With the acknowledgment that there’s been plenty of competition, something has stuck out over the past two years: It’s been easy to forget the world can be a wonderfully crazy place.
Here’s a story that follows that line of thinking.
A few years back, before the pandemic-sparked end of times made going anywhere but the local food co-op almost impossible, your ninth-favourite liquor nerd spent a week in Ireland’s most-visited city of Dublin. Here are some admittedly alcohol-blurred observations.
There is no such thing as too many people in a bar in Dublin, especially in the deservedly famous Temple Bar district.
You learn where that district is located long before you get there, mostly because, around 9 p.m., everyone not in an AA program starts heading there like they’re auditioning for a 28 Days Later reboot.
Why everyone is running is a mystery because no matter how many people are jammed in a bar, that isn’t stopping anyone from getting in.
Every time a bar or pub looked like it was at capacity, a grinning doorman was happy to play human shoehorn. And as Christ Jesus—not to mention Saint Shane MacGowan—is my witness, on multiple occasions the way to get a couple more sardines in the can was to grab the door for leverage, place ye old Doc Marten’s firmly on the ass cheeks of the nearest partier, and then push.
That inevitably proved, like a Tokyo subway car at rush hour in Shinjuku, there’s always a little more room to be found even when it looks like there won’t be.
Once you’re inside, drinking becomes a game unto itself. Smart folks take their cues from the locals when crossing the street for the first time in Saigon, or deciding where to order blowfish sushi in Tokyo. The first thing you learn in a Temple Bar pub is there’s no point trying to cradle your drink, because every time the person next to you moves, half of it sloshes out on the floor.
So you hold it above your head like everyone else, and then drink as fast as you can, because sooner or later Stiff Little Fingers’ “Suspect Device” comes upon the sound system, at which point things go from nuts to batshit crazy.
Also crazy is that four out of five party people in every overpacked bar in Dublin have a Guinness hoisted above their head.
What makes that strange is that pouring a Guinness is a goddamn art in Ireland—an art that isn’t to be rushed.
And so you get not one, two, or three black-gold pints lined up on the bar at any one time, but a whole fleet of them. Some half full, ready for the second pour, others fully topped up, a perfect foam slowly settling so that, when your Guinness finally ends up in your hands, you can draw a happy face that lasts until the last sip.
Unless “Alternative Ulster” comes on.
How do you know when your pint has been poured right?
According to Padraig Fox, Guinness Global Brand Ambassador: “Pouring a glass or pint of Guinness Draught is a skill in itself with the ‘perfect pour’ of a pint of the black stuff taking approximately 119.5 seconds.”
And while, thanks to the magic of the widget, you can get close to mastering a perfect pour at home from a can, it’s in a bar where things truly seem more than perfect.
And here’s why that matters today: you’ve just spent two years dreaming of going somewhere—anywhere—that’s not your living room. Maybe, if you were lucky, you got to Banff, or charmingly funky Nelson, or even rustic and off-the-grid 100 Mile House.
But as the lockdowns and fresh waves and new variants dragged on, somehow that wasn’t enough. So you did what all desperate people do when things get grim—you tried to focus on a happier time.
Like the Guinness in the Temple Bar district.
For reasons that have nothing to do with branding, some beers take you to a better time and place.
Boardroom marketing plans and geo-targeted advertising campaigns are never going to replace personal experiences. Which is why an extra cold Pabst Blue Ribbon transports you to Seattle’s gloriously divey Nite Lite tavern. Or a pop-top Grolsch takes you to that Amsterdam second-run movie-house on the impossibly scenic Prinsengracht canal.
So was Dublin a dream? Not the going there part—that happened. And yes the bars were insanely packed, with seemingly zero regard for capacity limits. That bothered no one, as difficult as it was to sometimes get a beer.
But as for the doorman using his Doc Marten’s to get a couple more sardines in the can, maybe that didn’t happen totally as described.
Or maybe it did, because it’s the first thing that comes to mind every time a Guinness lands on the table, ideally after a 119.5 second pour.
And it was memories like that which proved invaluable in the dark days of 2020 and 2021. Funny how branding is no match for reality, even when things are grim.
Today, the hell of the past two years (which now pales in comparison to the total hell we’re seeing in Ukraine) finally looks like it might be over. Here’s to travelling again. And hoping that your future includes the Temple Bar district, where memories are made, even if they’re too crazy to be true.