A Pint Or A Flight? How To Order Craft Beer Like A Pro

Different Kinds of Pubs in England

Different kinds of pubs attract different kinds of crowds. If you know what sort of place you're about to wander into, you've got a head start on what to expect.

  • The city pub: Pubs in city centers attract people who work nearby. At key times during the day—lunch and right after work—they’ll probably be very crowded with groups of workmates unwinding from their jobs or meeting up with friends after work. Noisy and bustling, they are places where people gather to drink and have a laugh. Depending upon where they are, they may close when the last of the office workers head home or stay open for the busy times before and after shows and movies.
  • Theme pubs: A subsect of city pubs, rarely found outside of cities and bigger towns, theme pubs take the city pub to a unique crowd of guests. Goth pubs, jazz pubs, comedy pubs, rock pubs like The Cavern Pub in Liverpool (across the street from the Cavern Club made famous by the Beatles), can all be found in the local listings, magazines, or town websites. Name your special interest and there is probably a theme pub that caters to your crowd.
  • The country pub: The “heritage pub” that glows in all those tourist authority pictures really does exist, but what a pub looks like on the outside doesn’t necessarily match what you’ll find on the inside. Visitors looking for the warm glow of firelight and a cozy seventeenth-century interior could be disappointed by the presence of a one-armed bandit (called a fruit machine in the UK) and a microwave menu of packaged burgers and lurid orange fish and chips.
  • The destination pub: A subsect of the country pub, destination pubs are the sort of pubs people will travel for miles to visit (even plan a day out in the country for) because of the food, wonderful beer garden, character, or history.
  • The local pub: Local pubs are just that—very local. Often they aren’t the most welcoming of places for out-of-towners. As a visitor, don’t expect a friendly welcome unless you’ve been introduced by another local, and even then, everyone will be sizing you up to see if you deserve their attention. How can you tell if you’ve stumbled into a local pub? If conversation stops and everyone looks you over before turning back to their drinks, you’re in a local pub.
  • The freehouse: Nowadays, most pubs are tied to breweries through outright ownership or through various financial arrangements with the landlord or publican. This means they can only serve beers and other beverages made or distributed by the parent company. Freehouses are independent pubs that can serve whatever beers and drinks the landlord and the punters (paying customers) like. Though rarer, freehouses can still be found across the country. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is a big supporter of freehouses, and you can find them—along with tied pubs that offer a good selection of guest beers (like the Anchor in Walberswick)—in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
  • Chain: You’re likely to find chain pubs in big train stations, shopping malls, and town centers. Some have themes—like O’Neill’s Irish Pubs—and some are just gigantic eating and drinking mills, like Wetherspoons. They offer mass-market, standardized fare and, like anything mass produced, there are good ones and bad ones. One thing they don’t offer is real character.

So how do you choose? The easiest way is simply to walk in and see how you feel about it. If you find a pub uncomfortable or below par for any reason, find another. With more than 50,000 pubs in the UK, you're bound to find one nearby that suits you.

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Italy

“You can order a draf beer simply by saying ‘Grandirei una birra alla spina, per favore’ (grad-ee-RA-ee U-na beer-RAH AI-la SPI-na PER fa-VOR-ay): ‘I would like a beer.’”

Taster

Sometimes you just want to sample a beer before committing to a full glass.

For that reason, many taprooms will offer a taster size pour. These are typically 4oz or so and are just enough to see if you like it.

I have found that almost every taproom will allow a free sample of a beer as well. These are only 1-2oz but are enough to make a decision without opening your wallet.

Tip: Unless they offer, do not ask for a free sample of more than a few. One or two free samples should be enough to make a decision on what beer you want to order.

Brazil

“If craft beer is what you are seeking, you will want to go to a microcervejaria (ME-crow ser-VEH-ja-ree-AH), which means ‘microbrewery,’ and ask for uma cerveja, pro favor (OO-mah ser-VEH-ja, pohr faw-VOHR): ‘One beer, please.’”

Time to Get out There and Order

Just remember, you don’t need to know every bar term. Bartenders are happy to help you out, but hopefully, you feel more ready for your next outing. Check out #15 Bottoms Up by the Ride the Vibes podcast to learn more English and for more information on alcohol culture. Now, get out there and order a drink like a pro. 

