Cask Ale, No Frills, and Plenty of Conversation: Reinventing the English Pub for the 21st Century


The pub, or public house, is a revered institution in the United Kingdom, outweighing and outlasting even the church as an everyday part of British life. Pubs are romanticized, sentimentalized, and politicized, a nexus for conversations about gentrification and culture, and a proxy for the very state of the nation.

The ideal English pub might be an ancient rural coaching inn out of a painting by Constable, or an urban gin palace dancing with warm light reflected in mirrors and polished wood. Either way, it will probably be at least a hundred years old. New pubs were built in the 20th century—some 5,000 so-called “improved public houses” between the world wars, and around 4,000 austere modernist structures in the era of post-war reconstruction—but they tend to be less well-loved than their predecessors, lacking their dark corners and coziness.

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