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A public house, usually known as a pub, is a drinking establishment found mainly in Britain, Ireland, Australia and various other countries. They are culturally, socially and traditionally different from other places found elsewhere in the world such as cafes, bars and bierkellers[?]. Colloquialisms for the public house include "boozer", "the local" and "rub-a-dub-dub".


An amusingly named pub (the Old New Inn) at Bourton-on-the-Water, in the Cotswold Hills of south west England.
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Pubs are social places for the sale and consumption of mainly alcoholic beverages, and most public houses offer a wide range of beers, wines, and spirits. Beer served in a pub can range from from pressurised "keg" beer, to "cask" beer brewed in the time-honoured fashion in wooden barrels or casks. The beer lends most pubs a pleasant, memorable aroma. Often the windows of the pub are of smoked or frosted glass so that the clientele are invisible from the street.

The owner of a public house is known as the publican. Each pub generally has a crowd of regulars, people who drink there on a predictable basis. The pub you visit most often is called your local. In many cases, this will be the nearest pub to where you live, but some people choose a more distant establishment, either because their friends go there or because they prefer it, for example some would seek out the best real ale or want a place with a pool table.

A number of traditional games were often played in pubs including darts[?], shove ha'penny[?], billiards, and in some areas, Nine Mens Morris and skittles. In recent years the incursion of the game of pool has widely made itself felt in British pub culture. Increasingly, video games are provided. Many pubs also hold special events, from tournaments of the aforementioned games to karaoke nights to pub quizzes. However many now play pop music very loudly, or show football on big screen televisions.

Traditionally pubs in Britain were essentially drinking establishments and little emphasis was placed on the serving of food. The usual fare consisted of specialised English snack food[?] such as pork scratchings[?] along with crisps and peanuts. If a pub served meals they were usually simple dishes such as a ploughman's lunch[?]. Food has now become much more important as part of a pub's trade and today most pubs serve lunches and dinners (colloquially this is known as "pub grub[?]") in addition to the normal snacks consumed at the bar. Many pubs serve excellent meals which rival the best restaurants and going for a 'pub lunch' can be a real treat.

Names of pubs often have traditional names. Here is a list of categories:

  • reflecting local trades: The Mason's Arms, The Foresters
  • local sporting activities: The Cricketers, The Fox and Hounds
  • a noted individual: The Marquis of Granby, The Lord Nelson
  • an historic event: The Trafalgar, The Royal Oak
  • alluding amusingly to everyday phrases: The Nowhere Inn Particular
  • with a royal or aristocratic association: The King's Head, The Queen Victoria, The Duke of Cambridge
  • with the names of two objects which may or may not be complementary: The George and Dragon, The Goat and Compasses, The Rose and Crown
  • with names of tools or products of trades: The Harrow, The Propeller, The Wheatsheaf
  • with names of items that may be part of a coat of arms: The Red Lion, The Unicorn, The White Bear

British pubs usually have highly decorated hanging signs over their doors. These signs bear the name of the pub, both in words and in pictorial representation. If the pub's name refers to real objects or animals, then the picture will usually be a straightforward one; if the pub is named after a person of nobility, then the sign will often bear that person's coat of arms. In the past, the pictures were more useful than the words for identifying the pub, as most of the population were illiterate, and names may have been chosen based on what the picture would look like.

In recent years a number of chain[?] pubs have sprung up which use semi-traditional sounding names (The Rat and Parrot, The Slug and Lettuce, The ... and Firkin) for all of the pubs in the chain. Newly acquired pubs are renamed and many people resent the loss of traditional names. These pubs are often owned by brewing companies and their beer selection is limited to beers from that particular company.

The society which has a particular interest in the traditional British beers and the preservation of the integrity of public houses is CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale.

In 1998 there were 68,000 pubs in the United Kingdom (53,200 in England and Wales, 5,200 in Scotland and 1,600 in Northern Ireland). [Source: http://www.beerandpub.com].

Notable British public houses include:

Pubs in British Popular Culture

All the major soap operas on British television feature a pub as their focal point, with their 'pub' becoming a household name. The Rovers Return[?] is the world famous pub on Coronation Street, the top British 'soap' broadcast on ITV. The Queen Vic (short for the Queen Victoria) is the pub on EastEnders, the major 'soap' on BBC1, while the Woolpack[?] is the pub and central meeting point on Emmerdale. The sets of each of the three major soap operas have been visited by major royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II. The centrepiece of each visit was a trip into the Rovers, the Vic or the Woolpack to be offered a drink.

Irish public houses

Superficially there is little difference between an Irish pub and its English counterpart. However, closer scrutiny will reveal some differences. There seems to be more live music in an Irish pub, some of which are known in the Irish language as Ceilí Houses, and a customer is more likely to entertain the assembly with a song. The atmosphere in such places is called craic (the Irish language word for fun). In Ireland pubs usually bear the name of the current or a previous owner. e.g. Murphy's or O'Connor's Bar. Famous bars in Dublin include O'Donoghue's, an Irish music bar in Merrion Street frequently by American tourists, Doheny and Nesbits, where politicians, journalists and writers drink together, the Horse Shoe Bar in the Shelbourne Hotel, where journalists like Eamon Dunphy[?] are regular drinkers, and The George, Dublin's largest gay bar. Individual pubs are also associated with famous Irish writers and poets such as Patrick Kavanagh[?], Brendan Behan[?] and James Joyce.

'Irish Bars' have been opened throughout the world, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, from New York to Frankfurt, Johannesburg to Beijing. The main drinks consumed in Irish pubs include ales like Guinness, Smithwicks[?] and Kilkenny[?], lagers such as Budweiser, Heineken, Carlsburg[?] and Harp[?] and other spirits like whiskey and Baileys[?]. Alcopops[?] are also becoming popular with the youth market, many of whom no longer drink ales such as Guinness. Non-alcoholic drinks are also available.

See also; Pub rock



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