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A Pint of Plain: How the Irish Pub Lost Its Magic but Conquered the World

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  190 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews

Seamlessly blending history and reportage, Bill Barich offers a heartfelt homage to the traditional Irish pub, and to the central piece of Irish culture disappearing along with it.

After meeting an I rishwoman in London and moving to Dublin, Bill Barich—a “blow-in,” or stranger, in Irish parlance—found himself looking for a traditional I rish pub to be his local. There ar
...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Walker & Company
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Aaron Arnold
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Irishness is big business these days, and the always-glamourized role of drinking in Irish culture is as ripe for commoditization as anything else. Irish bars have become a worldwide phenomenon, offering a prepackaged gateway into a mythical world of great conversation, beautiful music, perfect pints, and a sense of belonging that, in theory, you just can't get anywhere else. Using an appropriately loose barhopping structure, Barich tries to find the One True Irish Pub, noting the effects that g ...more
Chris
Jun 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
A map would have been great and some pics too!! Lots of interesting commentary here on Irish drinking, history, music, culture, etc.. Sometimes gets a little "dry"-no pun intended--- but a cast of "characters" and road trips to the country keep it going. This is really an ode to the passing of a cultural tradition. Where have all the bars gone?? I'm ready to follow in Bill's footsteps but I better do so fast as many of these gems will be gone soon replaced by suburbs or chains.
Emma
Jul 26, 2013 added it
Summary:
The story starts out with Bill Barich living in Dublin, Ireland with his wife. Bill is looking for an authentic anf successful pub to be his regular, everyday pub. He started his search in Ranelagh but he didn't find any owners that he got along with or a pub with an original Irish atmosphere. He expanding his search in a desparate attempt to assure himself that there were still good irish pubs around. He started traveling all around Dublin and the outskirts of it until he finaly went t
...more
Steve lovell
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
The New Brunswick, James Squires, the Alley Cat, Republic, New Sydney, Shipwright’s Arms – all terrific Hobart pubs that I love to frequent – an eclectic mix from the brassy to traditional all serving an equally eclectic range of ales, rather than just the ubiquitous Cascade/Boags - fine tipples though they may be. Once upon a time my favourite was an Irish pub that had seen better days but still retained, I felt, charm with its cosy nooks. It had the best risotto, a fine range of brews and it w ...more
Mark
Jul 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: recentlyread
My hardcover edition is subtitled "Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub" -- which maybe sounded too ominous or academic to early readers; perhaps the publisher thought "magic" and "conquering the world" would sound more attractive/exciting. Certainly Bill Barich is looking for the "magic" as he embarks on his ultimately fruitless quest (or such is the impression he leaves this reader with) to find pubs in Ireland that live up to his romantic vision, inspired by John Ford's "The Quiet ...more
Bookworm
Mar 04, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Far too ramble-y for my taste. I suppose I had a bunch of strikes against me on this: I picked it up on a whim. I don't drink. I've never been to Ireland (and rarely visit a pub). But I thought that this would be an interesting to read.
 
It was tough to get into, when this guy claims he was an expert of any sort on Irish pubs based on watching a film and visiting pubs in other countries and thinking it was what it was like in Ireland. Overall I found his style rather rambling and meandering.
 
I th
...more
Christopher
Apr 24, 2016 rated it liked it
A quest for "authenticity," that nebulous concept which, like "cultural appropriation," is nearly impossible to define and may not even exist.

Other critics here, I think unfairly, have suggested Barich has avoided the reality of modern-day Ireland, the Celtic Tiger which had its tech boom up until the mid 2000s. There is much reference to changing drinking preferences (home vs away at the pub, wine vs beer and the percentage of the latter that has been absorbed by the former) as well as the gro
...more
Joseph
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is hard to pin down - the author clearly has a deep knowledge of Irish culture but specifics only shine through in brief glimpses. This isn't about Oirish Export culture, though that is large concern at the heart of it. It's not a history, but it is obsessed with history and authenticity. In the end, this is part travelogue and part self-discovery, wrapped up in an analysis of what it means to belong to a specific group in a global culture. One of the greatest revelations within the bo ...more
Mike Clinton
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Much like a pint of Guinness, this book went down easily and enjoyably and made me feel better for it. Barich blends travelogue with history, sociology, and cultural anthropology to explore the Irish pub's fate in the face of globalization and other transformative forces. We enter numerous pubs with the author and experience vicariously his pint or two (sometimes more), the ambience, conversation, and characters; quite often the last three are seriously lacking and even the first leaves some to ...more
Candice
Though insightful and informative regarding the globalization and the "fake" Irish pubs popping up across the globe, the author relied too much on tips and travel books. The narrative jumped a little too much for me and at times I was not even sure if he was in the same village/town that he was in, in the previous sentence.
I was expecting more from this than his disappointment of all the pubs he was able to enjoy. I understand he was looking for the quintessential true Irish pub of days gone by
...more
Paul Long
I like this book, about an American's search for the perfect, traditional Irish pub in Ireland.

