Inn, tavern, public house, speakeasy, rathskeller, bar, roadhouse, canteen, saloon, pub…there are as many terms for the “bar” as there are for “cheers.” We don’t know exactly when the first alcoholic beverage (likely some form of beer) was served to a thirsty paying customer, but historical records do tell us approximately when this pivotal moment in time occurred. And it ties into a theory I have as to why many of us feel inexplicably at home when we enter such a place.
And who am I? Well, just call me Eli the Mad Beer Man. I’m an opinionated freelance writer who loves to drink great beer, travel to magnificent bars to drink great beer, learn the magnificent history of great beer…and spread the gospel about better beer. For you see, beer is more than just a tasty adult beverage made of hops, barley and a pantheon of other delicacies…it’s the elixir of the gods. When looked at properly–through beer goggles perhaps–it has quite literally changed the course of human history. As a self-proclaimed “professional drinker” I rant and rave about all things beer on Confessions of a Beer Geek. In this exclusive series for MOJO 135 I’ll reveal which beer bars you need to visit before you slip off your mortal coil and head for that “Last Call” in the sky. Let’s call it “The Beer Bucket List.”
A few months ago a movie called “The Bucket List” came out starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It was about two terminally ill men who made a list of things they wanted to do before they “kicked the bucket.” Well, this is my own personal (beer) bucket list if you will.
But tell me…do you know how the whole bar phenomena began? No? Let’s “hop” into the past for a quick history lesson.
People have been consuming alcohol since the dawn of time. Some 13,000 years ago the ancient Sumerians accidentally invented the fermentation process and thus created the very first beer. This liquid was so important to them that they worshipped Ninkasi, the Goddess of Brewing and Beer. Let’s jump ahead several millennia to the Roman Empire (around 2,500 years ago) and their amazing road system, which at one point covered nearly 54,000 miles. And where there are roads there are travelers. It didn’t take long for the entrepreneurial types to construct the first inns and taverns to give all those weary travelers safe lodging and much needed refreshment–for a price of course.
By the time Rome fell into ruin (about 1,500 years ago) the Saxons had created the alehouse. These alehouses, most of which sprouted from within private homes, soon turned into public gathering spots (eventually called “public houses” and ultimately shortened to “pub”) for the local townsfolk to discuss business, gossip and drink. At that time beer was much healthier than water because the brewing process filtered out the funk (like the Plague, human waste and disease, etc.).
As traveling and pilgrimages became the trendy thing to do, demand for lodging grew so great that folks began staying in monasteries — a place where the brewing process was refined, and many say perfected (but I’ll save that history lesson for another time). Over the centuries taverns, inns and hostels–all of which served alcohol–were as prevalent as Starbucks. It got so bad that in 965 A.D. King Edgar of England decreed that there was to be only one alehouse per village. That didn’t really work out so well, and by 1446 there was a unified group of innkeepers called the Hostellers of London. One thing led to another and now you can’t go a block without running into a place to rest your head–a place with a noisy room, a hard bed, and a “continental” breakfast. Ah, just like old times.
But I digress…that in a pint glass is how your favorite watering hole was born. As you can see we’ve all been drinking together for a very long time. It’s even fair to say we’re genetically predisposed to tying one on. So the next time you walk into a bar and get a warm, fuzzy feeling it may not just be the booze talking… it’s an ancient feeling of camaraderie.
So join me every Wednesday as we scour the globe looking for beer bars with serious mojo. While it may not be a place where everyone knows your name, someone may very well know the name of your long dead relative.
Submitted by: Eli - The Mad Beer Man