Craving more food and drinks? Check out our blog on Strange Foods to Eat in East Asia.

A brief history of alcohol – Rod Phillips

Vocabulary 

1. craft beer (n.) 

Def. a specialty beer produced in limited quantities

Ex. The most popular craft beer in the world right now is the IPA (India Pale Ale). 

2. bartender (n.) 

Def. a person who serves drinks at a bar

Ex. That bartender always makes me strong drinks. 

3. pint (n.) 

Def. a pint pot or vessel

Ex. I had seven pints of beer last night. I am a little hungover. 

4. pitcher (n.) 

Def. a container for holding and pouring liquids that usually has a lip or spout and a handle

Ex. I can’t wait to share a pitcher with you guys tonight. 

5. flight (n.)

Def. a selection of alcoholic drinks (such as wines, beers, or whiskeys) for tasting as a group

Ex. This brewery offers a free flight of beer to all its customers. 

6. scotch (n.)

Def. whiskey distilled in Scotland especially from malted barley

Ex. Scotch is less sweet than bourbon or whiskey. 

7. shooter (n.) 

Def. a shot of hard liquor (such as whiskey or tequila) often diluted with something (such as soda)

Ex. She always orders shooters since shots are too strong for her. 

8. mitigate (v.)

Def. to cause to become less harsh

Ex. Drinking the chaser mitigated the flavor of the absinthe, which tasted disgusting. 

9. vermouth (n.) 

Def. a dry or sweet aperitif wine flavored with aromatic herbs and often used in mixed drinks

Ex. More vermouth makes the martini taste smoother and a bit less harsh. 

10. blend (n.) 

Def.  to combine or associate so that the separate constituents or the line of demarcation cannot be distinguished

Ex. Long Island iced teas contain a blend of three to five different kinds of alcohol. 

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Spain

“Once you’ve settled in at el pub, order a beer by saying ‘Me gustaría una botella de cerveza fría’ (may goosta-REE-a U-na bot-TAY-ya de serVAY-sa FREE-ya)—‘I would like a cold bottle of beer.’ An IPA here is prounced ‘EE-pa,” not “I-P-A.’”

Shots

Shots need little explanation. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion with a bunch of friends or just want to get some alcohol in you quickly, shots always get the job done. 

Shots

Shots are 100 percent alcohol. There are no non-alcoholic ingredients, so if you order a shot of tequila, you will just get tequila. Shots vary in size but they’re typically between one and two fluid ounces. 

Shooters

Shooters(7) differ from shots because they contain both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ingredients. Some of these shooters may include juice, soda, or even whipped cream. 

Chaser

Some people are firmly against chasers(8), but bars will usually offer you a chaser if you ask for one. If you drink a shot and it is too strong, you can go to your chaser, a second glass with something non-alcoholic to mitigate(8) the taste of the alcohol. Common chasers include cola, juice, and sometimes even water. 

Ex. Can I get a shot of Jager with a chaser please? 

Ex. Can I get a shot of Jager with some cola on the side please? 

Its About You

Don’t lose sight of the key words in that last quote: “something you’ll find palatable.” Drinking a beer is about you. So don’t ask the bartender what she likes, because that will likely be irrelevant. Servers who spend years working with beer can develop unique palates, and many will rave about beers that you find utterly undrinkable (mushroom sour, anyone?). Sarah, who works in the Finkel & Garf taproom, explained the matter with admirable efficiency: “I like really crazy sh*t!” You, on the other hand, may not.

France

“Once you arrive at the pub, order by saying “Une biere, s’il vous plait” (Oo-n BEE-yair, si voo play): “A beer please.” You’ll also need to pick a serving size. The two most common are une pinte (OON peent), a pint, and un demi (un de-MEE), a half pint.”

How to Find the Best Pubs

Word of mouth from people you trust and friends you've made in your travels is always a good way to find nice pubs. This is one case, though, where asking a local may not be such a good idea, as he or she may not want to share a favorite place with you. For a comprehensive listing of British pubs, try The Good Pub Guide or the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, both well established and popular guidebooks used by Brits and visitors alike.

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