Longing for a pub as shown in The Quiest Man, Barich travels around the Emerald Isle, looking for Fairytale Ireland in the land of the authentically replicated pub. In between his visits to public houses in Dublin and beyond the pale, he offers a seminar on the role of alcohol in Irish life, a history of the Irish pub and its effect on Irish culture, and how the unique Irish sports and literacy scenes
...more
Caleb Ross
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
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M. I.
Mar 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: beer
I'm not schooled enough in Irish literature to comprehend much of the author's literary references (that's my failing), but I also found that the text jumps around a bit too much for my tastes, though the jacket blurb calls the book "seamless." A map would have been nice. I was left wishing Barich had gone back to M.D. Hickey for more insight there. Perhaps best of all, and why I liked the book, was that it got me to thinking of the watering holes that I've frequented in years past and the reaso ...more
Jamie
Jul 25, 2009 rated it liked it
First of all, the subtitle on my copy says, "Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub." Neither subtitles were actually addressed. Barich's book is a travelogue, with a little more froth to it. I did enjoy his journey to seek the perfect pub, as he saw in John Ford's The Quiet Man. There ARE still pockets of charming, REAL pubs in "Fairytale Ireland," but they key to preservation is to KEEP them untapped, away from the transient tourists and outsiders. A pleasant enough book to relax wit ...more
Eric Berry
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
A melancholy-tinged account of the author's travels throughout the isle sampling pint after pint in isolated pubs in the wilds of the West, polished new establishments in the big cities, and the ever more rare traditional pub. In the end the book as much about changes in modern Irish life and the effects of the Celtic Tiger on centuries-old culture and tradition then the pubs themselves. Still, it leaves you thirsty for a pint of plain, an evening of improvised trad and great craic.
Jessica
Apr 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: beer
It was slow and a little rambling, like a conversation over a pint with a friendly stranger. I really enjoyed the author's historical tidbits, particularly regarding which authors drank at which pubs, but the mourning and gnashing of teeth over the loss of "fairytale Ireland pubs" got old after several chapters. Is there anything so wrong with accepting that times change?

To be fair, though, the book definitely changed my perspective on what makes an "authentic" Irish pub.
Padraic Rafter
Jan 20, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
How this Bill Barich can live among Irish people and still look for "the quiet man" kind of Ireland is beyond me, I found this book condescending and almost judgmental. I can only assume it was meant for the u.s. market as it only talks about dollars, but still it is no excuses for trying to capture the heart of "Irishness" and only travel to pubs and bars, please come join Ireland in the present day!
Joseph
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I admit - I didn't open this book with an open mind. Shame on me. A Pint of Plain How the Irish Pub Lost Its Magic but Conquered the World Hardcover is an excellent piece of new journalism.

My full review will be posted on Green Man Review sometime in March.
Sarah
Apr 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at the status of Irish pubs in modern Ireland. Barich isolated his research to mainly Dublin pubs, though he did make it as far west as Cong. A more diverse sampling of pubs in the four provinces and Northern Ireland would have made it a better study. Still, you can't go wrong sipping a Guinness with this book.
bookreader
Yank, resident in Ireland, bemoans the death of the traditional Irish pub while failing to explore the profound structural changes in the Irish economy responsible for this phenomenon. This material is so dull that it practically extinguishes the nearly universal human desire to down a pint of Guinness at Mulligan's in Dublin.
Marc
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book staggers despite having the literary and cultural heft of a pint of Miller Lite; it is, however, understandable that a more honest exploration of pubs in Irish culture would have sliced up the myths that Barich's readers want left intact
Lisa
Mar 12, 2009 added it
I need to make an "abandoned" shelf for books that I start and never finish. I couldn't get into this one. I didn't like the writer's style, and maybe I know too much about the subject for his ramblings to interest me. Disappointing.
John
Jun 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel, library_books
I really wanted to like this book as I've enjoyed Barich's previous writing. However, I just couldn't get enough traction to continue much beyond halfway through this one - too much research and journalism (interviews), and not enough cultural obervation for me.
Dennis Willingham
Jun 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, non-fiction
A search for the quintessential Irish pub. Part travelogue, part history and part eulogy to the dying traditional and rural pubs. Interesting and a quick read. Wish I'd had it before my last trip to Ireland
Boston Book Bums
Sep 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Barich writes like he is participating on one of those pint fueled conversations that he is searching for. The conversation is free flowing, tangential, sometimes fascinating, sometimes a little dull, always welcomed.
Jeff
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
I read about half of this book. It started out well, and if you are interested in the history of the Irish pub it is worth a read, but it didn't hold my attention.
Sherry
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a great book for me to read right now, as I am leaving for Ireland in an hour or so. I now have a few ideas for pubs to visit while in Dublin.
Sarah
Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
shocking info about the irish pub
Mercy Loomis
Nov 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining, if somewhat disillusioning.
Mark
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this. Besides being a good story he incorporates some sociology, including the first book by my favorite professor (emeriti), Richard Stivers.
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“H. L Mencken's Dictionary of the American Language supplies a long list of slang terms for being drunk, but the Irish are no slouches, either. They're spannered, rat-arsed, cabbaged, and hammered; ruined, legless, scorched, and blottoed; or simply trolleyed or sloshed. In Kerry, you're said to be flamin'; in Waterford, you're in the horrors; and in Cavan, you've gone baloobas, a tough one to wrap your tongue around if you ARE baloobas. In Donegal, you're steamin', while the afflicted in Limerick are out of their tree.” 9 likes
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