I’ve been drinking beer since I came of age.
There wasn’t anything better to do in the Italian village where I come from than hanging at the only supermarket in town, getting a four-pack, and smashing a few cans of it with friends. I have to admit it hasn’t changed much ever since – I’m still drinking beers, just with a different attitude.
Before having the decent selection available today, supermarkets offered a poor beer quality. I’m talking about a period before good beer was available, and the market was dominated by La Bière du Démon, Ceres Strong Ale and Tennent’s Super.
In 2005 it wasn’t even imaginable to find Trappist Ales like La Trappe, IPAs such as Brewdog Punk IPA or Pale Ales like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Not even refined Italian craft beers like Baladin, today in every restaurant of the peninsula.
I was smart enough not to consume all my savings on these shabby beers. I have always suffered from a mystical fascination for those nightly gathering places where pints and pints of multi-coloured beers were consumed in hectolitres.
In particular, in my seaside Tuscanian area, I had the opportunity to visit regularly celebrated spots in which you could breathe an authentic brewing culture, especially of Belgian or Irish inspiration.
In San Vincenzo (Li), Raffaele’s Green Apple has always been a meeting place for all beer lovers in the Livorno: elegant, well-stocked home, where knowledge and education come first: hat was the first pub I ever went to, and I also managed to work in it.
It was incredible to learn about the various styles and increase my skills as a bartender, waiter, and dealing with customers.
In the Italian cities, I lived later, and I always came across important public houses for their social contribution in the area in which they are located. Pubs were creating a possibility of bringing people together with their artistic projects, or only with their beer offerings.
Places like the Celtic Druid and the Mutenye in Bologna, the One-Eyed Jack and The Joshua Tree in Florence, the L’Orzo Bruno in Pisa and the Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa in Rome completely changed my life once I started to visit them regularly.
Of course, the perception of pubs in Italy is not as belonging to our culture, but rather as a meeting place and occasional refreshment. Even the Italian way of drinking is calm, curious, elegant and rarely exaggerated.
But at that time, I was also travelling often in the Netherlands, in Belgium, and in Germany. There, I had the pleasure to visit places that convinced me I should have pursued a career in the beer industry: A La Mort Subite and Poechenellekelder in Brussels, Café Rose Red and ‘t Poatersgat in Bruges, Proeflokaal Arendsnest and In de Wildeman in Amsterdam, Kulminator in Antwerpen and Eschenbräu in Berlin.
But all changed when my wife (at that time girlfriend) and I moved to England.
I still remember the feeling of loss the first time we entered The Baron of Hinckley, the Wetherspoons (before reopening in 2019 as New Baron of Hinckley) in that little town in the middle of Leicestershire. Although we liked beer and pubs elsewhere, we couldn’t figure out what to expect, understand what was on offer, what we could order, how we were supposed to order, and how to make the most of this experience.
I did not imagine that I would find myself daily working, attending and discovering the culture of British Public Houses in such a profound way.
Since 2013, I have worked in 4 different pubs of 4 other companies in our initial years in London, growing personally and professionally: The Metropolitan Bar in Baker Street, The Red Lion in Mayfair, the Brewhouse & Kitchen in Islington and the Mother Kelly’s Taproom in Bethnal Green. I then moved to beer shops and breweries, focusing on marketing and beer evaluation.
For anyone moving to the UK for any sort of experience (Brexit permitting), long or short, I
For anyone moving to the UK for any experience (Brexit permitting), long or short, I always recommend starting your adventure in a pub. Especially if you want to learn the language and the culture, I don’t think I could have grown my English so profoundly and quickly if I hadn’t spent 12 hours a day serving pints to polite strangers and funny regulars.
For a non-British, the English pub is challenging to digest, but understanding the pub culture means understanding the British culture in most facets. And pub culture could bring a lot of joy in life.
In Italy or Spain, a similar convivial character then the British pubs is to find in the spontaneity created years ago in Catholic churches’ spaces or in some city squares where traditions clashed with the voracious sociability of Mediterranean peoples.
The difference is that in the pubs of England, unlike the squares of Southern Europe, alcohol flows freely and the British are primarily gruff and reserved people.
The brewing tradition is vast, and people put pubs and beer at the centre of their social life.
If a pyramid of British priorities could be drawn, the conviviality of pubs would undoubtedly be one the most critical part, closer to career and family.
Beer (but also cider) here is essential in exercising that level of inhibition that British people desire to make themselves more malleable, open and carefree during business dinners, evening drinks and outings with friends.
Our ancient ancestors that were on to something when they settled down to ferment grain. Today we gather around industrial estates and waterholes in seatch of the perfect served pint of lager or ale. So it is certain we will keep producing beer in the future – it isn’t just clear in what sorts of places we will consume this liquid. Getting together to drink beer has a long-standing role in connecting cultures and building communities; it have help our societies and our world survive the challenges humanity will find on its path.
Pubs has been so far the main place, but challenges in the contemporary world may change this. Have a look at our Turning The Tide show to find out more about it: CLICK HERE
In the meantime, long life to pubs, long life to (good) beer.