THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE EASY PART: Drink a beer in Dublin. Not just any beer: Guinness, the dark, stout beer that has been brewed in Dublin since 1759. Arguably the most famous beer brand in the world. And yet, I’ve screwed it up. At the suggestion of a lifelong Dubliner, I’ve come to the Dawson Lounge, which proclaims itself to be the smallest pub in this city of 1.27 million people and 1,000 pubs, and ordered a pint of Dublin’s signature brew. Now, there’s a system for properly pouring a Guinness: The bartender — or “barman,” as the Irish say — makes two pulls on the beer tap. The first fills the pint glass three-quarters of the way. Then the beer is left to settle. A second pull finishes it with a thick, creamy head. Mess with that system, and you’ll have a foamy mess instead of a thin, quaffable beverage. After I order my pint, the barman makes his first pull, then sets the Guinness down and collects my payment. As he turns to get my change, I pick up the beer. A well-dressed Dubliner sitting next to me gasps.
American Airlines offers nonstop service to Dublin from Chicago O’Hare (seasonally) and John F. Kennedy (year-round) international airports.
I slam the pint glass back down, sloshing its contents. “Oh,” I say. “I’m supposed to wait.” The Dubliner looks me over, then leans in and says in a brogue-laced whisper, “This is a lesson. Waiting for your Guinness to settle is how an Irishman learns patience.”
It’s an embarrassing way to learn. But, then, I’ve come to Dublin for some education — to discover a side of myself I’ve neglected. Ask about my heritage, and I’ll likely say I’m Sicilian. But I’m also half Irish — an even split. So it’s shameful that although I can point you to the best restaurant in Bologna and the greatest wine bar in Rome, I know little about Ireland and even less about Dublin.
On Dublin, I’m probably not alone. More than 850,000 Americans come to Ireland every year, but, despite Dublin’s being home to 40 percent of Ireland’s population, many tourists zip through the capital city on their way to Ireland’s postcard-perfect rolling hills and craggy seasides. As one resident tells me, “Your people come to Dublin to go to the Guinness brewery and get a motor coach to the country. You think Dublin isn’t the real Ireland.”
That sounds like a dare. So, challenge accepted, I’ve set out to get to know the real Dublin — and maybe a bit more about myself. And the best way for a guy having trouble just drinking a Guinness to do that? With the help of a few locals.