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 would have been the 58th birthday of Publican extraordinaire Ray Deter, who passed away tragically four summers ago after he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle in New York City. Ray was the owner of the d.b.a. beer bars in New York City (Manhattan and Brooklyn) and also New Orleans. He is most definitely missed by those of us who knew him. Please join me in raising a toast today to the memory of Ray Deter. Happy birthday Ray.
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.”
Today is the 36th birthday of Jeff Bell, whose alter ego was, until a few years ago, Stonch, one of England’s best bloggers. He had retired from blogging to concentrate on his new job as landlord of a London pub, The Gunmakers, in Clerkenwell, a village in the heart of London. I stopped by to meet Jeff on my way back from a trip to Burton-on-Trent a few years ago. And four years back, I saw Jeff several times during GBBF week. But last fall, the blogging started up again, a year or so ago he moved on from that pub, and instead is now the landlord of the Finborough Arms in Earl’s Court, next to the Finborough Theatre. I hope I’ll get a chance to visit his new place on my next trip to London. Join me in wishing Jeff a very happy birthday.
Jeff Bell, a.k.a. Stonch, at The Gunmakers Pub in central London.
Chris Black, who along with his brother, owns the Falling Rock, the best beer bar in Denver and HQ for beer people during GABF, turns 52 today. Chris is a great guy and one of a handful of early Publicans across the country doing things right when it came to beer, something that happily we’re seeing more of now. Join me in wishing Chris a very happy birthday.
Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing with Chris at the Celebrator’s 18th Anniversary Party.
Today in 1976, US Patent 3933282 A was issued, an invention of Frederick F. Stevens, Jr., and assigned to Hoff-Stevens, Inc., for his “Universal Tavern Unit for Keg Tapping Device.” Here’s the Abstract:
A universal tavern unit for a keg tapping device comprises a basic tavern unit for connection to a keg unit permanently or semi-permanently connected to a keg. The basic tavern unit is adapted to cooperate with the keg unit to provide inlet and outlet passageways which communicate with the interior of the keg for the introduction of gas under pressure into the keg and the discharge of beer or other liquid therefrom. The universal tavern unit further includes a pressure relief check valve adaptor assembly for connection to the basic tavern unit to adapt it to the requirements of an associated beer or liquid distribution system.
Today is the 41st birthday of Matt Bonney, formerly of Brouwer’s and Bottleworks, both in Seattle, Washington, and now proprietor of Toronado Seattle. Bonney’s one of my favorite people in the industry. You’d be hard-pressed to find a person more passionate about good beer. He also knows how to throw a party and is always a gracious host. He does still need some work on his Washoe playing, but I’ll let that slide. Join me in wishing Bonney a very happy birthday.
But pub landlord Steve Bowen may be my new favorite bartender.
Apparently in Great Britain it’s a common occurrence for people who don’t regularly drink in pubs to visit them over the holidays. I suspect it’s much like every Irish-themed pub fills up each St. Patrick’s Day here in America, or is similar to people who attend church only twice a year, on Easter and Christmas. Essentially, such people are not regulars and often are unaware of the proper protocols or etiquette that more seasoned pub-goers follow. Five years ago, I did a similar list about my Top 10 Festival Pet Peeves about the same phenomenon at beer festivals.
Earlier this month, Bowen posted his tongue-in-cheek “Rules” for proper pub behavior over the holidays. It’s hilarious. Perhaps even funnier is how many people missed the point and complained about the list, meaning they’re most likely the people he was talking about, so definitely take a look at the comments, too. Below is his rules for the seasonal drinker. Enjoy.
XMAS AT THE STOKE INN, PLYMOUTH
It’s that festive time of year when decent, honest boozers are plagued by non-drinkers. And not real non-drinkers, not people who don’t ever drink, they’re fine. We’re talking about people who don’t go near a pub for 11 months out of the year, the kind of awful human beings who buy their beer from supermarkets with the weekly shop, people who consume such a laughable quantity of alcohol that they can only be designated as “non-drinkers”.
Whether it’s the Christmas Work’s Do or a Festive Drink With Friends, you are ruining pubs for the rest of us. Everyone hates you. Every actual drinker in the pub hates you and all the serving staff hate you. You’re awful. Here’s a guide on how to not be quite so awful
DO NOT APPROACH THE BAR UNTIL YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
• The bar is an intricate machine full of separate-yet-interconnecting cogs. It is NOT the place to think or choose or decide. The engine only works if everyone knows their place and performs their function. Do you hear that collective groan as you ask the Bartender if they’ve got Cranberry Juice? Or as you turn around to ask Barbara what she wants to drink? That groan is you single-handedly sucking life away from your fellow drinkers. Make a decision first, then go to the bar and order what you’ve selected. Just like ANY OTHER FORM OF COMMERCE!
DON’T START DRINKING AT 4PM
• You’re NOT a drinker. We haven’t seen you all year. You’re an amateur, so don’t start out with a Marathon. You can’t just rock up to the Premier League one day saying “I’m Match Fit, lads!” This is why you’re puking and crying before nine o’clock at night.
