Western Europe Summer 2011

My First English Pub

I’m a big beer guy. No question about it. And I’m not talking about Natty Light or Bud Light or any of that crap. I love trying beers from around the world from smaller high quality breweries (commonly called craft beer in the U.S.). In fact, when I’m traveling, I make it a point to do my best to experience the beer there (or whatever alcohol is famous there). It is my opinion that the three most important things to experience while traveling are the way the culture eats, the way the culture lets loose (drinks), and the way the culture worships. No matter if it is something you actually do in your daily life, you can learn a lot by at least observing these three things. Even if you’re a vegetarian in a Spanish meat market, a muslim in an English tavern, or an atheist in a Catholic Church in Central America, there is something to be learned from the experience even if you don’t participate. So as you can imagine, here in London, my first trip to a pub was something I was really looking forward to!

NThe Market Porter After Business HoursWe left my friends flat and headed to Bermondsey Street, a trendy row of bars and pubs that lead up to the London Bridge. We passed pub after pub, and I can honestly say that the most challenging part of the night was picking which place we wanted to go to. The first one, not enough people inside. The second, too many people inside. The third, expensive as hell. We ended up heading to the famous Borough Market area to check out a pub I’d read rave reviews for online, we walked in, and I was in heaven, I was in The Market Porter.

The walls were covered with beer coasters from a countless list of breweries, the bar wrapped around and around to create a front bar, a side bar, and a back bar, and there were tons of bartenders, assuring you’d never be waiting long for a drink. On top of that, about half of the taps were what is called “cask ales” or “real ales”, which are the pride and joy of England. To make a long conversation short, basically these beers are never artificially carbonated while most other beers in the world are. These beers were attached to hand pump taps, so to fill a glass the bartender had to literally pump the tap until the glass was full. I ran off from the girls (my girlfriend and my friend we were staying with) and began meandering around the bar taking a peak at all they had to offer. They had 12 cask beers on tap, which might not sound like much, but equals about a 10 to 15 minute decision for me on what I should drink… The bartender seemed used to it and didn’t rush me. He actually explained what I should expect from a few of the beers. I made my decision and ordered my first pint of English beer.

After conquering the beer decision I glanced around to take in the atmosphere of the bar. This is how it is supposed to be. Men and women in suits, others in jeans and still dirty from the days work, and a few really old guys who looked like they hadn’t stood up from the bar in about a week. All of them here drinking, laughing, and having a good old “debate” about something no one would care about tomorrow. Everyone out to let loose and enjoy themselves after a hard day at work. I even noticed a few of the most beautiful women I had ever seen sitting with random guys around the bar. At first, I thought it was somewhat strange, as these guys did not seem like anything special. My friend, however, informed me that many of these women are escorts and that this is a common occurrence in London. The men who were sitting with these women looked like they were having the times of their lives and, in reality, they were the envy of every other man in the building. “It couldn’t get any better than this” I thought, but then it almost did.

Out of the back corner of the bar I heard it. Just like you see in the movies, it couldn’t be anymore dead on. Two of the drunkest guys in the bar start up with what appears to be a famous English drinking chant. Maybe one or two more random people also pick up on it, but before they were done with the first verse their friend quickly shouted to them “Shut the F@$K up you drunk asses!” as he single handedly crushed my hopes and dreams… And there it was, my ALMOST perfect first night out in an English pub.

  1. Jeremy Branham

    What a great experience! Like you, I would take my time picking my first beer in a pub. Great that the bartender was patient with you and that you got to meet people from all walks of life. Only thing that would have added to the evening would have been a football match! 🙂

    1. Matt

      Ah, yes that would have been great. I’m sure it will happen before I leave town.

  2. Barbara

    I remember having trouble choosing my first drink in a London pub because the names were so outrageous. I think I ordered a Speckled Hen. And didn’t like it! Hahaha!

    1. Matt

      Haha yes some of them are quite interesting. Old Speckled Hen is definitely not one of the top offerings.

  3. Lisa

    What a great post! I love pubs and I agree that the food, drinks and churches of a country really give you a great feel for the culture.

  4. Kelly

    Haha I can’t decide what’s more english… the drinking song or the friend telling them to shut the f&$k up! Love it!

    1. Matt

      haha, very true

  5. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    How fun! We haven’t visited a pub yet, but on Mondays there’s a CouchSurfing event in central London (I think) where folks play board games at a central pub. I don’t know that it will be quite the same as this, but I think we’ll give it a shot. 🙂

    1. Matt

      Ah we will still be out in the country (we’re visiting a friend for the weekend) so we will miss that. Then it is off to Belgium… We are finding ourselves quite busy.

  6. inka

    I agree with your choice of experiencing a foreign culture. I don’t drink alcohol but I can’t count the number of pubs I’ve visited up and down the country when I lived in the UK. Nowhere else do you ge tsuch a flavor of the British soul!!! And often the food is very good too. Next time try a ploughman’s lunch.

  7. The Travel Chica

    I still fondly remember my first experience with cask ales in London. So incredible! If I lived there, I would probably have a beer belly.

  8. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    Pubs are fantastic! What a great story this was. You sound like a kid in a candy shop – too many choices and can’t make their mind up 🙂

    I’m going to Bamberg Germany in 2 weeks and can’t wait to see how many of their breweries (9 total) I can get to!

    IMO, Natty and Bud shouldn’t be called beer!

  9. Frau Dietz

    Brilliant choice for a first pub – have spent many an evening in there! Boy do I miss the pub 🙁

    1. Matt

      It really is a great place isn’t it! I keep going back!

  10. calgary jeep

    Reading your post made me open my fridge to search for a bottle of beer. I love my beer too and would love to try the Market Porter pub on my next visit to London. Cheers!

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