Taverns as defined as a 'commercial establishment in the business of selling alcohol'.

I'm aware that taverns existed in some parts of Europe during the late medieval period, but I don't know quite how far back they go, or if they existed for the entirety of the medieval era how common they were across Europe through the centuries.

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    Are you including or excluding inns? While they were primarily in the business of providing short-term accomodation most would have also provided liquid refreshment for their patrons.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 17:22
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    I suppose an answer can include or exclude Inns, or deal with both separately.
    – Cdn_Dev
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 17:25
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    Considering the very poor quality of drinking water throughout most of Medieval Europe, I would suggest that every community, no matter how small, had a tavern within an hour's walk. Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 19:16
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    I'm not even sure that "commerce" and "business" are timely and explanatory categories here. Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 19:57
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    in the 11th and 12th centuries taverns were quite popular in large towns/cities. they were large establishment and served wine, sometime beer or ale. Inn's were fairly common in towns, as well as logical stops well traveled paths. most peasants, farmers, ect went to the tavern aka" a neighbor's house who brewed beer" to drink. villages usually did not have their own tavern but peoples houses with whom they would actively visit to drink at.
    – Himarm
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 23:01

2 Answers 2


The code of Hammurabi included laws regulating beer and beer parlours and it dates back to about 1754 BC, indicating that beer parlours and the commerce of beer were already common at that point. Taverns were also common in the Roman Empire.

However with the fall of the Western Roman Empire they seem to have somewhat faded into the background. Wine was too expensive for the lower classes, and with the lack of trade was unavailable in areas that couldn't grow grapes.

During the early Middle Ages, beer (cheap, available ingredients) brewing was mostly a domestic activity and produced for the family.

During the 13th-15th centuries it became a commercial activity, monasteries and pubs were brewing and selling in large quantities. This was made possible by the use of hops, which not only improved the taste but also acted as a natural preservative (long term storage/transport).


Until very recently beer was not sold in bottles or tins, but was tapped from a keg. This meant that if you wanted beer you either went to a tavern, or else you lived in a palace and had a lot of space and a lot of servants, or in a big monastery. In the middle ages beer would normally have been brewed locally, in the tavern itself, the estate or the monastery and left to ferment in a keg.

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