How to order a beer in Scotland!
Isn’t it funny how the most mundane activities can seem totally overwhelming when you’re in a different country? Take ordering a beer, for instance. Wherever you live, it’s a pretty simple activity, but when you’re in a country like Scotland, where pub culture is a way of life, it can become really intimidating. Fear not, though! You are not alone as you’ll see from this question on Trippy.com:
Can someone from Scotland give me some pointers on how to order a drink in a Scottish pub? I would like to sample different local ales and lagers while in Scotland next summer, but I don't want to look like an idiot when I order at the bar. With all the differences from Canada (stout, bitter, halfs, pints, 60/-, 70/-, etc., etc) I don't know what to ask for and I'm afraid I'll chicken out and go with the easy "half a lager" or "a pint of bitter". If a Scot were visiting a pub away from home (still in Scotland) what would be the proper etiquette for ordering something good and local without dithering at the bar or looking a fool? I have to confess, stupid as it sounds, I don't want to look like a total tourist, even if that's what I am.
Types of Beers in Scotland
For starters, here are some of the different types of beers you should know:
- Real beers
- Bitters (amber coloured and slight bitter taste)
- Milds (darker colour and sweeter taste)
- Dark beers
That said, a stout can be a real ale and some dark beers can be “milds” or “porters” and a light beer can be a lager and a dark beer can be a heavy. Also, some lagers can be real beers as well.
Got that? Great! Now...
How to Order a Beer in Scotland
So, when you arrive at say, The Sheep Heide Inn in Edinburgh or The Stein Inn on the Isle of Skye, go right up to the barkeep (who, according to our members will most likely be named “Jimmy,”) and have a look at what he has on tap. While you’re at it, ask what bottled beers they have as well. Trust us, this won’t make you look like an outsider as this Trippy member assures us:
“Just go to the bar and ask what local draught or bottled beers they have. You won't look an idiot...it's what anyone in the UK does if they aren't familiar with the area, especially now it is so very common for pubs and bars to have 'guest' beers for a short period of time. The bar staff will tell you about the beers they have available.”
How to Tell the Alcohol Percentage in Scottish Beers
And by the way, if you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption, the percentages will be right on the tap. If you have a low tolerance level, you might want to steer clear of ales as they can have a 6%+ alcohol level.
How to Decide Which Beer to Have in Scotland
If you’re not sure what you want, ask for a sip! As one Trippy.com member points out:
“no barman has ever turned me down or laughed at me for doing so.”
If you want to really play it safe, go for one of the more common labels like Fosters, Heineken, Kronenburg, or Carling. More in the mood for a local brand? Try Tennants or McEwans and be sure to pay with Scottish currency, not British notes (although they’re really the same thing—the Scottish money is just printed in Scotland!).
Also, keep in mind, if the goal is to blend in like a local, that’s not going to happen anyway so you might as well just give that idea up.
“The moment you open your mouth people will know you are a visitor (and they may well know beforehand, simply from the way you are dressed or the way you look). But no-one will care, so don't worry about it.”
Now, if all of that is too confusing, this Trippy member has put together some simple steps to follow:
“ . . . simply demand upon arrival at the bar, "Giesa pint". You will immediately be taken for a local and served a glass of the most popular refreshment. Place a SCOTTISH £10 note on the bar - an English bank note will immediately generate suspicion - do not pick up the change. When your glass is empty follow up with "haw Jimmy" - (all Scottish bar men are called Jimmy) "Giesa hauff". Your anonymity is assured and the change from the Scottish £10 will cover the costs. Later when challenged by barman with "’Nother?" Simply shake your head and leave!! But remember to pick up the change as leaving a tip would blow your cover. Go the next pub (it will be next door) and repeat the routine!’
Cheers (or Air do shlàinte!) and let us know how it goes!