History Lesson

Wish You Were Beer

There’s nothing quite as quintessentially British as sipping on a pint of ice cold beer at an old pub. What has been a cornerstone of British culture for centuries actually evolved from Roman roots. The journey of pubs traces back to the first century when Roman watering holes, known as tabernae, quenched the thirsts of soldiers, setting the stage for a tradition that would withstand the test of time.

Rewinding back to 43 BC as Roman troops arrived on foot to the British Isles they brought more than just a plight to take over their land. Along with stone roads, drainage systems, and a collection of wine, they built tabernae to accommodate travelers, soldiers and workers alike. The name would eventually evolve into the “tavern” that we know today, and dissimilar to pubs, patrons would guzzle down cups of wine instead of pints of beer.

As alehouses grew in popularity, new laws were enforced in the mid 13th century to oversee and identify locations selling alcohol. The challenge? Most people at the time were illiterate. So instead of scrawling illegible letters onto their facades, alehouses inns and taverns would display signs with easily recognizable imagery such as lions, doves, eagles or even folkloric characters. In fact, this is where many traditional “pub” names stem from, including the most popular moniker “The Red Lion.”

So where do we get the term “pub”? Many alehouses were reserved for private member’s clubs, and it wasn’t until the end of the 17th century that “public houses” were introduced to society. These establishments welcomed anyone to sit back and relax with a good old drink. Apparently “public house” was deemed too long, and through years of slang, or maybe a slurred word or two, in the sake of efficiency “pub” was used to denote the local alehouses.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the United Kingdom holds the record of the most pubs of any country. (A surprising second is actually Japan) Though smoking bans, tax laws, and liquor licensing have caused many pubs to close their doors on their local communities for good, the ones that still stand continue to offer a space for anyone to enjoy a freshly poured pint. We’ll toast to that. 

Log in

Need an account? Sign up

Sign up

Already have an account? Log In

Enter your email to reset your password

Enter your new password