Raise a Glass,
Every Lad and Lass
By Tom Long / Fiddlehead Contributing Editor
Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, that goes without saying. And what better place to observe the occasion than in a pub, the watering hole of choice for real and imagined children of the old sod.
Irish pubs are internationally acclaimed for their camaraderie, hearty food and drink. Traditionally, the church, pub and the local football club were the three main social outlets for people in rural Ireland. The pub was often the next stop following the other two – people went to the pub after Mass or after a football match. The pub was where the village met, stories were exchanged and the ‘craic’ (fun) was had, according to the newspaper, the Irish Post.
“Irish people rarely drank at home until recent years, because the social aspect was a vital part of enjoying alcohol,” according to a story in the Post. “The atmosphere, warmth and friendliness of Irish pubs are such that the idea has been exported around the world. There is hardly a city anywhere on the planet that does not have at least one, if not several, Irish pubs.”
Though not exactly written in stone, Irish hospitality has been a matter of law since the 6th Century, when every local king was required to have his own brewer, who was obliged to have “a never-dry cauldron, a dwelling on a public road and a welcome to every face” 24 hours a day.
More than a century later, during the heyday of stagecoach travel, Irish law required that any traveler three miles from his or her place of residence could quaff alcohol outside normal business hours. The law was regularly flouted and was finally changed in 1943.
Irish emigres brought their pubs and their traditions to the United States through the large-scale emigration from Ireland particularly during the potato famine in the mid-1800s. And there are plenty of our own Celtic watering holes in New Hampshire.
Since we’re about 3,000 miles as the gull flies from the Blarney Stone, our local Irish pubs are as much a state of mind as a tradition. Here are some favorites.
The Holy Grail in Epping is a pub that really makes a statement.
Located in the former St. Joseph Church, a marble baptismal font at the entrance holds after-dinner mints. Lamps decorated with crosses still hang from a vaulted ceiling overlooking stained glass windows decorated with religious icons and a nave that now contains a circular bar and booths that resemble pews.
“We’ve tried to be respectful and made sure the booths are underneath the stained glass, so you can still see the names of the people who donated them. When the Lavoie family comes in they always ask for the booth beneath a stained glass dedicated to an ancestor,” said Dave Kennedy, who owns and operates the restaurant with his wife Maureen Madden Kennedy, whose extended family owns and operates a string of Irish establishments in New York City.
There is, of course, a variety of beers on tap and a menu that includes corned beef and cabbage year-round, bangers and colcannon, a variation on the traditional dish of bangers and mash with cabbage added to the mix.
Particularly popular are the Irish nachos, sliced potatoes and chunks of ham topped with melted cheese. It is an Irish-inflected equivalent of the French-Canadian hangover remedy poutine.
“The traditional Irish diet is somewhat limited,” Kennedy said. “When I’ve visited, the menu was always lamb stew or lamb this or mutton that. We’ve taken traditional Irish dishes and given them an American spin that is more familiar to diners in the states.”
But the old-fashioned corned beef and cabbage remains a favorite. “We expect to serve more than 800 pounds of corned beef on and about St. Patrick’s Day,” Kennedy said.
The duo bought the building next door, had a thatched roof put on it and created a function hall they call Camelot. The master thatcher who fashioned the roof did the same for Hagrid’s hut in the Harry Potter movies.
The Grail is heavily involved in the community and holds community nights every week to benefit local community groups and sponsors many youth teams.
The Peddler’s Daughter
A riverside pub in Nashua with outdoor seating when weather warrants and music on the weekends. Regulars rave about the fish and chips and the Guinness beef stew.
Matt Molloy, flautist for the chieftains, and partner Tommy McCarthy opened the pub named for a bog about a decade ago. It has developed a strong following for pub grub like Guinness beef stew and cottage pie as well as a strong lineup of live music and comedy shows.
“The only Irish Pub on a Polish street in a French city,” says the motto of this Queen City watering hole where locals gather to watch rugby games in the old country. What could be dearer to an Irishman’s heart than a pub that serves breakfast as well as lunch and dinner? Food service industry workers get 50 percent off on Monday.
