Today in 1889, US Patent 401406 A was issued, an invention of James Amasa Bigelow, for his “Construction Of Beer Engines.” There’s no Abstract, but the description states the following. “My invention relates to apparatus for drawing beer or other liquids from a receptacle in a cellar or adjacent store-room and delivering the same to other receptacles upon a bar counter; and its objects are to provide a simple and efficient apparatus of this character in which the beer or liquids may be cooled or warmed, as desired, and in which also several kinds of beer may be mixed before delivery, and which apparatus may be readily put in order by an unskilled person should any oi` its parts become disarranged during its operation.”
Several years ago, prompted by another website’s relatively poor attempt to create a list of the oldest bars in America, I took their list of ten apart and created my own list of America’s Oldest Bars. That original list in the intervening years has taken on a life of it’s own, and continues to be updated as new entries are discovered by people all over the country. The current list of The Oldest Bars In America is now on a separate page and has 122 American bars on the list, all dating from before 1900, which became my arbitrary cut-off date.
- Sean’s Bar; Athlone, Ireland (900 CE)
- The Bingley Arms; Bardsey, North Leeds, England (953 CE)
- Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem; Nottingham, England (1189 CE)
- Brazen Head; Dublin, Ireland (1198 CE)
- Ye Olde Man & Scythe; Bolton, England (1251 CE)
This time around, I had no reason to disagree with the list, but having been working on an American version off and on for the last seven years did make me curious. So I figured I’d start doing a little research of my own and see what I might find. One thing I’m finding with my initial searches is that even more than with strictly American bars, is that how you define a bar is very important in determining whether it should be on the list. Go back far enough in history, and how we think of a bar changes quite a bit, with the earliest examples of what became known as bars being inns or taverns along well-traveled trade routes. Some were monasteries where people stopped on their journeys, and others might have been simply common gathering places. Many more may not have started as bars, and some even were things totally different from anything to do with serving alcohol, such as private homes, or buildings housing completely different businesses, even for a time. Still others had the original building destroyed and rebuilt, in some cases multiple times. Should they still be on this list? Is being a bar consistently the entire time a requirement, or should it be? Some started as bars, were converted to other uses, only to be bars again in the present.
Another problem is that record-keeping was nearly non-existent when you go back far enough, and even what records do exist are not exactly persuasive. Suffice it to say there are massive problems in compiling such a list, because no matter what is listed, some one could easily take issue with it, depending on how they decide to look at it, or define what is a bar. Is it a bar, pub (public house), ale house, beer house, inn, tavern, saloon, lounge, canteen, rathskeller, watering hole or what have you?
So for now, at least, I’ve been very loose with what belongs, and what might not, just to get things started. While some think the Cave Bar in Jordan may be the oldest, it’s hard to know. Was it really always a bar? When it first started being a gathering place for people in the first century, would we think of that as a bar? And if not, when would we start considering it to be a bar, as it undoubtedly is today? I’ve tried to restrict the list to bars that opened before 1800, though for some countries where there are a lot even for those dates, I’ve only listed the oldest examples, or ones that were for other reasons I found interesting or controversial. Some are listed with newer dates only because those were the oldest I could find for that country, and I wanted to list one, at least eventually, for most nations. And obviously, I’m using where they’re located today, and not worrying about what their geographic area’s political affiliation was when they opened, just to keep such a complicated question a little bit simpler.
As before, if you know of any others that should be on this list, please do let me know by posting a comment or sending me an e-mail. Please understand that this is the beginning of a work in progress and try to keep the astonished “how could you have missed …” shock and admonishments to a minimum. I have just one rule: don’t be a dick. I know this is a hornet’s nest, but it’s meant to be fun. This is just the starting place. My American list has grown and been whittled down countless times in the seven years I’ve maintained it, so I expect this will be no different. Please, enjoy responsibly.
