Friday, September 25, 2009

Guinness at 250! Tom Jones Shares a Pint of Plain with the Planet!

Guinness*, when I was a stripling, was swallowed by the Turkey Birds - F.B.I. -Foreign Born Irish - Two Boaters, Salt Water Irish - in my neighborhood. That meant the saloons where Kerrymen, Corkwegians, Sons of Mayo, Galway Culchies and Tipperarymen took the black bottled stuff with the harp on the label to wash down the shooters of Paddy and John Powers Irish Whiskey.

On 79th Street those saloons usually meant Hanley's House of Happiness or the Mayfair West. On 63rd Street it might be at TJ Daly's Blarney Stone, The Gaslight, Mary Coffey's California Tap, Mike Doorhy's, the Hibernian Hall ( JFK Post) or Lyons' Pub. Guinness came only in bottles back in the 1950's, '60's and it was only in the 1970's draft Guinness hit the Chicago pavements -coming and going.

My Dad and all my uncles drank Drewey's, Hamms, Schlitz and Atlas Prager beers to go with their 'bumps' of Calverts, Sunnybrook, Canadian Club, and Seagram's 7 whiskies at places like Louis Kotecki's, Funks, the Mirror Lounge, B & H's, Shannon's, Mel Collins' Sea-Breeze, Castos, Billy Ellis's Wooden House on 79th & Ashland. They and their neighbors were Americans - veterans of WW II, union men, Peoples Gas officers, Chicago cops and foremen, Park District coppers, Catholic League teachers and coaches and City workers. Though Irish American they did not drink with their cousins from off the boat.

"Guinness? That crap would gag a maggot. Tastes like Australian butter." were the general opinions of the first generation Americans of Irish descent who avoided the Ceili's at Cannon Hall and the 'buckets of blood' where the Salt Water Harps tossed one another through windows, doors and at times into the arms of St. Peter.

I had my first taste of Guinness in the basement of Grandpa Hickey's basement when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I was offered the black beer by one of the Kerry musicians who played traditional jigs, reels, horn-pipes and polkas with my grandfather.

I thought the stuff was great. I did not get another swallow of the stuff until I tended bar on the Irish Strip -63rd Street between Pulaski and Damen in the 1970's.

In words of the Chicago Renaissance Man and Discerning Pintman Mike Houlihan - "I got me a touch of the Irish Arthritis - I get stiff in a different joint every night!"

It is wonderful.

Ireland celebrated the 250 years of Guinness and had no less a pintsman than Welsh genius Tom Jones lift the black glass! Croi follain agus gob fliuch!

Ta Breiss Agus Fiuntas In Guinnesss! Slainte!

*MY GOODNESS, my Guinness, what a party. As birthdays go, yesterday’s celebration of 250 years of Ireland’s most famous export was brash and bold, as big and global as the brand itself.

You sense Arthur Guinness, the man whose ambition started it all in 1759, would have approved. The pint of plain got the expected rousing toast from thousands of VIPs who gathered in the St James’s Gate brewery in Dublin last night to mark the day.

Click my post title for the Full Pint!

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