Inns of Great Britain
or those visiting the United Kingdom, there
are many things to see and do, some ideas can be found on our tourist
suggestion pages but while visiting, a visit to a good old British Inn is a must. The
UK is known for 'warm' beer but then beer or ale was brewed in Britain long before
chillers and fridge's were invented. What most of the rest of the World calls beer - we
The Romans (What have they ever done for us ?) first tried to persuade the
British to drink wine rather than beer, but the British climate is much more suited to
growing cereals than grapes and so traditional British ales have remained although the
price of imported wines has dropped sufficiently to entice the British to enjoy both.
Ales were brewed in small taverns, homes, farms and monasteries. Many 'home brew' pubs
still survive and are generally full of character. Big breweries have swamped the market
with often bland ales which supposedly appeal to all tastes but there are also many
smaller breweries which still retain the full character of some of the older brews.
Henry II first started applying tax to ales in 1188. Hops were first introduced to ale in
the 15th Century to add flavour and also to help the ale to 'keep' for longer.
There are a number of different types of ales that are brewed in the UK, the
main two being Mild and Bitter. The most popular is bitter which is generally stronger in
alcohol content than mild although some milds can be strong such as Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby
Mild, brewed in Sedgley in Staffordshire.
Almost all brewers serve more bitter than they do mild. In the South of England,
bitter tends to be served with little or no 'head' on the top of the pint. In the North,
bitter is more often served through a 'sparkler' to give it a creamy 'head'. For further
Information Click the A -Z of Beer.
MILD - Simply means mild in flavour, it is usually darker
in colour and sweeter.
BITTER - Varies considerably, can be light or dark, weak or
INDIA PALE ALE - (IPA) A light well conditioned ale which was
generally brewed for export.
PORTER, STOUT - A dark heavy ale with a creamy head, the most
famous being Guinness.
LAGER - In the UK, usually light and fizzy.
OLD / WINTER ALES - Used to be specially aged to last a winter but
now generally stands for a powerful ale with lots of flavour.
BARLEY WINE - A very strong dark ale which is an acquired taste
and often causes memory loss if you drink too much of it !
The English language is renowned for having many words for the same thing, the
good old British Pub is no different. The word PUB is generally used to indicate a
drinking establishment although you never know quite what to expect as two buildings
exactly the same could easily be called Pub, Inn, Bar, Hotel, Tavern, Restaurant or even
Hostelry depending on the style and location.
PUB - Short for 'PUBLIC HOUSE' A place where alcohol drinks are sold
under licence to be consumed on or off the premises.
INN - The word 'inn', an older English word, usually refers to a public
house or small hotel providing food, drink and lodgings for travellers, but can also be a
Tavern or Restaurant. The word was also formerly used to mean a 'hall of residence for
students'. Sometimes referred to as 'Coaching Inns' from bygone days when the only mode of
long distance travel was Horse and Coach. The Inn would provide accommodation to the
traveller along with water and stabling for the horse/s.
TAVERN - The word Tavern is a middle English word for a pub or inn more
usually used in Literary terms.
BAR - Usually, the counter from where alcoholic drinks or food is served
but is also used to mean the room or establishment containing such a counter.
HOTEL - An establishment that provides accommodation although there are
inns that have ceased offering accommodation but retain the word hotel as it is part of
the establishment's name.
RESTAURANT - A restaurant is a place that serves meals and is now
generally regarded as meaning a higher standard of food.
HOSTELRY - An older English word for Inn or Public House.
There is no such thing as a typical British inn. There are over 60,000
inns and pubs in the UK. Although there are similar types, each one is different it it's
Although British inns vary enormously, there are a few generalisations that can be made:
There is no waiter service in a British pub. You have to go to the bar to buy your drinks
and carry them back to your table.
It is customary for one or two people, not the whole group, to go up to the bar to buy
drinks. Drinks are generally bought in 'rounds' - at least by most people !
To get served, you must attract the attention of the bar staff without making any noise or
resorting to the vulgarity of too-obvious gesticulation. This is much easier than it
If you wish to pay for your drinks individually, then order individually. If you order as
a group, the bar staff will total the cost and expect a single payment.
In most British pubs, you pay for your drinks in cash, immediately when you order them.
Pubs often have a range of about 20 different beers behind the bar, many of them on
draught (on tap), some in bottles and a few in cans. They range from dark stouts, through
mild ales and bitter to lager.
A pint of beer is 0.568 litres. A 'half' means a half-pint. When ordering you just say
"Half a bitter, please" or "Half a lager, please."
It is not customary to tip the publican or bar staff. Instead, if you really want to, the
common practice is to buy them a drink. This is a genuinely personal and friendly gesture.
There are some inns with one public room, there are some with many. They are usually
labelled and the most common are Public Bar or just Bar - usually the rooms with less
seating and where pub games are located such as a pool table or Darts and Lounge Bar -
usually a room with more comfortable seating. You may also come across older terminology
such as Saloon Bar or Snug.
Pub Games vary enormously around the UK. Pool, darts, dominoes and cards can be
found in a vast number of pubs. Many older games are more difficult to find such as
Quoits, Bar Billiards, Ring the Bull or shove Ha'penny, but most old English counties have
games particular to their county. Northamptonshire and Kent both have their own skittles
games and any 'local' game is worth trying.
There is no single, correct way to order a pub meal or snack. Some pubs take meal orders
at the bar, others have separate food counters, usually only restaurants will take your
order form your table. However, drinks are almost always purchased at the bar except in
Round-buying is the reciprocal exchange of drinks. To the natives, round-buying is sacred.
Not "buying your round" is more than just a breach of pub etiquette - it's
Don't ask for an expensive drink like champagne if the person buying it is drinking
cost-conscious halves of beer.
Unless there are signs specifically stating that children are welcome, always ask at the
bar if children (under 14) are allowed in the pub.
Pubs change according to the time of day. The quiet, pretty town-centre 'tourist' pub you
discovered at lunchtime may become a vibrant, crowded young people's pub at night.
Generally, pubs are not allowed to open until 11am (noon on Sundays). They cannot serve
drinks after 11pm (10.30pm on Sundays) in England and Wales although you are allowed 20
minutes to finish any drinks already purchased.
Toilets in pubs are for the use of customers, not the general public.
The pub, to many natives, is a second home - and some probably spend more time there than
they do in their own homes.
Pub talk is the most popular activity in all pubs. There are few restrictions on what you
can talk about - pub etiquette is concerned with the form of your conversation, not the
Pub regulars will often start an argument about anything, just for the fun of it.
Arguments follow a strict code of etiquette based on the First Commandment of pub law -
Thou shalt not take things too seriously.