The Oldest Bars in the World
- Cave Bar; Wadi Musa, Petra, Jordan (c. 1st century BCE)
- Ye Olde Fighting Cocks; St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (c. 793 CE) [ Wikipedia ] [Note: A sign on the pub also states that the building was originally a monastery, then a Medieval Pigeon house, before being rebuilt in 1600 after the flood of 1599]
- St. Peter Stiftskeller; Salzburg, Austria (803 CE) [considered oldest restaurant in Europe]
- Sean’s Bar; Athlone, Ireland (900 CE)
- The Porch House; Stow-on-the-Wold, England (947 CE) [Note: Considered an Inn, rather than a bar]
- The Bingley Arms; Bardsey, North Leeds, England (953 CE; at least once source claims 905 CE)
- Zum Riesen; Miltenberg, Germany (est. c. 1150; other sources say 1314 or 1411) [ Wikipedia ]
- Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem; Nottingham, England (1189) [ Wikipedia ]
- Brazen Head; Dublin, Ireland (1198)
- La Reserve de Quasimodo; Paris, France (c. 1200s)
- Café Den Turk; Ghent, Belgium (1228)
- Ye Olde Salutation Inn; Nottingham, England (1240) [ Wikipedia ]
- Adam and Eve; Norwich, England (1241 or 1249)
- The Bear Inn; Oxford, England (1242)
- Ye Olde Man & Scythe; Bolton, England (1251) [ Wikipedia ]
- Piwnica Swidnicka; Wroclaw, Poland (1275)
- Bratwursthäusle Nürnberg; Nürnberg, Germany (1313)
- Brauhaus Sion; Cologne, Germany (1318)
- Kyteler’s Inn; Kilkenny, Ireland (1324)
- Haus zum Rüden Zürich; Zurich, Switzerland (1348)
- Zum Weinberg ; Wismar, Germany (1354)
- De Draak; Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands (c. 1397)
- Old Ferry Boat; Holywell, St. Ives, England (c. 1400)
- Zum Franziskaner; Stockholm, Sweden (1421)
- The Red Lion (f.k.a. Hopping Hall); Westminster, London, England (c. 1434; current pub dates to 1733, remodeled in 1896)
- Al Brindisi; Ferrara, Italy (1435)
- Zice Gastuz; Loce, Slovenia (1467)
- De Waag; Doesburg, The Netherlands (1478)
- U Fleku; Prague, Czech Republic (1499)
- The Nags Head; Burntwood, England (c. 16th century)
- Herberg Vlissinghe; Bruges, Belgium (1515)
- The Prospect of Whitby (f.k.a. the Devil’s Tavern); Wapping, London, England (1520)
- Sternbräu; Salzburg, Austria (1542)
- Ye Olde Mitre Tavern; Holborn, England (1546)
- The Mayflower; Rotherhithe Village, London, England (1550)
- Quinten Matsijs; Antwerp, Belgium (1565)
- Na Slamniku; Prague, Czech Republic (1570)
- The Grapes; Limehouse, London, England (1583)
- Spaniards Inn; Hampstead, London, England (1585)
- Hofbräuhaus; Munich, Germany (1589)
- Seven Stars; Holborn, London, England (1602; though more likely 1680)
- Café Karpershoek; Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1606)
- Hatchet Inn; Bristol, England (1606)
- Anchor Bankside; Southwark, London, England (c. 1665; rebuilt after fires in 1750 & 1876)
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese; London, England (1667)
- Ye Olde Watling; London, England (1668)
- El Rinconcillo; Seville, Spain (1670)
- Ye Olde Bell Tavern; London, England (1670)
- White Horse Tavern; Newport, Rhode Island, USA (1673)
- The George Inn; Southwark, London, England (1677)
- The Split Crow; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (1749) [Note: The bar has moved a couple of times & also changed names, so depending on definitions may not count as Canada’s oldest]
- Antico Caffe Greco; Rome, Italy (1760)
- L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel; Montreal, Quebec, Canada (1769)
- Lamb & Flag; Covent Garden, London, England (1772)
- Olde Angel Inn; Niagra-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (1789)
- Prince George Hotel; Kingston, Ontario, Canada (c. 1809; though more likely 1820)
- Mitre Tavern; Melbourne, Australia (1835)
- Kamiya Bar; Tokyo, Japan (1880) [billed as oldest Western-style bar]
- Bar Luiz; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1887)
- Hussong’s Cantina; Ensenada, Baja, Mexico (1892) [ Wikipedia ]
Then there’s the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which looks promising until you discover that it was originally a monastery, then was used as a Medieval Pigeon house, before being rebuilt in 1600 after being destroyed in the flood of 1599.