YOU ARE IN A ROUND
• I don’t care who you’re with, how many of you there are or how well you know them. You are in a Round with all the people you came in with. That’s how it works. You see those twenty-five loud, burly, drunken Rugby Players on the other side of the pub? They are a pleasure to serve compared to you. They order eight pints of lager, eight pints of Guiness, six pints of bitter and three Jack Daniels, then they pay the bill in one fell swoop. Your group orders ten drinks one-at-a-time and then pays for them all one-at-a-time as the rest of pub creeps closer to Death’s eternal grasp waiting for you to finish, despite the fact nine of you are drinking the same fucking drink and the last person, THE LAST PERSON, wants a Guiness putting on. Every single person waiting to get served wants your group to die in a complicated house fire.
KNOW WHERE YOU ARE
• Look around you. What kind of drinking establishment are you in? Is it a pub or a bar? If there’s 85 lads watching football on the telly, stop trying to be a drunk, flirty attention-whore because it won’t work. If the walls are cluttered with offers of 6 Shots Of Neon Sourz For A Fiver, don’t try asking for that Single Malt whiskey you memorized from Mad Men. Equally, if it’s a pub adorned with wood furnishings and hand-pulls, stop trying to get the Landlord to make that shitty cocktail you saw on Sex And The City
HOT GIRLS GET SERVED FIRST
• Welcome to Western Civilization.
• Okay, the music isn’t great. It’s nothing to write home about. But it’s been specifically selected to offend the least amount of people. It’s background music. If you want anything else, then you want to be at a club or a gig. If, however, you’ve decided to“do the pub a favour” by blaring out a playlist from your iPhone, then you are a twat. A prize, prize twat. Other expletives come to mind. Likewise don’t get offended if the barman politely gives you a pound and rejects all six Abba songs you paid for.
• Newsflash: You are NOT next. You might have been in the bar queue longer than anybody else, but that doesn’t mean you’re next. Do you know why? Because there are no “Official Rules Of Queueing At The Bar.” The Bartender is 100% in charge of who is next. So do not piss them off. Yes, they can see you. You do not need to bang your change on the top of the bar. You do not need to wave your money around in the air, as if you’re the only person in the room with a tenner (unless it’s a Strip Club). You especially do not need to click your fingers like a Parisian Cafe prick or whistle like a Shepherd herding his flock. These tactics will only achieve one outcome: no matter how long you’ve been waiting up until this point, you’ve just moved yourself to the back of the queue.
• If an old bloke sat at the bar gets served before you do, and the Bartender knows him by name and even seems to know what he’s drinking before he orders it, just shut the fuck up. That’s Bob. Bob drinks here all the time. Bob drinks here five times a week, every week. Bob’s custom pays the bills. Bob and the other Regulars keep the pub open eleven months of the year whilst you’re having dinner parties and bulk-buying booze from the supermarket. Yes, they get preferential treatment. Accept it and shut the fuck up.
TIME IS TIME (sometimes)
• Pubs don’t stop serving because they hate you (that’s a lie, sometimes they do) or because it’s funny or because they get bored of selling beer. It’s a legal requirement for them to stop serving at a designated time. Once Time is called, they are legally unable to sell anymore beer. You cannot cajole them into selling more, because it’s a legal requirement. You cannot bribe them into selling more, either with the promise of drinks or money, because it’s a legal requirement. You cannot reason or argue them into selling more, because it’s a legal fucking requirement. “Who’s gonna know? There’s nobody around, I won’t tell anyone.” THAT’S HOW THE HOLOCAUST STARTED!
See you in twelve months, you fucking pricks.
I think the Stoke Inn is my new favorite pub. Happy Holidays.
Today is the birthday of the late Alan Eames, one of the first Americans who wrote extensively about beer, especially in a serious way, mining history and culture for his topics. I never met Alan, though I talked to him on the phone a few times. When he passed away a few years ago, my friend Pete Slosberg bought his library, and donated much of it to the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado, for their library. When Pete and his wife moved to San Francisco, he gave me several boxes from the library, mostly old newsletters, press releases and other miscellaneous stuff, including the poem below.
By coincidence, today is also the day when many people celebrate the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s birthday around 384 B.C.E. Nobody’s sure of the exact date that Aristotle was born, and I’m not even sure why today is used by so many sources, but it’s as good a day as any, I suppose. Anyway, I was browsing through boxes of Alan’s papers and found a Xeroxed copy of a 17th century poem from one of Eames’ books, “A Beer Drinker’s Companion,” from 1986, which also mentions Aristotle. The author is unknown, but it seemed appropriate because of the connection between Alan Eames and Aristotle and their mutual birthday today. Enjoy.
Beer and Women
While I’m at the tavern quaffing,
Well disposed for t’other quart,
Come’s my wife to spoil my laughing,
Telling me ’tis time to part:
Words I knew, were unavailing,
Yet I sternly answered, No!
‘Till from motives more prevailing,
Sitting down she treads my toe:
Such kind tokens to my thinking,
Most emphatically prove
That the joys that flow from drinking,
Are averse to those of love.
Farewell friends and t’other bottle,
Since I can no longer stay,
Love more learn’d than Aristotle,
Has, to move me, found the way.