Ask a local where to go in Galway for drinking a pint of real Irish Stout without tens of tourists around, and the answer will be “Bierhaus”.
Ask another one and you will be most likely to get the very same answer.
Well, let me tell you. Probably it is because Bierhaus is just a great place. And, trust me, I know what I am talking about.
I went there.
Now you can read what happened.
Once you come in, the pub is exactly what you expect a real pub to be.
Empty consumed and super comfy leather couches on every corner, full stools right next to the bar.
Once you come in you see that in Bierhaus people like staying as close to their beer as they can. Even if this means not sitting on a comfortable couch.
Which is good because, in the end, we are in a pub. And beer is all that matters here.
“What are you, a journalist?” goes the host – a cool mustached guy named Jack Consicline – once he sees me unpacking my portable office for getting camera and notebook ready and have my mission done.
Our beer trip starts with a pint of Darkhous, a 4% Stout that tasting like a caramelized and chocolatized Guinness.
In other words, a delicious beer.
As soon as he sees my pass from the tournament, Jack asks me how things are at the Village.
“Pretty good”, I say. “There’s a good vibe there. You should give it a try.”
“I don’t play poker” he goes. “I only play with some friends at my basketball team. That’s all.
You know, I like to spend my money, not to lose it”.
– silence in the bar. After 4 days at the tournament I really feel already too tired to engage in a discussion about the social role of poker and the dualism of “having fun” vs. “losing money”.
Few silent sips of Darkhouse later, we are joined by a regular.
He’s probably on his 50s, has cool and intellectual round spectacles, carries a book with himself and has heard bits of our conversation.
Hence, obviously, he can’t resist the temptation of asking about the Village as well.
“How is it there? Lots of people? Lots of money?”
“I only gamble with my health when I come drinking here. That’s the only gambling I like” goes the intellectual looking fellow drinker while asking for “one” and getting a pint of Guinness in return. A classic.
“Nobody ever wins. Ever.” He says before our host contradicts him saying “That’s not true.”
“I have this one friend”, he goes. “He has been unemployed for two years and be paid his mortgage by playing online poker. Some people do win money at the game.”
Interesting, I think. I might get unemployed anytime soon, I have a mortgage – I need to know how did he do.
“He had a software to help him understanding probabilities of his hands and he moved from one table to the other playing only against bad players.
That’s how he got their money”.
If anything, he is visibly proud of his friend right now. So proud that I wonder if he has ever told him that.
“Are there software for that?” asks the intellectual type.
“There are software for any kind of things” goes the bartender leaving on a table a bottle of HoppelHammer.
That’s for me. He thinks it’s time to move on an keep our beer trip going.
“How’s your research going? Good?” asks me a third man I haven’t seen before.
He heard what I am doing there but for some reasons he choose not to jump in the conversation with the other two guys
He waited until I went outside to smoke a cigarette and followed me there.
“How do you like our Irish beers?” he asks with an accent that only a stout can help you to really understand.
“I am not sure I should say this, but man! That Darkhous tasted better than Guinness!”
“What?” he says. “Better than Guinness you say!? But Guinness is pretty much the worse stout around here!”
WHAT?! Can it be?! Can he be possibly right?!
If he is…well…I might seriously start considering moving to Ireland after all.
HoppelHammer, on the other hand, is a whole different story.
Firstly is a bottled beer, secondly is an triple hopped IPA and thirdly is a 6% one. So you are free to get to your own conclusions now.
Especially once I specify that it usually take me no more than two sips of a triple hopped beer to get completely knocked out. And right now I am having a full pint of it.
This second (still delicious) beer does not come from Galway. It comes straight from the Mountains of Mourne, the heart of Ireland, if you are not good at geography.
And, trust me, it carries inside all the taste of a triple hopped IPA with a very fruity aroma.
Out on the market since 1996, HoppelHammer is such a completely different story that half a pint later we all forgot the reason why I came to the pub. Me included.
“What do you think of this? Will it work?” asks me the guy who told me Guinness is bad while showing me some kind of never seen gizmo to be put on the back of his bicycle.
“I would not use it, it will brake the bike” – goes the host.
“It is going to bounce a lot” – goes the intellectual type coming out with a doubtfully useful yet smart opinion. Fits his role after all.
“I have no idea what you are talking about – is what I would like to say while instead I nob with my head and swallow yet another sip.
Which I would enjoy a lot, if it wasn’t for the simple fact that IPAs get me hammered in a second.
Did I say that already?
“It’s quiet today, hah?” A new young bold guy approaches me.
“Students are not here yet.
You know? They are over 20.000. One third of the population, easily”
Somehow I am not really sure he is really talking to me. He does not look at me, he does not wait for an answer, yet there’s only me in the direction of his words.
Jack, the bartender, just dropped a Galway Hooker on the bar. And before you start thinking weird, I probably should tell you that here, a “ ’Hooker ” is just a beer – nothing else.
If even for a single second you wondered why in the world would anyone name a beer “hooker” you should keep in mind few basic points as the Irish sense of humor and the fact that NO ONE ever drinks only one pint of it.
Do you follow me here? No?
Too bad, really.
While I drink a beer which name was chosen through a public contest run back in 2006, the bold guy keeps his monologue going.
“Ten years ago it wasn’t like this, you know?
“I used to live in London and I remember how was to come back to Galway back then. This place was a mess.”
“Why so?” I finally jumped in and from a monologue now we have a conversation. He got me. Or maybe it’s the hooker. Damn her..erm…it..
“This used to be a city of artists, you know?
“if you wanted to study in Galway, it was easier to get a spot to become a doctor or an architect than an artist. Here everyone was an artist.”
For how strange that might sound to anyone, believe me – it only takes a short walk in the Latin Quarter of Galway to realize this might actually be all true.
“I remember when I came back here from London once. Oh, that was life, man!
“Clubs were closing early, parties were all going on in private houses. I also use to be a DJ back then. I remember the girls, the fights, the friends who were getting married and had to go home”
He sees the ring on my finger. He sees I am married.
“Me, married, never. Nobody is going to get me.
And suddenly he stops talking and starts looking somewhere else, somewhere far. Somewhere I can’t see.