Imagine it's the Middle Ages and you are a spice merchant traveling through the green, wet lands of Ireland. You might just take time to stop into an Irish pub for a drink and a rest. Pubs — short for public houses — were places that did not require a membership to enter, unlike private houses. So while the rich had memberships to other establishments, pubs were frequented by the hard working lower classes.
The history of the Irish pub is steeped in culture and lore. In the Middle Ages, it was a rough-hewn place of natural wood furniture and stone walls. Pubs bore large fireplaces and hanging oil lamps over wood or cobblestone floors. In addition to ale, they usually sold essential food and hardware items. It was a warm, welcoming place where people socialized, sang, relaxed, told stories, and exchanged gossip and rumors.
In the 19th century under oppressive British rule, the Irish pub was deemed illegal. Under the aggressive, independent spirit of the Irish, pubs naturally flourished during this time. They became places where rebels gathered to complain of the Crown — some to release frustrations, others to coordinate underground rebellions.
The atmosphere and charm of the traditional drinking establishment remains popular today, so much so that they have been replicated all over the world. The Irish Pub Company in Dublin claims to have built authentic pubs in over 40 countries worldwide. The prospective client has a choice of one of five historical styles. Delaney's Irish pub in Hong Kong, The Kilkenny in Berlin, and Fado in Atlanta, Georgia, are just three examples. Certainly, though, company doesn't have exclusivity over creation of pubs, and regional personality is often reflected in the decor and style of the local pub. It has also been modernized in less-authentic form in chains like Hennessey's.
If you stop in to a local Irish pub for a wee nip and want the full effect, don't forget the Guinness. Originally brewed in Dublin, this famous dark Irish stout is a favorite of many worldwide. Just sit back, soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy some genuine Irish charm.