Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A proper pub?

Boak and Bailey have a post today discussing "craft beer bars" and how you define them (I like their answer to the question: "If we turned up in your town and asked someone carrying a Pete Brown paperback under their arm for directions to the nearest craft beer bar, where would they send us?")

It got me thinking about how you define a proper pub, something that has of course been extensively 
discussed over the decades, most famously by George Orwell in The Moon Under Water. But for what it's worth, here's my checklist.

1. At least one, well-kept cask beer (don't care what style or who brewed it) which you can drink several pints of over an evening without getting too drunk or applying for an overdraft.

2. You can sit anywhere you want and drink, i.e. there are no reserved tables for dining.

3. Drinking is the main activity rather than watching sport on a big screen TV, listening to live music or comedy or having a meal.

4. Food is restricted to pub snacks:  pork pies, crisps, pork scratchings, nuts.

5. Even if there is a lot of passing trade, there is a core of regulars whenever you go in and who are looked after by an identifiable landlord/lady who runs the pub, rather than an ever changing roster of inexperienced staff.

6. Ideally, it is split into separate rooms with different functions: minimally, a lounge, vault and snug.

There are of course lots of pubs I go in which don't meet most, or even any, of those criteria, and I realise that more modern and chain pubs are less likely to fulfill them too, but I can think of several pubs I go to regularly in Manchester and Stockport which meet them all.


  1. I's say my local, the Guest House, in Southport comes very close to meeting your criteria. There are reasonably priced snacks at lunchtime only, and two (unamplifued) acoustic music nights a month, but you can escape to two other rooms and the drinking area by the bar if necessary.

  2. Generally in agreement with you there, but I think insisting on no food whatsoever, not even sandwiches, is being a bit strict. There are plenty of thoroughly "pubby" pubs that serve food - the key is not to allow it to dominate, and to avoid table reservations, place settings etc.

  3. Thanks for the mention. Though it winds up the Mr Logic types, we do think it's good to be able to talk about vague concepts such as 'proper pubs', 'decent pints', etc., like people do in real life all the time.

  4. Can't think who you mean... Actually I think most of the concepts we use are vague bundles of fuzzy notions* (and "proper pub" is quite a useful one). My problem with the C-word and its spawn is that it's several different vague bundles of fuzzy notions, some not grounded in anything but marketing-speak and perceived hipness.

    *See the pub. The pub has three rooms, maybe two, depends how you're counting. The pub doesn't serve food - well, it doesn't serve *hot* food, except maybe on special occasions. The pub has a landlady, although you don't tend to see her behind the bar, except sometimes. Conclusion: the pub is a proper pub.