The Friday Pint #141 – Musings on the anonymity of the British pub.

Drinking in America feels very different to how drinking was back in the UK. To begin with, the main method of dispense here is keg. Whilst there are cask taps around the country, there are none within my area.

Another noticeable difference is the type of beer available. Back home, pubs were filled with Best Bitters, Brown Ales, Pale Ales and Lagers. Here, in the USA, heavily hopped Pale Ales and IPA dominate the market alongside the “Domestic” beers like Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Other styles are available, but you have to search to find them.

Luckily for me, I live in a place where I don’t have to do much searching. Black Bridge Brewery has a nice range of styles, from 4% stouts to 14% wheat wines. Meanwhile, across the road, the recently opened Rickety Cricket Brewing (attached to the House of Hops) has  doubled the number of taps to 64. Surely this should be great for a beer drinker like me, yet for some reason with so much choice I struggle to find something I want to drink.

The difference I’m going to write about tonight is the experience and environment within the different establishments.

Back in the UK, when I would write these posts I would often do so from the comfort of a pub. I could usually find somewhere I could sit and write, whilst drinking and observing the comings and goings of other folk. I could do this and be relatively undisturbed. It was in a way, somewhat relaxing.

Here in the US, writing with a similar sense of relaxation is much harder. For one thing, US bars lack the nooks and crannies that British Pubs do. For another thing, most seating, at least in the bars in my area, sit high off the ground. I find it very difficult to feel comfortable in a chair in which my feet don’t touch the ground.

I have also found it harder to write. This may be partly because I’ve not been doing this for a while. When I first started writing this blog, part of the intention in doing so was to improve my writing skills, as well as my knowledge and understanding of beer. Whilst not writing, elements of both of those have declined. Hopefully now that I have an income again, I’ll be able to start writing more often.

Another factor that adds to the atmosphere in a drinking establishment is the décor and lighting. In a British pub, the lighting is usually warm, whether it be provided by natural sunlight passing through the windows, lightbulbs, candles, or firelight. In an American bar, the lighting feels colder. Neon bars signs and fluorescent bulbs add little more than electrical noise to a cubic blank space with seating.

In a British Pub the seating is often mismatched. Cushioned chairs sit alongside chairs without cushions. Some have arms, some don’t. Sometimes there’s a “comfy chair”, a high-backed leather upholstered chair often situated near an open fire. Small round tables mix in with square tables of varying sizes. In general, the furniture in a British Pub is wooden, and a shade of dark brown.

In a US Bar, the seating is much more uniform. Whether the tables and chairs are wooden or metallic, they will generally all be the same, at least in style. Back in the UK, I had a number of places where I had a favourite spot. I can’t really say that about anywhere I’ve drank here in the US. Everywhere is open and the same. There’s nothing really special about them.

Lastly, the anonymity of the establishment. Back in the UK I could order a drink from the bar, pay my money, and retreat to wherever I would be sitting that day and not talk to another person until it was time to order another beer. I could read, write, watch videos or even play video games.

Here in the USA, I’m regularly asked if I’m doing okay, if I would like another drink. If I’m sat at the bar, I don’t mind partaking in conversation. I’d expect it sat there. If I’m sat in the corner though, I probably don’t want to be regularly disturbed. I know they’re doing it to drive sales and increase their tips, but it annoys me.

I like the choice I have here when it comes to drinking, but I miss the comfort and anonymity of a British Pub. Eventually I’ll get back to the UK, and having gotten used to the way things are here, the world of the British Pub will seem strange and quaint. I think I’ll always choose a lack of choice and comfort and atmosphere over a wide choice and a lack of atmosphere though.

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