The Origin of Gastropubs
Bars and drinking establishments have long been centered on the activity of drinking beer and consuming snacks. But these establishments, no matter where they are in the world, have traditionally focused on the beer and served food as an afterthought: An often unappealing, unappetizing afterthought.
Along with the microbrewery revolution of the 1980s in North America, establishments turned this traditional model on its head, focusing instead on delivering top-quality, often innovative cuisine. These institutions began to pop up and reorient the craft beer consumer toward expecting better fare to go along with their ales, while simultaneously introducing adventurous diners to the world of good quality lager and ale. And these establishments came to be called Gastropubs.
The First Gastropubs
Following the deregulation of the brewing industry in the Canadian province of British Columbia, brewery and brewpub construction went through a boom period. Among the many new breweries and brewpubs opening their doors in towns and cities throughout the region was Spinnakers Brew Pub of Victoria, B.C. Spinnakers opened in 1984 with a menu that featured innovative items and a level of cooking previously unknown at taverns and bars in the area. It is widely credited as being the first Gastropub in the world.
During the 1990s the concept of the Gastropub followed the craft brewing revolution as it spread throughout North America from its inception in the Pacific Northwest. These days, it is very uncommon to find a major metropolitan area in the United States or Canada without a Gastropub, whether self-identified that way or not. Additionally, there are now Gastropubs in many European cities and towns both within and outside of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The History of the Term “Gastropub”
Though the Canadians may have a lock on the claim of being “first country with a Gastropub” the term “Gastropub” actually originates in the United Kingdom. In 1991, two enterprising restaurant workers that couldn’t afford to open a fine dining spot of their own, purchased the lease of a faded pub in Clerkenwell called, The Eagle.
They repainted and reopened with a menu featuring a quality of food that hadn’t been seen inside an English pub in the entire history of that nation, and subsequently spawned a great range of imitators and fans. Early reviewers coined the term “Gastropub” to describe the dedication to gastronomy they found at The Eagle. In 2012, the word was added to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary.
Though there have been a great many restaurants, beer halls and other restaurants and drinking establishments that have provided quality fare for consumption alongside drinks of all kinds, the Gastropub has managed to elevate the humble tavern to a new level of dining excellence that allows for great dining while enjoying beer in an unpretentious environment.