I saw this article a couple of days ago, and it was strange, because the author was being attacked by the usual IPA-powered-cyber-know-nothings for not grasping the craft beer revolution, or some such nonsense.
Swift’s modest proposal, and all that.
Beer is crucial to the notion of a British pub, but it isn’t the real point here, although it’s worth noting that if there is any single aspect of a British pub which genuinely is elusive in the States, it’s the tradition of cask-conditioned ale. More on this another time, but it should suffice to say that excepting the proximity of like-minded small breweries, we lack the proper supply chain for it.
Galling — and true.
Another caveat: As the Belgians made clear a long time ago, there are Belgian ales, and there are Belgian-style ales; the former come from Belgium, and the latter from elsewhere in emulation of them.
Logically speaking, there cannot be British (or Irish) pubs in America. They can be British-style and Irish-style, which is why so far during the short life of the Pints & Union project, I’ve taken great pains to clarify that inspiration is being derived from British pubs.
We’re building a pub, not a Disney cookie cutter.
What Farrar addresses are American societal norms. He actually is hitting the center of the target, because of course mainstream American culture won’t ever grasp the timeless virtues of pub culture in the British sense. We’re too ephemeral and appearance-driven for this.
Fortunately, the American mainstream is mostly irrelevant in this context. My experience informs me that there is a niche for this sort of establishment, and in the end, a niche is nothing more or less than undervalued terrain for providing a specialized service and making a living from it — I won’t be gauche and use the term “market segment” or the like, which is verbal Viagra for business fetishists.
There’ll surely never be a British-style pub on every American corner, but precisely because this is true, there is plenty of niche demand for one on a random corner, every now and then.
Pints & Union will be located at 114 E. Market, at the corner of the street and an alley. Now we need only complete the beginning, and the hypothesis can be tested.
THIS IS WHY THE CLASSIC BRITISH PUB WON’T MAKE IT IN AMERICA, by Jesse Farrar (Vinepair)
I’ve recently been re-watching “The Cornetto Trilogy.” It’s a terrific series of farcical British genre spoofs from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. One thing I love about the series is the feeling that I’m getting a small taste of authentic British culture, a great deal of which comes from ubiquitous scenes set pieces anchored to a corner pub. In “Shaun of the Dead,” the neighborhood pub, The Winchester, functions almost like a character, and “The World’s End” — the 12th (!) pub on our heroes’ epic pub crawl — actually, literally, speaks. Clearly, Pegg and Frost are infatuated with pubs. In a 2013 Vulture interview, Frost says of recreational bar-hopping with Pegg, “We used to go every Sunday! We used to walk down into Camden at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday and spend the day. We’d mooch around and get Thai food and sit in a pub all day.”
That’s something you’re not likely to hear an American admit, and although it rarely needs to be said, it’s a concise example of what makes our culture so un-Continental. Whether it’s our history of temperance that’s shamed us out of being proud barflies, or the mere existence of the horrendous term “barflies,” the implication that a post-adolescent adult could spend “all day” in a bar borders on an a priori insult in American English. After all, who wants to spend more than a handful of daytime hours in a “dive,” a “club,” or a “bar & grille”? Even our crude imitation of British whistle-whetting culture, the “gastropub,” sounds more like something with a copay and a waiting room than it does a pleasant outing with friends, and what’s more, it rarely tastes better …