Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ireland, Part 5: Drinks

You may have heard the Irish have a reputation for drinking. In some ways, this is accurate. There are thousands upon thousands of pubs nationwide—an inordinate number, really; only a nation that truly enjoys its beers and spirits could keep them all in business. Also, any taboo or guilt about drinking we may feel here in the US (specifically, the Bible Belt) is noticeably absent there.

On the other hand, we went out almost every night we were there. I witnessed exactly TWO drunk people all week*, and one of them was a snotty American broad. (You know the type—whiny as hell, talking way too loud in a know-it-all condescending tone, oblivious to how arrogant she sounds…the type of American that people like me feel compelled to apologize for). This means either the Irish mostly drink responsibly, or they have an superhuman ability to hold their liquor. I would lean toward the former, with no offense intended to anyone's liquor-holding ego.

*Admittedly, we weren’t out super late most of the week, but still…one would have seen far more drunken antics in the States in the time we spent in pubs.

They are quite proud of their homemade products. You may have heard of a beer called Guinness..did you know they make it in Ireland? True story.

One of the most impressive things we saw in Ireland was the Guinness Storehouse, a seven-story altar to all things stout. The atrium was designed to represent the world’s largest pint glass, and it’s located next door to the St. James Gate Brewery. This is the brewery where Arthur Guinness famously signed a 9,000 year lease in 1759. They have the actual lease on display:

After a trip through exhibits explaining Guinness' brewing process and history, you get to redeem your ticket stub for a free pint at the Gravity Bar. This is a glass-enclosed bar at the top of the structure, affording 360ยบ views of Dublin and its surroundings. You're only 7 floors up, but almost nothing in Dublin is taller than that. Here is Dublin disappearing into the Wicklow Mountains:

Our "perfect pints":

Guinness plays an important (albeit indirect) role in our adventures. My fiancee did not like beer at all until she tried a Guinness. This single flavor epiphany years ago has led to us seeking out all kinds of new beer, taking tours, talking to brewmasters...Guinness was her gateway beer. We thanked them:

EVERY pub in Ireland has Guinness on tap. Almost every pub has Carlsberg (Danish lager) and/or Budweiser on tap as well. Aside from that, you see a lot of Harp (lager) and Smithwicks (ale); both are Guinness products. Also, Bulmer's Cider, and even Coors Light (gack!) in a couple places.

The closer you are to Cork, the more likely you are to see Murphy's and Beamish, two other delicious Irish stouts. Both are brewed there, although...well, it's complicated. Murphy's is owned by Heineken, and Beamish is owned by Foster's, and Heineken just bought Foster's. Got it?

Beamish is good, but it's Murphy's and Guinness that I waver on. Asking me to pick my favorite depended on the day. Murphy's is a bit sweeter; Guinness is a bit drier. Both are a big ol' pint of yummy.

Oh--and a couple people asked me if they serve beer at a warmer temp over there. This is a myth. The beers were consistently cooler than cool, which is to say "ice cold".

Most pubs also had at least a dozen bottles of Irish whiskey turned upside-down in wall-mounted brackets for easy access and pouring. You've heard of the Jamesons and Bushmillses; we were quite happy with Paddy and Powers as well. The differences are rather subtle, and we don't purport to be whiskey aficionados, but they were quite enjoyable and most were actually less expensive than beer. We got a couple small bottles at the duty free shop on the way home.

All in all, I think the attitude toward drinking in Ireland is similar to my own. I firmly believe that a little alcohol is good for you in many ways: it alleviates stress, makes you happy, and strengthens social bonds. Now if I could just get rid of these shakes....


Anonymous said...

My name is Pete Maher and I am Publisher & Editor of Midwest Irish Focus, a newspaper for the Irish-American communities in Missouri and the surrounding states. I would like you to contact me at 573-893-1916 or Irish_Focus@att.net to discuss publishing your tales of your recent stay in Ireland as part of our "Adventures in Ireland" series.

Amy said...

I work with Trish, and she pointed me toward your blog when I told her I'm going to Ireland in the spring. Just wanted to tell you that you answered so many of the questions I had, and plenty I would have had eventually. Thanks for sharing the nitty-gritty. Oh, and if you learned any do's/don'ts about choosing B&Bs, I'd love to hear those, too.