I drink no cider,
but feast on
Philadelphia beer.

--John Adams,
in a letter to his wife Abigail


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Acrobat Reader

NEWARK - CARLOW (16-17 May 2005)

Getting there.
I arrived at Newark International Airport shortly before 5 PM and immediately ran into Sheryl Barto, PR whiz, den mother and enabler on these DBI trips, and Terry McSweeney, DBI's man from Ireland and a New York sales rep, who was not on the trip but came to the airport to see us off...and drink beer.

He went off to do just that with members of our traveling party who'd already checked in, while Sheryl and I moved on to the check-in area, where we found several of our fellow travelers just ahead of us in line--a line which was at a dead stop. The problem up at the desk was fellow beer writer Gregg Glaser. Glaser has a habit of never just, y'know, checking in when he gets to an airline counter, but instead choosing to investigate at considerable length all the various options which might be open to him with regard to his seat. Hey, it takes all kinds...

Glaser's seating arrangements weren't the issue this time, however. He wasn't even on the trip manifest, having been, as his pal Kerry Byrne would have said were he there, somehow overlooked (inside joke have to do with, um, stature). It took a couple of calls to England to get that straightened out, and then the rest of us checked in and joined the earlier arrivals to devote our time to the serious business of consuming beer.

We took off via British Air, maybe my favorite airline, shortly after 9 PM Newark time and were scheduled to arrive (and did) the following morning at 9 am Heathrow time, a seven-hour flight. It was an easy and uneventful trip and I even managed to get some sleep. I had either a window or an aisle seat on all four flights (BA over and back home and Aer Lingus between Heathrow and Cork and back again), by the way. Plus I and an empty seat beside me on all but the flight back from Cork, when Sheryl was my seatmate, which was certainly more than tolerable. Short of upgrading to first class, it doesn't get much better than that.

At Heathrow, an airport through which I swear I've walked several miles in recent years since the next thing to be done always seems to be at the farthest point away from wherever we start out, we were joined by distributor Paul Manning, who flew in directly from Chicago (Kerry and his wife wouldn't join us until we came back to London to visit Fuller's), and worked our way through the process of collecting luggage, passing customs, checking-in and all that good stuff, all the while amusing ourselves by listening to the recurring message over the loud-speaker system which went roughly like this: There is a fire some place in the terminal. If you are near the fire, please leave the area. We weren't, we didn't and we eventually set off to Carlow on our noon flight.

Beamish says no. Nobody objects.
Waiting for us at the Cork Airport when we arrived around 1:30 was Seamus O'Hara, director and founder of Carlow Brewing Co., our host while we were on the Emerald Isle.

Last September, DBI took over as Carlow's U.S. importer and currently brings Ohara's Irish Stout and O'Hara's Irish Red to these shores (the Red is called Moling's Traditional Red Ale in its home country). Carlow's own brewery is a 15 hectoliter system which produces O'Hara's draft products (including the stout, red, a wheat and various cask and special ales, most of which are exported to England, Finland and other nations) and has no bottling capabilities. Bottled O'Hara beers, including all that come to the U.S., are produced at the Beamish & Crawford Brewery in Cork, which is why Beamish was scheduled to be our first stop of a very long day.

Some sort of problem at the brewery precluded that visit, however, and rather than a couple of hours there, which meant we wouldn't get to our hotel, a two and half hour ride away in Carlow, until around 7:30 PM, we were able to set out right away. We stopped briefly for lunch at Corbett Court restaurant in Fermoy, a small village situated along the Blackwater River on the Main Dublin Road north from Cork.

No beer was served or offered with lunch and I could see sudden consternation on the faces of several of the distributors, notably Steve Westley from Reading. If we're not going to be drinking beer at every opportunity, whatever am I doing here? his expression said. That situation would never occur again, fortunately.

Reading, of course, is right up the road some 30 miles from where I sit here in the adequate and not overly ostentations LDO central headquarters writing this, so it behooves me to report that our Ms. Barto, who now lives in Colorado, also originally hailed from Reading and still has family there. This meant that she and Steve quickly bonded and would periodically erupt into Do you know...Did you ever...Do you remember...Well, I never... conversations recalling their apparently wayward youths.

To quote a world-class consumer of alcoholic beverages:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Say, as long as I'm in a quoting mood...

"Seven creamy pints came out on a tray..."
That's a line from Lisdoonvarna, a song about the music scene in Co. Clare, written by the famous Irish folk singer, Christy Moore:

Before the Chieftains could start to play,
Seven creamy pints came out on a tray.
It describes right accurately what we saw take place several times during the early evening hours when we gathered on the patio outside The Lord Bagenal Inn in Leighlinridge, to down numerous pints of O'Hara's Stout before setting out on a guided walking tour of the town. The inn, which was our residence for the two-day Ireland stay, has something of a Southwestern U.S. feel to it, as you can see from the website and this photo which I took upon arrival.

The weather had turned bitterly cold and most of us weren't dressed for that at all as the walking tour began. Our guide offered much history of interest, both perverse (that lovely pink building there, that's where they used to try insurgents and then bring them outside and lop off their heads in the street) and intriguing (a plaque commemorating native son John Tyndall, a self-made Victorian scientist and naturalist who hung out with the likes of Louis Pasteur, Thomas Huxley and Charles Darwin and who, among other things, has glaciers all around the world named in his honor because of his work studying the movement of those huge ice masses). Still, most of us were too chilled to hang on beyond the point where we were standing on and being told about the oldest functioning bridge in Ireland, if not all of Europe as the cold winds blew. What we wanted at that point was functioning heat and warm meal.

Dinner turned out to be a relatively subdued affair, as everything finally caught up with us. Many of our number retired immediately thereafter, but others, who'd stayed with the tour after we'd left and discovered a local bar, set out for it. And a few of us repaired to the bar, where, for no particular reason, I decided that I needed a dram of Redbreast Irish Whiskey (thank you, Mr. Bryson) to soothe my soul. Dave Foley opted to join me, then decided he wasn't up to the task and poured his glass into mine. That meant I had a lot of Redbreast and that meant, in turn, that the longest day was definitely over for me.

Tomorrow would be another day, one which I would discover was to be, at least in the early going, all downhill.

And muddy.

Next: Slip-Sliding Away

3. A Discovery in London Town

4. Parliament Days, London Nights

5. We'll Always (Almost) Have Paris

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