A reader writes:
Unfortunately, the pub culture in the UK is changing, and has been for years.
Pubs have been closing at an alarming rate all over the UK. Companies that own pubs were expected to be good investments during the recession as people gave up on more expensive forms of entertainment, but in fact pubs did terribly. There are still plenty of pubs and plenty of people going to them, but the old corner-pub-as-social-center model seems to be breaking down.
Americans often fail to realize that many "traditional" pubs in England are owned by larger firms (I'm looking at you, Youngs) and resemble franchise restaurants (Applebees, Chilis) here in the US. They may feel like a corner pub to the unfamiliar, but when you live in England and start to see the same black and white photos of the same "founders", you catch on to the gig.
I spent some time in Oxford and fell in love with the pub culture there. Back in the States, I had difficulty finding good pubs and good pints. You have to leave the major elite metro cities and head to the second tier cities to find the American pub. Atlanta, Boston, and Minneapolis have great pub cultures. Out west, Portland and San Fransisco are good too. I'd imagine Denver, Colorado has many pubs but I don't have any experience there. From there, head to smaller cities. (Ft. Collins, CO.; Athens, GA.) America has corner pubs, but they're not on every corner.
(A good rule of thumb is to look for pubs that specialize in Craft Beer or high gravity Belgian style beers. These are rarely part of the big distribution networks where the distributors demand a certain atmosphere to help sales.)
Europe is Americanizing, especially in Britain and Ireland as people move into far suburbs, commute further by car, and buy bigger houses. This has deeply hurt their pub culture. I wonder if the economic crisis will end the decline of pub culture. It'd be a small silver lining in a dark time.
(Photo: Carl de SouzaA/AFP/Getty Images)