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Here in the town on the shores of Galway Bay my perfect pub exists - but I’m not telling the world exactly where it is – I fear it might get too popular and be destroyed forever for the fraternity who presently worship at its altar. I would forever feel guilty over the destruction of their natural habitat.
Like all proper old fashioned pubs, it is a bit gloomy and dark – too much daylight spoils the ambience – all day twilight is a better atmosphere for the ceremony and conversations that take place here.
The barman is called Seamus – his mother probably called him James but barmen in my world should all be called Seamus. Our Seamus does not know, or want to know, how to mix a cocktail and a customer who had the temerity to order one would get a very old fashioned look.
He looks up from his newspaper when I come in the door, gives a nod and glances at the Guinness tap.
“A slow one, Seamus and a small wan for now”
For the uninitiated, this means that I would like him to take his time pouring the pint of Guinness and that I will have a small measure of Jameson while I’m waiting.
The whiskey arrives straight away with a small jug of water at the side. A little splash of water helps release the aroma of the whiskey and enhances the experience considerably. Seamus knows better than to ask if I want the abomination that is ice in the whiskey! There is a rumour that somebody asked for ice sometime back in the early 1980s and it is still spoken of with wonder and awe.
I give my proper attention to the whiskey while he goes about the construction of a proper pint of good porter.
This involves holding the pint glass at a correct angle to the tap and allowing it to fill to the Stage 1 level - The pint is left to settle and then when the head is creamy and the body is black it is almost filled to the top. Seamus lets it settle again and after a few more minutes it gets a final surge to bring the head just slightly over the rim of the glass. A minute more and it is ready for delivery to the counter in front of me. Seamus doesn’t perform the manouver that creates a shamrock on the head of the pint!
This is a special time! There is a small glow in the belly from the whiskey and the world is starting to become a better place.
An artist like Seamus deserves to have his creation admired – only a philistine would grab the pint and drink right away. I study the glass and make sure the Guinness logo is facing the right way. I can’t remember what the right way is but it always comes to me when faced with a pint. Some stray condensation is wiped from the outside of the glass and then the moment arrives.
There is something perfect about the weight of a full pint in your hand. There is a balance and equilibrium that feels good. The hand decides that the time is right and the pint travels to mouth. A good swallow is made and the glass goes back to the counter.
Seamus scans my face to see the reaction to his creation – “Jaysus, Seamus – you never lost the gift!” Seamus nods modestly and returns to his newspaper.
The tension has been broken and everybody in the pub relaxes that little bit more. Until, that is, the next “Pint Man” enters and the ceremony is repeated.
Only then can you look around and acknowledge your companions. Etiquette demands that the weather is deplored and the government is despised.
The Earth whose axis had been slightly out of kilter is now righted and the whole universe glows brighter.
A perfect moment in a perfect Irish pub.
You could try to re-create some of the Irish Pub ambiance with some of our Home Bar stuff at http://www.galwaybaygifts.com/irish-bar-guinness
N.B. Seamus is not for sale!