English public houses have a long history and are an essential part of British culture. Pubs can be found everywhere, even in the smallest village, and they tend to be the center of social life for most adult males.
Most pubs have fanciful names, and unique interiors that in many cases are centuries old. Whereas in other countries they try to recreate the British Pub ambiance, here you can experience the real thing. Ancient wood beam ceilings, stone floors, heavy wood furniture, fireplaces, old paintings and antique bric-a-brac give these pubs so much of their country charm and cozy vibe.
Many pubs have beer gardens where you can sit outside in nice weather and relax in a beautiful floral environment. English gardens are legendary and some pubs pride themselves on their gardens.
The wonderfully tasty beers, brown ales, bitters, porters on tap are always a joy to imbibe. Pints are the standard, filled to the top, with no head. And apparently there's no limit on how much the Brits can consume. Unless you're used to drinking till you drop, I'd advise you not to try and keep pace.
Hard cider and whiskey are also popular in pubs. If you're not a big beer drinker you can try a Shandy which is beer mixed with lemonade or ginger beer. Of course other soft drinks and tea or coffee are always available. Pub etiquette requires each person in the group to buy a round at some point, so don't forget your turn!
Then there's Pub food. Once upon a time pub food was based upon the traditional English diet of meat and potatoes. I was amazed at the variety of items and the quality of the food being served in pubs these days. Italian food seems to have found its way onto most pub menus, increasing the choices available. Even a few vegetarian items appear on the list. Some pubs have very talented chefs who specialize in international cuisine. You should keep in mind that Pubs are the main restaurants in most small towns in England, so don't be shy about checking out the menu, you won't be disappointed!
I was surprised to find out that Pubs close around 11pm or earlier in some areas. This seems to cause everyone to gulp down as much beer as they can in the last 20 minutes, which isn't a good idea for those who must then jump in their car and drive home. Even big new supermarkets close down their liquor sections after 11pm, making it impossible to get anything to drink later in the evening. I suppose this is for the good of all, since it prevents people from staying up all night getting too drunk to work the next day. Still it is rather disconcerting if you're coming from a country with more liberal drinking hours.
So don't miss out on this very British of institutions. The English Pub is an experience that others may copy, but can never be authentically duplicated elsewhere.
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