It was the third and one of the most arduous days of my Everest Base Camp Trek. My extremely cold and fatigued body was about to give up but a lease of life was infused into me as soon as I saw the poster ‘The World’s Highest Irish Pub’ at the entrance of Namche Bazaar. Reaching the Irish pub at the dizzy heights of 3,440m in the rain-soaked Sherpa town in Nepal was not only an adventure of a lifetime but probably the hardest I had ever worked for a pint of Guinness. But then Irish pubs are no ordinary pubs and seeing one in such a remote terrain was not a coincidence.
Some countries send you a signal to tell you that it’s time to visit them. Three months later, I was in the birthplace of pub culture — Ireland. I was intrigued to know what makes an Irish pub so special that over 80 per cent of tourists visit Ireland for it and the rest who can’t afford an overseas trip, visit an Irish pub in town. Here are the seven reasons that make an Irish pub so special:
A place to have ‘Craic’: Pub culture in Ireland has a very long history, but at its core is a sense of camaraderie, friendship, and fun commonly referred to as ‘craic’. When I asked a local friend, Tom Kennedy, what makes an Irish pub different from others he replied, “One word really, the ‘craic’! It’s tough to quantify this — is it the people that frequent the pub or the atmosphere or the quality of the pint you are served? Is it the live music, or the welcome you receive from the locals and the staff or that random stranger who will chat with you for hours at the bar? It’s all of this really, plus a roaring turf fire as well!”
More than a place to have alcohol, an Irish pub functions as a place to have conversations in a relaxed atmosphere with friends, neighbours and even complete strangers. Charles McCool, an American travel influencer, says, “The Cobblestone, an authentic Irish bar in Dublin, was packed (with locals and visitors) and Irish music was rocking the place. It was easy to chat with the bartenders and others over anything.”
And not just conversations, since centuries an Irish pub has remained the most important social outlet for feasts, weddings, funerals, christenings, birthdays and any other celebrations you can think of.
Close knit society: Irish people have ‘the local’ pub which they frequent almost every day. There is a very close and informal mutual understanding between the customer and the bar staff and, in many cases (particularly in country pubs), virtually all customers know each other well. Indeed, for a barman to ask a local what he’d like to drink would be like asking him what his name was. Ireland has more than 10,000 pubs, so you won’t have to travel far to go for a drink. Pubs are the melting pots of social encounters, in which all social ranks come together.
Quality of drinks: Ireland produces the best stouts and whiskeys in the world and the Irish are renowned for their drinking habits. Guinness is indeed not only the most common beer in Ireland but also something of a national symbol. Irish whiskey enjoys great popularity among whiskey connoisseurs and can be found in any good Irish bar around the world.
Talent breeding ground: The Irish pub has produced many great writers. James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan wrote stories and the Irish pub would be at the centre of their writing.
Irish music: The traditional Irish music and dance makes Irish pub special. Musicians of all kinds come together for sessions where anyone who wants to can join in spontaneously. It’s been over a month now but I can still not forget the amazing night of Irish music and dance that I enjoyed at Ploughboy, Dublin.
Authenticity: Dublin architect Mel McNally, who started the Irish Pub Company in 1990, says authenticity is the key to a successful Irish pub. “Authentic Irish design, food, beverages, music and entertainment, and employees and management training ‘the Irish way’,” he says are the characteristics.
10 must visit Irish Pubs
Long Hall, Dublin
Merry Ploughboy, Dublin
Pat Collins’ Bar, Adare
Matt Molloy’s, Westport
Sean’s Bar, Athlone
Before you venture out, beware of these simple drinking faux pas:
Don’t forget to remove your hat when you enter
Don’t tip the bartenders
Sip your pint, don’t chug it
Buy a round of drinks, don’t be a parasite
Enjoy slagging (making fun of someone), don’t be a moaner