And while Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is probably not, as is claimed on the side of the building, “The Oldest Inn In England,” I love the way it looks. It just has the I’m-really-old look that you want in an ancient bar.
Today in 1926, US Patent 1578627 A was issued, an invention of John C. Baumgarten, for his “Bottle Opener.” There’s no Abstract, but the description states that the “invention relates to bottle capping implements.” It’s essentially a ring with bottle opener. I always thought those were a pretty recent invention, but this is from 1926. Here’s how it’s explained:
Since bottles containing soda water, and the like, are generally closed by crimped on caps a special implement must be used for removing these caps. There are two types of these implements generally used. One of these is a device which is applied by hand. Since this device is readily laid down in one place, when required in another, it is not always handy during the rush of customers. The other type is a device located at some station to which the bottle must be taken, and hence unless several of this type of device be installed it would necessitate considerable running back and forth.
So the object of my invention is to provide a simple, inexpensive implement to pry off said caps, and its construct such implement in the form of a ring which may be carried about for instant use. A further object of my invention is so to construct my implement so that it will not impose undue strain on; or tend to bruise the finger in removing said caps.
Today in 1953, US Patent 2631393 A was issued, an invention of Lionel S Hetherington, for his “Illuminated Tap.” There’s no Abstract, but in the description it states that the “invention relates to illuminated taps and more particularly to an electrically illuminated tap adapted to be used as an advertising device..” In addition, “one object of this invention is to advertise the beverage available on draught at the tap” and “Another object is to visibly indicate the specific beverage to be drawn from a specific tap.”
My good friend Tom Peters, one of the owners of Monk’s Cafe and Belgian Beer Emporium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, turns 60 today. His enthusiasm for and promotion of Belgian beer has few equals. And he throws perhaps the best late night parties of anyone I’ve ever known. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.
Tom Peters, with Rob Tod from Allagash in Portland, Maine, at GABF.
I’m thrilled to announce that Melissa Myers’ new beer bar in Oakland, The Good Hop, will have its grand opening this Saturday, July 12, with the doors opening at the mercifully not-to-early time of 3:00 PM. The Good Hop is located at 2421 Telegraph Avenue in West Oakland, near the intersection of 24th Street, just around the corner from the New Parkway Theater. I won’t even try to be impartial here, Melissa Myers is a longtime friend of mine, and I’m excited for her to finally realize a dream of opening her own place. She’s been a brewer for many years, from Denver to Philadelphia and in the Bay Area brewed at Magnolia, Pyramid and the old Ross Brewery (which is now Iron Springs) but now turns her attention to choosing and serving great beer. Eventually, The Good Hop may serve Melissa’s own beer (fingers crossed), but for now they’ll be featuring a nicely curated tap list of 16 taps, with 2 dedicated sour beer lines, plus 450+ bottled beers. At the grand opening, they plan to have a number of rare and hard-to-find beers available, as well as some special surprises.
Here’s more information, from the press release:
The Good Hop Bottle Shop and Tasting Room (TGH) is pleased to announce it is opening its doors to the public on July 12, 2014. The 1,900-square-foot shop, at 2421 Telegraph Avenue Suite 102, is a specialty beer bottle shop and tasting room offering 450+ bottled and canned beers that can be purchased for take-away or can be opened and consumed on site in the spacious and comfortable bar. Their ever-rotating 16 taps will serve up California and West Coast craft beers with 2 designated sour beer lines at all times.
TGH will have an enormous beer selection in bottles, cans, and on tap that would please any aficionado; though, Melissa Myers, The Good Hop’s owner and proprietor, wants to draw in the less familiar to beer client as well. “I love beer and I love making people fall in love with beer. Part of my mission in opening this shop is to serve the customer who walks in and says ‘Well, I don’t know that much about beer, so I’m not sure what I should order…’ That’s where it gets fun for us. I love asking them questions and, based on their answers, figuring what they’ll fall in love with!”
TGH will host a number of events for both beginners and experts alike. The shop will host beer style tastings, vertical brewery tastings, meet-the-brewer nights, cheese-and-beer pairing events, chocolate-and-beer pairing events, and a number of other activities that feature beer as the centerpiece. The TGH website, www.thegoodhop.com, will have a calendar of events posted. Its twitter feed will have daily listings of what 16 beers are on tap for the day. TGH’s Facebook page contains additional information.
