This content was published first in The Sunday Letters Journal: https://sundayletters.larrygmaguire.com/p/the-pint by Larry G. Maguire on Thu, 09 Mar 2023 16:37:27 GMT
This started life as a short and sweet Chat message on my phone that subsequently disappeared into oblivion upon switching apps to do a spell check. And so, having allowed my initial anguish at the loss of my poetic prose to subside, I see that I now have gained the opportunity to expand upon the initial thought.
If you’re Irish, and in particular, male of a given vintage, then you know of the importance of a good pint. The above images are representative of that importance. It is one passed down from father to son, generation to generation, and it is one I fear is dying as our men of Eireann become de-masculated by what is right and proper in this new world and global culture.
On a Sunday morning as a boy, I would accompany my father to the graveyard and later to a low table in the local, sampling the head of fresh pints. Bitter like coffee, smooth like cream, dark and complex as the souls of men who drank it warm from glass bottles in fields. My mother skulled a bottle of the black stuff most days when she was expecting me. That was normative advice for pregnant women of her day. There was even a time in Ireland when on a visit to the blood bank, you would be afforded a bottle of black while recovering. It was the iron you see.
Aran Man at Bar by Jack B. Yeats illustration for The Aran Islands by his friend John Millington Synge in 1907
Now, don’t get all serious on me here…the dangers of alcohol and all that. I know all about them, intimately, and that’s not for this conversation. Whether we like it or not, The Pint is significant in what it represents for certain people of this island and the marketers of Irish tourism know this well. There is significance in the importance to which we attach a good pint – it is culturally relevant and an embedded aspect of our identity. Some women share this, but not many, and fewer still in the millennial generation. To know a good pint is to be embedded in the tradition. It is like a master carpenter knows his wood or a mason who knows his stone. To know a good pint is to know God himself.
It is an acquired taste not only of the tongue, one should you wish to sample and appreciate to its full extent, will require a lot of you. You must immerse yourself in the culture of my people for a long period until such time as you develop a natural grá for the sup. Until you hear yourself utter, “Jesus, I’d murder a pint” you know little of the true meaning of The Pint. Until you can say that with conviction, you know nothing of the pint. Equipped with this inside knowledge and information, all one must do on entering the bar, is to raise a finger, nod at the bar keep and say, “pint”. That will do. If he replies, “pint of what?”, turn and walk out for he himself surely does not know The Pint and his service will likely disappoint.
Presentation + taste is everything. I can’t tell you exactly why a good pint is a good pint, but you’ll learn to know it when you get one. There are things that need to be right, however. There are signs you’re in a fine establishment and the time is right.
Anticipation – There must be the grá on you.
Atmosphere – It must be busy, but not too busy. A certain temperance is required in order to savour The Pint.
Knowledge, Skill, & Experience – The older the gentleman pulling the pint, usually the better although this is not a strict prerequisite. Women and younger men are more than capable of pulling good pints.
Flow – Not psychological Flow, although that might help, but flow on the lines. A key ingredient of a good pint is the freshness of the keg (my mate Ray from Guinness told me this).
A Clean Glass – Squeaky clean. Detergent ruins the pint.
Patience (Bar keep) – The job shouldn’t be rushed, but can’t be too slow either.
A Good Head – The pint must be pulled with care, creating good domeage without overfilling. You’ll know a good head because it sticks to the inside of the glass.
Patience (Drinker) – You must wait until it’s just right, but not too long, then murder it.
In the sharing of The Pint, there is friendship, comradery and storytelling. There is slaggin’, the craic, and banter. Too many pints, however, and there’ll be some suffering to be done the next day. It’s usually worth it though.
Last word to Guinness (Diageo)…stop fucking with the brand and the product. What is perfect cannot be improved.
Do you take a pint yourself?
Where To Get A Good Pint in Dublin (to name a few) The Gravediggers
The Long Hall
Mulligan’s Poolbeg St.
Ryan’s Parkgate St.
The Sunday Letters Journal is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.