January 18, 2010

Conservative Contributor Colin W. Maguire: Reflections and Drinking in Ireland

In the past two years, I have been to Ireland as many times. The first time was a father-son bonding trip. My second trip consisted of a fraternity brother and myself. What might these two trips have in common: booze. Now, I write this article at the risk of being incredibly stereotypical towards my ancestral home. I could easily write about the amazing variety of cultures one encounters in Dublin (as a further disclaimer I spent most of my time in Dublin), which truly becomes an international city in the summer months. I could recount the endless historical sights and museums that enrich the mind (try the free Irish National Museum). However, part of the fabric and the spirit of Ireland is revelry. Ireland is home to some of the finest spirits in the world. Beers like Guinness, Harps, and Smithwicks (pronounced Smit-icks) are world renowned. Jameson’s and Bushmill’s are great whiskies, but they are out-sold domestically by Power’s

The intoxicating gem of the group is Bulmer’s hard cider. More potent in alcohol content than many beers, this crisp refreshment goes down like nectar and ambrosia, as it is served traditionally with a pint glass half-full of ice. I have compiled a near perfect list of places to visit. I will rate them on the Matt Kuhr 5-point system, but certainly with less guile.  As with any trip, you should throw in other places to visit but consider these haunts if you ever find yourself in Dublin. While you are there, you might find a deep bond with the island and its people. Words cannot describe the fun and self-discovery my trips to Ireland have meant to me; but here is an attempt. As you will see in the conclusion of this piece the best experiences are the ones found on the road less traveled.  Still, we should get the crawl started.

(more after the jump)

So, you arrive in town and are hungry for a real sense of Ireland and actual Dublin fare. After all, you’re the kind of person who reads Awkward Haiku.  You take a walk past the statue of Daniel O’Connell and see the Spartan exterior of…

Madigan’s (3.5 out of 5)
16 Lower O’Connell Street, Dublin 1

You have found dirty pub heaven. That is not to say that this place is a health code violation waiting to happen. However, the bathrooms are an adventure. In fact, all the bathrooms in Dublin (or “water closets”) are an adventure. The next time you are in an American bathroom, outside of New York of L.A., stop complaining! Anyway, Madigan’s is something like a downtown sports bar. TV screens mesh seamlessly with classic wooden booths, appropriately dim lighting and a welcoming bar. The barkeeps range from old and of few words to young, readily apparent wise-asses. In both cases, they are impeccably genuine and comfortable in their skin. When you order ‘chips’ you get a sumptuous helping of thick steak fries with vinegar and mayonnaise on the side along with an all too colloquial, “Eer yar lads!”.  Like most pubs in Ireland, the tap selection is outstanding.  If you want a great taste of Ireland, order the “Mixed Grill.” It is a caloric smorges-board of fried eggs, sausage, pork, white pudding, black pudding, baked beans, grilled tomato, and sheep’s liver. In other words, all that is man. 

It was one night after eating this ode to testosterone/acid-reflux, a double Jameson’s, two pints of Guinness, and 3 liters of Bulmer’s  (read: BEER) that Liverpool FC took on AC Milan. In other words, there was a soccer game. However, in Europe (and most places) it is called a football match. They were playing in the UEFA Champions League (an international tournament for really good teams). In this tournament you play two matches like they were one big game. Sounds crazy right? Well, it is done in some distant sense of fairness. The point is that you play one game at each teams’ home stadium and the winner is whoever scores the most overall. This system actually leads to some fun strategy; until the championship game, which is a single game played in Moscow (or wherever they pick that year). Liverpool FC has a large number of Irish fans due to the port city’s proximity to, and history with, the Emerald Isle. Even the barkeep was a Liverpool fan and joined us after his shift whilst making a costume change to a bright red Liverpool jersey. All I can remember is something like this:

Me: “Milan is a bunch of actors. You suck! Nobody like you! You have no friends!”

Barkeep: “Easy Lad, I think those two Italian fellas there are Milan fans.”

Me: “Oh, what are they gonna do? Huh? Wha? Grease me to death!?!”

In as much as the native Irish are unfamiliar with a non-homogenous Catholic culture in which we constantly rip on other Catholic ethnicities: An awkward silence ensued for the last twenty minutes of the match, plus stoppage time. See, they don’t stop the clock so the officials calculate how much time needs to be added to the match. THEN…and here’s why soccer is such a UN sport…the match stops when the ref feels like neither team is threatening. At any rate, I have enjoyed all my visits to this establishment. Madigan’s is almost totally devoid as a late night hang-out, but the neighborhood feel of this downtown bar will win you over. Madigan’s is a quiet but sturdy pub that should be enjoyed appropriately. The same cannot be said of…

Messrs Maguire (3.00 out of 5)
O’Connell Bridge- Burgh Quay, Dublin 2
(coming next week)

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