With my 21st birthday having recently passed, I thought this would be an appropriate topic to write about (for my non-U.S. readers out there who may not know this, the legal drinking age in America is twenty-one, not eighteen - I had several students from China and Hong Kong ask me if this was a myth. I assured them that it was quite true and they were completely shocked).
So I've talked a bit about alcohol and pubs throughout this blog, but I've never really gone too much into depth. You can imagine that, as a twenty-year old American with no bar or alcohol-ordering experience and little to no English brand familiarity, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the choices in an English pub. After getting the run-down on the types of alcohol available I set myself these rules:
1) If it's something you recognise and can easily order in the States, don't bother ordering it here
2) Conversely, if it's something you can only really get in the UK, go for it!
3) If you're with a large group, gauge interest and get a pitcher (or several) of whatever it is you all agree on
4) If it's on draught, awesome!
5) If it's more than £3, either don't buy it or split it with someone
|Two of my fellow Fulbright friends and me at the Firehouse|
When I wasn't drinking in a large group, I generally ordered real ale for myself, which is naturally carbonated and served warm. I usually ordered the bitter ales on draught. Bitter ales, as the name implies, are bitter, but the kind I drank were much less bitter than Guinness or other dark stouts. I avoided Guinness because I knew I could always drink it in the States. Ales differ from brand to brand and pub to pub. No two ales I tried tasted or even looked alike, but they all were generally bitter. Ales are mostly served in pints or half pints. Unlike the U.S., a pint in England (sometimes called an imperial pint) equals about twenty ounces instead of the American sixteen. I usually ordered the half pint, since I didn't want to take a chance of ruining the next morning for myself.
|Upstairs at the Firehouse, drinking cider with friends|
My friends and I probably enjoyed drinking cider the most, as you can tell from our pictures. We would order pitchers of different flavoured ciders at the Old Firehouse, which included elderflower, strawberry, toffee, and cinnamon. Toffee and elderflower were the most popular. Toffee was sweet and tasted, as I may have mentioned before, how I always imagined butterbeer to taste in Harry Potter. Elderflower was milder and only slightly sweet.
"What about Pimm's?", you may be asking yourself now if you read my earlier post involving this lovely drink. The truth is, I never ordered Pimm's out at a pub. I always drank the free servings provided at social events since the stuff is damned expensive - about £8 or £9 for a pitcher (cider ran about £5 at the Old Firehouse). I already discussed Pimm's, but in case you may have forgotten, it's a summer gin-based drink with a mild fruit flavour than is often served with sliced up fruit floating on the top. I recently looked into getting Pimm's stateside and found that you can buy it in the U.S., but very few liquor stores sell it. Thankfully, I was able to find one that did on my 21st birthday and my family and my boyfriend and I enjoyed a Pimm's-filled evening.
Pimm's is generally mixed with lemon lime soda or gingerale (I prefer gingerale) and served over ice with a lemon wedge or a generous portion of mixed fruit - mostly citrus, but strawberries work too, as well as mint leaves. One and a half ounces is the recommended serving. I prefer one part Pimm's for every two parts soda. I found this to be roughly similar to what I had tasted in England and it also produced the characteristic iced tea colouring that had so confused me upon my first experience with the drink.
|The Sherlock Holmes pub|
Of course, pubs can get quite rowdy depending on the location, day of the week, time of night, and outcome of football (that's soccer for you Americans) or cricket matches (the Firehouse had a blanket ban on all football jerseys - I assume they've had quite some brawls in the past), but my friends and I had nothing but positive experiences on all our pub excursions.
Another reason I loved pubs was for their quizzes. I believe I mentioned this in a previous blog, but pub quizzes are a favorite tradition in the UK. A little under half of all pubs in the UK offer weekly pub quizzes, bringing the grand total to something to the tune of 22,445! That's a lot of quizzes! Source: http://dpquiz.co.uk/special-features/399-pub-quiz-statistics.html
|The famous Firehouse pizza!|
One thing I noticed during my stay was that drinking culture in the UK is quite different from that of the U.S., though please keep in mind that the following statements are generalisations and do not obviously hold true for everyone in either culture. My observations were that the English tend to drink more over an extended period of time while Americans tend to drink more (i.e. binge) over a short space of time (usually the weekend). In other words, the English are the marathon runners and the Americans are the sprinters of the drinking world. To me, drinking in England seemed to be more tightly bound with socialising with other people than in America, though it definitely plays that role here as well. As in the U.S., people in the UK are concerned about drunk driving. Possible penalties for driving whilst drunk include fines, imprisonment, rehab, and the suspension of one's license. If you are interested, more information about the drunk driving laws in the UK can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/drink-driving-penalties
|The interior of the Firehouse, first floor|
So, that about wraps it up. There will be one or two more posts before I retire this blog for good. Since my school schedule is already crazy and is only going to get crazier, I will ask you to kindly bear with me as I write the remaining post(s).
See you next time!