Earlier this week I was talking to a Philadelphia bar owner. We were both in the midst of Philly Beer Week, and it was pretty crazy, and pretty great, and the guy turns to me and says, "You know, I just realized that it's St. Patrick's Day next Monday, and I haven't done a damned thing to get ready." Philly Beer Week has kinda taken things over here.
But in the rest of the country, we're in countdown frenzy. I did two pieces for Massachusetts Beverage Business for March, one on Irish beer, one on Irish spirits. I'd like to make a correction right here on the spirits piece: I said that Jameson/Midleton uses bourbon barrels to age their whiskey. They do, but they also use sherry casks. My error, I was writing too fast, and I apologize.
There's also another error in that piece, but it's an editing issue: there's some bitched type in the opening, which is too bad, I really liked it. So...here's how it was supposed to be (mainly because it's right out of the research for New Jersey Breweries):
I was recently out on the road visiting bars in, of all places, central New Jersey, for a drinking book I'm working on. I drive on these trips, but I drink a lot of water, and I usually only drink about a third of the lower alcohol session beers I order. I also keep a personal breathalyzer in the car. I'm careful and responsible. I take it easy.
Then I walked into a bar called Tierney's, in Montclair: not an "Irish pub," but a workaday neighborhood bar. The quick mid-day conversation reminded me so much of the craic in Irish pubs, and the worn but clean look of the place was just so true, that when the bartender asked me, with a bit of the smiling Irish lilt itself, what I was having, my drinking brain shoved my writing brain out of the way and blurted out, "Guinness and a shot of Powers, please."
As I shook my head in wry self-amusement, sipping a measure of the warm, sweet glow of the Powers followed by its dark countryman, I thought about the strength of the Irish mystique, the Irish 'brand.' There was no Irish music playing in Tierney's, no "Erin Go Bragh" or "Cead Mille Failte" signs,none of the bric-a-brac that says "You're in an Irish place now, boyo," be it authentic or bought out of a catalog to "theme" the place.
But when I settled in at the bar and right away felt at home, the first thing that came to mind was how good a glass of Irish whiskey would taste.
And away I went from there. I am loving some Irish whiskey lately; shared some Jameson 18 out of my flask with a bunch of folks at the Lager Gala at Triumph last night, and made some serious friends for that beautiful drop.