Where we all belong
Words by Jay Desai
“Beer, well respected and rightly consumed, can be a gift of God. It is one of his mysteries, which it was his delight to conceal and the glory of kings to search out. And men enjoy it to mark their days and celebrate their moments and stand with their brothers in the face of what life brings.”
- Stephen Mansfield, The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World
Locals often serve as centers of social interaction. They spend their days and nights building local economies, fanning the flames of sports, and linking people to build stronger communities. Going all the way back to gathering around the campfire, the locals are there.
What we know now as a local pub can be traced back to the Roman tradition of “resting posts” found throughout Europe in the 11th century. While the Roman Empire took its armies through the Celtic lands, its need for roads paved the way for merchants and settlers to set up shop alongside them. Taverns were established along trade routes for weary travelers to find rest for the night and to enjoy a hot meal alongside some ale.
Similar things began to happen in Europe, and eating and drinking together at the local resting post became a part of daily life. Most people in those days went to work, home, and the occasional religious establishment. These ale houses became a special space for people to gather and discuss politics, culture, religion, and home life. Some of these establishments were open 24 hours, with housing facilities so travelers could be refreshed and purchase goods for the journey ahead.
As time went on and the Roman Empire fell, Roman tabernae (taverns) remained. Many names were given to these establishments over time, such as inn, ale house, and hostel. One thing remained the same as names changed and cultures shifted—the establishment was at the center of local culture, becoming the third space people occupied.
Then came the Normans, the beloved group who introduced the taverns to wine and a varying assortment of spirits, giving people the option to choose their own beverage. These traditional outposts for travelers had become central to communities, giving the common man a place to belong.
As income levels spread further apart and more trades became common, some of these taverns rallied around a certain trade, political alignment, or activity, diving another level deeper in giving people a place to belong. “Public houses,” as they were called, could be found in all communities, building rapport within subgroups and giving everyone a clubhouse where they could play. So, by the time the year 1500 rolled around, pubs had become an integral part of daily life all over the world.
Tea houses—which have been said to have started a couple hundred years earlier, during the Tang Dynasty's Kaiyuan era, were common throughout Asia. Also, coffee houses were appearing as coffee was first grown in the late 1400s around Ethiopia, becoming a very common drink on the Arabian Peninsula.
Even to this day, these establishments have been not only the comfortable settings of discussions, but also the birthplace of much art and literature. Songs and poems echoed within these walls, passing on folk tales and traditional tunes. Even many hymns used the folk song melodies sung at pubs. Weddings were sealed here with celebrations, and funerals with wakes. War cries rallied men, theology was expanded, books were written, politics was debated, announcements were made, politicians were given a stage, and the list goes on and on.
I am not trying to convince you to find a pub, but more a local spot of any sort—since we are not wayward travelers on a conquest needing a hot meal and ale. My local coffee shop, Chrome Yellow, serves this purpose, and it’s not uncommon to find a lawyer, journalist, doctor, retired shoe salesman, or aquarium guide at the local tavern on my street sharing in some laughter and drink. My real local, Ticonderoga Club, along with many other establishments that could easily take second place, is like a real home for me—never turning me away and even pulling a chair up to the host stand when it was beyond full so I could still get my fix.
The Local is a place with no real boundaries of who can gather. All walks of life in one place—maybe to eat, maybe to drink, or maybe for us to just feel like we belong.