit this place.
The Clachan in Soho, London. If you are looking for the opulent Victorian interior with fixtures and fittings of the period, you should visit this place.
A brass plaque with a brief history regarding The Clachan. Thus, we learn that The Clachan was previously known as Bricklayers and that the new name in Gaelic means "meeting place".
Despite all my scepticism about London's pubs, I would still encourage you to try at least some of them. Who knows, maybe your experience and perception will be different from mine. Anyway, if you decide to do so, you may find the information below useful during your own pub adventures. It contains some tips and clarifications regarding some brewing industry terminology especially where it relevant to pubs in United Kingdom.
The word pub is a diminutive of public house, a drinking establishment licensed to serve alcoholic drinks for consumption on the premises in the United Kingdom and other countries of British influence. There are more than 50 thousand public houses in UK. It was the public house that first introduced the concept of the bar counter to serve the beer. Until that time beer establishments used to bring the beer to the table or benches.
A tied house is a public house that is required to buy at least some of its beer from a particular brewery, unlike free houses, which are able to choose the beers they stock freely. Many free houses are not independent small businesses but are owned by large pub companies. In fact, there are very few free houses due to financial arrangements between a free house and a brewer in order to finance the purchase of the pub, or because the pub is fully owned by one of large pub chains. Because of this, the actual offering of beers will depend on specific circumstances and management policies imposed by the owner rather than the status of the pub. Note that tied houses are illegal in the United States.
Draught beer (also known as draft beer or tap beer) has several related though slightly different interpretations. Draught beer usually means a filtered beer being served from a pressurized container, such as a keg or a widget can. A more traditional definition of draft or tap beer is the one where beer is served from a large container, either a keg or a cask. Keg beer refers specifically to beer served under pressure, while draught beer may refer to any beer served from a larger container, including both keg beer and cask ale. The term keg beer may also imply that the beer is pasteurised, in contrast to unpasteurised cask beer.
A beer tap is a valve designed as a tap, for controlling the release of beer. Tap beer seems to be more generic term that implies both, keg beer and cask ale.
Filtered beer has been cleaned of yeast through filtration. A beer which is filtered is stable, so all conditioning has stopped - as such it is termed "brewery conditioned". Beers which are in contact with the yeast are known as bottle conditioned or cask conditioned.
Cask ale or cask-conditioned beer is the term for unfiltered and un-pasteurised beer which is conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. Cask ale may also be referred to as real ale (see below), a term coined by the Campaign for Real Ale. In cask ale (which is often synonymous to real ale) the yeast is still present and living in the container from which the ale is served (since the yeast is settled to the bottom, it is usually not poured into the glass). Because the yeast is still alive, a slow process of fermentation continues in the cask or bottle at the moment such beer served to the consumer thus allowing the beer to retain its freshness.
Real ale is the name coined by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in 1973 for a type of beer defined as "beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide". Visit CAMRA site, a very useful and unbiased resource for beer traveler.
A keg is a cylindrical container, usually constructed of aluminum, steel or wood. It is commonly used to store, transport, and serve pressurized beer.
A widget is a device placed in a container with beer to manage the characteristics of the beer's head.
A beer engine or hand-pump is used to siphon the beer from the cask. It has an airtight piston chamber; when the handle is pulled down, the piston raises dragging with it about a half pint of beer. Some pubs disguise keg beer by having an imitation pump handle on the bar. If the bar staff have merely turned on a tap, or are just resting their hand on a very small handle with no pump action, then this is a keg beer. The beer engine is normally located below the bar, and its visible handle is used to draw the beer through a flexible tube to the spout. The handle of a hand-pump is often used as a symbol of cask ale, although this can also be served by electric pumps, air pressure pumps, or by gravity. By contrast, keg beer dispensers usually have illuminated countertop fittings behind which a handle opens a valve that allows the gas pressure in the keg to force beer to the attached spout.
Cask Marque is a cask ale certification organization in the United Kingdom. It is a non-profit organization, based in Colchester. Its assessments address both, the quality of storage and service, and the handling of cask ale in the certified pubs. Pubs that join the certification program are to be visited unannounced by an independent reviewer twice a year.
Although the terms ale and beer were originally used for the same drink, the term ‘beer' fell into disuse for a while until the 15th century when it came to be used for brews in which hops were added. In Elizabethan times ale began to be hopped and the terms ‘ale' and ‘beer' once again became broadly synonymous.
Hops are the female flower clusters, commonly called cones or strobiles, of the Humulus (Hop) plant. Traditional English ale was made solely from fermented malt. The practice of adding hops to produce beer was introduced from the Netherlands in the early 15th century. Hops are used extensively in brewing today for their many purported benefits, including balancing the sweetness of the malt with bitterness, contributing a variety of desirable flavors and aromas, and having an antibiotic effect that favors the activity of brewer's yeast over less desirable microorganisms.
Beer Varieties and styles:
Two largest breweries in London are Fuller’ s-Smith-Turner Brewery (founded in 1875) located at Griffin Brewery, Chiswick Lane South, Chiscick, London W4 and Young’s Brewery (founded in 1831) located at 68 Wandsworth High Street at Ram Street Wandsworth, London SW18. They own many pubs in London. By the way, both breweries organize tours at production facilities for those who are interested.
You may sometimes hear that a pub is a Nicholson's pub. It means that it belongs to the Nicholson's chain owned by Mitchells & Butlers group. This group operates about 2000 businesses in UK, mainly managed pubs and pub restaurants. Another chain owned by Mitchells & Butlers and mentioned in my article is All Bar One. Although my recommendation is to stay away from All Bar One pubs, visiting Nicholson’s pubs can be an interesting experience (the chain includes about 50 pubs all located in London). All such pubs share one thing in common - a historical past that can be traced back to the 18th century family of Clerkenwell gin distillers. Because of this, Nicholson's pubs usually enjoy landmark locations and buildings in London, have interesting stories associated with them and have unique architecture and decor. So, if you are after traditional pubs, Nicholson’s ones may be where you need to go. But I have to disappoint you - food in those pubs is as bad as in any other average pub in London.
Common usage of the word 'Arms' in pubs' names is a reference to coats of arms, the heraldic symbols used by knights to distinguish each other in battle.
In London pubs customers are expected to pay for food and/or drinks as they order them. If you want to pay by credit card, check if the pub accepts them (since some pubs do not). In some places where the barman can see that you are clearly going to spend time (and money) in the pub, he (or she) may allow you to run a 'tab' instead of paying immediately after ordering each and every pint of beer. In cases like this, you may be asked for a credit card as a guarantee.