Myers is excited about the neighborhood: “We chose this spot because it’s right in the heart of what’s happening in Oakland right now,” says Myers. “We love the KONO [Koreatown-Northgate] neighborhood and we’re thrilled to be part of Art Murmur, First Fridays, and the vibrancy of this area. So much is happening here right now, and we’re really excited to be in the middle of it.”
The regular hours of the Good Hop will be from 3-10 PM Wednesday through Monday of each week, closed only on Tuesdays. Bar snacks are currently available while the local menu is being finalized, and then they’ll be serving heartier fare along with the snacks. They’ll be working with “Off the Grid and other pop-up food vendors to offer a variety of beer-friendly food. Food trucks are also being lined up to serve up beer-friendly bites.”
Here’s an interesting historical artifact. It’s a trade catalog for bars and restaurants from a company in New York, the L & M Goldsticker company, which published an “illustrated catalogue” of “bar room glassware and bottlers supplies” in 1892.
Here’s the cover of the 80-page catalog:
And the back cover shows the brick and mortar store on Fulton Street in New York City.
They carried a surprising array of beer glasses for the discerning bar, including some for specific types of beer, along with a number of other accessories and equipment. You can see the entire catalogue online at the Hagley Digital Archives. Below is a majority of the pages with beer glasses on them.
There was an interesting little item in this month’s issue of Playboy, in the Raw Data section, that mentioned a “study of behaviors that get you served first in a crowded bar.” They found “that people standing square to the bar were served within 35 seconds 95% of the time.” Anyone have a read on how accurate that is, or whether you’ve noticed that it works? They also claimed that “eye contact was essential 86% of the time,” which makes some intuitive sense, at least.
Sierra Nevada earlier this year announced they’d be opening in taproom in Berkeley. The new taproom, to be called “The Torpedo Room,” is apparently on track to open this November.
From the press release:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is targeting early November to open its Berkeley, Calif., space, coined the Torpedo Room. The intimate venue—whose name is inspired by the brewery’s innovative dry-hopping device, the Hop Torpedo—fits into a mixed-use building on Fourth Street between University Avenue and Addison Street. The Torpedo Room can host approximately 45 craft beer drinkers for educational tastings of unique and limited Sierra Nevada beers, as well as the occasional craft-centric event dedicated to beer science.
“Our brewers develop creative, flavorful beers at an impressive pace,” said Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s founder. “They’re usually small batches, and it’s those beers folks will find in the Torpedo Room. We think it’s exciting—using rare offerings to showcase who we are and to talk about the science behind our beers. We really hope visitors take part in the dialogue.”
The Torpedo Room will feature 16 taps, and draught beer will be served in taster flights. Guests will also have the option of filling growlers to go, as well as purchasing six-packs, cases and individual specialty bottles. Light snacks will accompany beer flights, but there is not a full menu.
“West Berkeley fosters a great, progressive culture,” Grossman said, “and that includes a lot of ambitious food and drink. We’re eager to be part of the Bay Area craft scene while still staying close to our home base in Chico.”
Here’s what the building looks like now.
And these are artist’s renderings of what it will look like when the build-out is complete, from the outside.
And here’s what the interior is expected to look like.
CraftBeer.com, the consumer website for the Brewers Association released today the results of an online poll that took place in the last half of August. Here’s how they arrived at the 2013 Great American Beer Bar Selected by CraftBeer.com Readers. “CraftBeer.com asked readers to nominate their favorite craft beer bars in the country, and received over 5,000 nominations, a 117 percent increase from last year. The choices were then narrowed down to the 10 most nominated bars in each of the five regions of the country. Over 37,000 votes were cast in total, a 23 percent increase from last year, resulting in the top three overall and regional winners. Voting was conducted from August 19 until August 30.” I’ve never been to any of the top three, so I guess I’ve got some travel plans to make.
The overall winners were roughly on the eastern half of the country.
The Pacific (west coast) winners are as follows:
- The Bier Stein, Eugene, OR
- Toronado, San Francisco, CA
- Prospectors Historic Pizzeria & Alehouse, Denali National Park, AK
Great to see the Toronado making the list.