Thursday, April 29, 2010

Random Ireland Notes, Day 1

I'm in Ireland for the next 10 days or so. I am here for a conference. After the conference, I am going to see a bit of Dublin and then somewhere else. A few stray notes:

1. We are all pretty familiar with the fact that American stars do weird commercials overseas. However, I was somewhat unprepared to see a giant billboard for an ice cream company starring Benicio Del Toro as a suave sexy thief who apparently uses his criminal mind to steal creamsicles.

2. Wow, the district in Dublin catering to 21 year old tourists who come to Ireland looking for an "authentic" Irish experience is gross. Even compared to the worst tourist districts I've seen in other places, the Temple Bar district in Dublin is really lame. Anyone who goes there should rethink their priorities. Sadly, you kind of have to walk through it to get from one part of the city to another, but maybe that's a good thing. We can all see it and be thankful that we aren't the stupid kind of tourists. Unless we are. And then we should feel shame and self-loathing.

3. While the atmosphere of the Dublin pub is rightfully legendary, the beer selection is horrible. Perhaps I'm biased because I don't think Guinness is a particularly great beer. But it's standardization, standardization, standardization. Each bar seems to have the following: several taps for Guiness, one for Smithwick's, and then 1 or 2 for Carlsberg, Heineken, Beck's, Coors' Light, and Budweiser.

This is not good. Everyone thinks Guinness is a great beer. And although I am not a huge fan, who am I to argue? However, the Guinness' hegemony is a disaster for Irish beer. Its success must have shut down hundreds of breweries throughout Ireland. Is it good that an entire nation's beer tradition be centered around a single brew? I can't imagine that it is. The crushing of independence and innovation only stagnates culture. The equivalent is every American drinking Budweiser.

Almost equally disturbing is the spread of mediocre lagers like Carlsberg and Heineken. While I have nothing particularly against either of those brews, they are also quite unremarkable. Why can't the Irish brew beers just as good?

On the other hand, given the number of people paying 5 Euros for a bottle of Budweiser, that Carlsberg is looking pretty good....

Also, I haven't seen anyone serving Harp yet. Is it a beer created solely for the American market?

4. I kind of like that the first meal I ate in Ireland was a Malaysian soup. Oh globalization, what can't you solve?