On a cold, dark night we ventured out intent on discovery. Another cozy bar and hotel in Ireland – the Roganstown Hotel and Country Club was charming, welcoming and stylish.
Unfortunately on the local beer front, I was offered a Guinness. Now Guinness, is for me a tried and tested but not too well loved beverage. To my mind it’s like bitter, cold cocoa, spiked with flat, unsweetened coca-cola mixed and served in the consistency of Oxo gravy ( I believe it’s a taste that you love if you grew up with it like Marmite). So while I have admittedly considered using Guinness in chocolate cakes or stews, as a drink, unlike the Galway hooker, it really doesn’t float my boat. However, in Ireland I found this is not easily communicated (and probably would be considered impolite). Consequently, I did drink the odd Guinness: We found ourselves in a tiny , very local bar (think An American Werewolf in London) asking for directions, the barmaid answered my request for an ale – with a shake of her head. “We don’t serve that here” she said, ” Hm, what do you serve” I asked, the answer” Here everyone drinks Guinness”. And so that’s what I had, I really wanted directions to the local sea-food place…….Another night, another village, another pub in Connemara: in answer to my request for pale ale, the barman raised his eyebrows eloquently and offered: Smithwick’s, Kilkenny or Guinness. He himself was drinking a Peroni (from his own personal Italian stash, ie he wasn’t sharing). So I said “Hm, a Guinness for me please”…..
Not easily discouraged however, I tried my luck again in Roganstown. Similar story, charming bar, nice barman and the unholy trio: Guinness, Kilkenny and Smithwicks. Adamant to have a local drink that wasn’t Guiness I made the acquaintance of Bulmer’s cider:
Bulmer’s cider – a pleasing tawny golden liquid, tiny champagne-like bubbles, the taste of musty apples from wooden barrels all served up in a very attractive glass. A unique drink – it made me think of farmers markets and farmhouses, cold nights and fireplaces. I recommend this highly but beware it packs a serious and for me unexpected punch. The barman grinned when I commented…….My companion picked a continental beer and then ogled my cider for the rest of the evening lamenting his choice 🙂!
The setting was wonderful, the cider delightful, but what made the evening really special was the fact that the group of middle-aged ladies and men at the table next to ours was having an intense, loud, and very animated discussion about potatoes.
Imagine that, the humble potato, that played such a pivotal role in Ireland’s history – the topic of a night out in the pub! The merits of different kinds of potato were intensely debated. British Queen potatoes were said to be delicious, although sadly apt to break apart when you cook them, so they are apparently a challenge to boil. The group agreed that the best way to cook potatoes is in a big enamel pot and that the most wonderful smell in the world, other than that of freshly boiled potatoes, is the scent of potatoes just pulled out of the earth. ……
The conversation for me was quintessentially Irish, I cannot imagine having witnessed it anywhere else in the world. It was a privilege, and I am now sorely tempted to go find British Queen potatoes now…