One fine Irish afternoon, sitting in a Kinsale pub, I asked the bartender if there are any local beers. “Oh, yes!” interrupted the fellow occupying the stool to my right. “Have a pint of Blacks,” he said. “I got properly pissed on it last night.” The bartender never had a chance to reply.
The Irish say “pissed.” The Brits say “potted.” We Americans, always a bit boorish, say “sh_tfaced.” Use any term you want, but here in Ireland everyone drinks beer. And plenty of it. Every bar has at least half a dozen taps, and every beer is ambrosial. I’m right at home in this country.
I had an ambivalent relationship with my expectations for Ireland. I was passionately hoping for time spent in a quiet Irish pub, drinking good Irish beer with a good Irish meal on my plate, while a quaint little Irish band would play quaint little Irish melodies in the corner. On the other hand, I knew a scenario like that was impossibly romantic and what I’d probably get was a soggy mélange of bangers and mash, lukewarm Guinness, and an amplified version of “Danny Boy” sung by Andrea Bocelli.
Guess what? That image wasn’t impossibly romantic at all. That very night, wet from Irish rain, we ventured into a random pub called The Fish House, took a table in front of the fire, ordered a pint of Black’s KPA, and settled in.
Before I could order a second pint, the band arrived: a mandolin, an Irish button accordion, and a spectacular bodhrán (Irish drum) player, who had us all clapping our hands and tapping our feet.
We left three and a half hours later, still tapping our feet…
…and a bit pissed.
The next night was warm and cloudless. (Have I told you that of the eleven days we’ve been in Ireland, ten of them have been sunny? The Irish are ecstatic.) Most of the pubs set up tables on the sidewalk (and in the street) to celebrate. We found a table at The Market Pub next to a couple of fine young Irish gents who were eyeing the birthday party of similarly-fine Irish lasses a few tables away. Conversation ensued. More KPA was ordered. The night went on (it doesn’t get dark here until about 10:00). The boys may not have gone home alone…
…and I believe I got a bit pissed.
We met the most delightful fellow named John Murphy when we arrived in Kinsale and checked into The Old Dispensary, our home for three nights. He was our innkeeper and an exceptional raconteur. The next night—again sitting outside, this time at a pub called Hamlets, again with a pint of Black’s—John joined us to tell some tall tales. There were plenty of them. And plenty of pints. It was a long night…
…and I got pissed again.
Life’s that way in Ireland. You’re never alone. There are always tales (and music) to share. A stranger says, “Where are you from?” and in ten minutes the stranger is a stranger no more. It’s all lubricated with beer, of course. Plenty of beer. It’s excellent and inexpensive and it never runs out.
But beware. You’re likely to get pissed.