It’s got the glitzy look of a Victorian pub, but the heart of a public house in Tipperary, and this Gilford pub and eatery has ladies’ nights, acoustic music evenings, team trivia and dueling piano shows on Fridays. It has a menu heavy on burgers and other pub food as well as more hearty fare. Through its pub mania challenges its regulars have raised more than $300,000 for Lakes Region charities.
Across Main Street from the State House in Concord, The Barley has Blarney puffs and brats on the menu and has traditional Irish music on Tuesday nights. It’s the go-to lunch spot for pols when the legislature is in session and is famous for its burgers. The Barley has a second location in North Hampton.
Murphy’s Taproom and Murphy’s Taproom & Carriage House
Murphy’s Taproom in Manchester is popular with locals as well as those attending events at the SNHU Arena. Last year it expanded to Bedford, where the Taproom and Carriage House has a function hall as well as a full-service restaurant
Cara’s Irish Pub
Cara means “friend” in Gaelic. What more do you need to know about this downtown Dover pub in a former mill building? It’s a friendly place where regulars welcome visitors from out of town. During a recent visit, a stranger was standing in front of the door, wondering whether or not to drop in for lunch. A regular excused himself, opened the door and said, “Come on in. You’ll be glad you did.”
He was right. They have darts, pool and karaoke. The black and tan chicken sandwich and the Guinness mustard burger are popular items on the menu. The Chameleon Club upstairs host concerts and other functions,
“May your home always be too small to hold all your friends,” says the Irish expression emblazoned on the Bristol pub’s website, and you could do worse than bring those friends to the cottage. The menu has whimsical Irish creations such as basket of bangers, Irish pizza with bacon and mashed potatoes as well as more traditional dishes such as boxty, bangers and mash, fish and chips and boiled dinners. The pub claims to have the state’s largest list of Irish whiskeys.
Here are a few more fun facts about the history of Irish pubs.
Pubs were once allowed to store the dearly departed.
The Irish Coroners Act of 1846 decreed a dead body had to be brought to the nearest public house for storage in its cooling cellar until funeral arrangements could be made. It became common for publicans to have marble tables in their cellars on which autopsies could be conducted. It also became common for publicans to become funeral directors.
What’s in a Name?
An Irish law passed in 1872 required that a pub proprietor’s name be displayed over the front door. Many pubs still operate under the names of proprietors who have been pushing up shamrocks for decades
Business at Irish pubs dropped off considerably during a temperance movement in Ireland in the 19th century. Many publicans made up for the shortfall by selling groceries or hardware leading to the rise off “spirit groceries,” which all but disappeared in the 1960s, when grocery stores and supermarkets became popular.
The word whiskey comes from “uisce beatha,” meaning “water of life” in Gaelic. It’s whiskey in Ireland and the United States; whisky in Scotland.
“Slagging” is a big part of Irish pub culture. It means making fun of someone and sometimes it can get out of hand.
A bit of Blarney comes in handy to any visitor to an Irish pub. To be full of Blarney is to be graced with the gift of gab, particularly with a predilection for complimentary language. Kissing the Blarney stone in a castle near Cork is said to make a persuasive flatterer of those who kiss it.
According to Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, the reason is the difficulty of kissing the chunk of limestone built high into battlement, and “to have ascended it was proof of courage and agility, whereof many are supposed to claim the honor who never achieved the adventure.” So, to have kissed the Blarney stone came to mean a teller of tall tales.
Hands Across the Sea
According to the Irish Times, Billy Brooks Carter of Texas was so fond of Mulligan’s Pub in Dublin that when he died in 1953, he asked that some of his ashes be kept in the grandfather’s clock at the establishment. Every eight days the staff now “winds up Billy.”
Irish Barstool Ice Breakers
You can never go wrong complimenting the one at the barstool beside you. Here are some Irish expressions that will help you win friends and influence people and add an authentic touch of blarney to your barstool banter.
May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going and the insight to know when you have gone too far.
May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint.
May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. And may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.
May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.
May your heart be light and happy, may your smile be big and wide and may your pockets always have a coin or two inside.
May you get all your wishes but one, so that you will always have something to strive for.
May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.
May you be at the gates of heaven an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.