July 6, 2012

The Session #65 | To Pub Alone: That is the Question and the Answers.

Session Host Nathaniel Southwood of Booze, Beats and Bites asks the questions:
How do you feel about going to the pub alone? Do you feel it’s necessary to be around friends to spend time in a pub?
Yes, we have no Pubs.
Let's wade into this seemingly straight forward request and provide some context. Nathaniel hails from Norwich in the UK in a town where there is  "a church for every week of the year, and a pub for every day." 
This is a land where the Pub was born and its designation has much more meaning than it does in the US and in particular the desert Southwest.

Coincidentally (and also during the time that we're struggling with the definition of "Craft Beer"), some in the dead world of beer blogging are trying to wrap our heads around what a pub is and why we don't have them.  You should read Alworth's post as well as the companion piece, The Story of American Beer. The is much to agree and disagree about (as the comments of both reveal). The takeaway is that we have what we have because of history.

The UK pub experience is born from conditions that Charles Bamforth lays out so eloquently in, Beer Is Proof God Loves Us: Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing:
The folks lived in row upon row of small houses, all joined together in grey, damp blocks. Two rooms down and two up and a toilet a freezing trek away down the narrow back yard, with newspaper to clean oneself up and often no light to ensure a satisfactory result. Baths were taken in front of the coal fire in the living room, in a pecking order of father first, mother next, then the children. For those with coal-miner dads it was no treat to be the youngest offspring.
Was it then a wonder that the pub held appeal? Warm, cozy, buzzing with camaraderie and escape. (Emphasis mine.)

There are some other C's that we can draw a circle around for the UK pub experience besides Cozy &  Comaraderie:
Cask Ale
Chips & Cod

The Barfly. Tavern culture.
In the US, Puritanical roots, prohibition and the lager-beer mono-culture have made our establishments more about financial transactions and consumer expediency than Oldenburg's third place. (Our readers in their 20's should bear with me here, the pre-craft beer drinking experience was not what it is today.) Alworth alludes that the craft beer era has begun to move us away from the Bar and Tavern (dark places where drinking alone is conducive) to open craft beer breweries and taphouses. We can sub out Cask Ale for Craft Beer. Our Fish and Chips might be Fish Tacos. Our Pub proxies contain some of the C's but very rarely all of them. We have a ways to go, of course. The afternoon crowds at beer establishments are filled with iced tea drinkers and well... see Rule 2
It is not a crime to have beer at lunch.
Also, see above.

Where are our places of warm, cozy, buzzing with camaraderie and escape? If you're in Arizona. Hit the google and type in your area code and pub. Here's my search for my work address (Biltmore area). Do any of these places exude Bamforth's appealing pub? No. They do not.

OK, you pedantic bastard. What about drinking alone in your pseudo-pubs. Can you do that?
In Arizona, there are places to drink beer (sometimes cask), enjoy meals without being run off after you're finished, see familiar faces. Often I'll meet new people or beer reps or beer industry folk, chat with the owner or longtime staff (continuity). There is an enjoyment of the space itself. It's cozy and comfortable. I did this not an hour ago by myself at OHSO. I have deemed this place to be Arcadia's Beer Town Hall™. Jon Lane is one of Arizona's up-and-coming Publicans (as much as our "pub" scene allows). There are couches too and places to work if you wanted. Stretch out with a magazine of newspaper. They would not run you out after your meal is done and you beer glass is more empty than full. They would not kill you with over attention or fill you with water glass after water glass after water glass. (I know this trick, servers.)

In fact, I'd argue that it's almost essential that you go to these places by yourself on occasion. How else will you have the time to visit with strangers or eavesdrop? When else would you blurt out sports trivia or beer facts depending on the most recent nearby audible snippet? You are all there for the same reasons. You enjoy the fine beer and the chance to converse or silently feel connected to something outside of home or work. You may have the same or better beer at home and yet you'd rather be out and about. If you find a proper place, you are engaged and you are not alone.

Pubs in the valley? What's your take? I held off on naming them. I'd like to hear from you.


  1. Hollywood Alley. Fantastic place to get lost during the day.

  2. pub (pʌb)

    — n
    1. chiefly ( Brit ) Formal name: public house a building with a bar and one or more public rooms licensed for the sale and consumption of alcoholic drink, often also providing light meals

    2. A meeting place where people attempt to obtain advanced states of mental incompetence by the repeated consumption of fermented vegetables.

    3. Commonly used shorthand for "Public House". Pubs are non-membership bars serving all sorts of alcoholic beverages.

    4. pub/pəb/
    A tavern or bar.
    tavern - public house - saloon - bar - inn - alehouse

    YES. Yes we have pubs. LOTS of them.

  3. Ah yes. Urban Dictionary has it right. By these definitions, Applebees is a pub.

  4. That would be #3 and #4, sir. #1 is Merriam Webster. #2 is from Red Dwarf. Variety! Spice! Meet life!