A Pint of Plain, By Bill Barich

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You can almost taste the Guinness pit-stops during Bill Barich's leisurely stroll ("investigation" would be far too strenuous a word) through the world of the Irish pub. Or, more accurately, the global phenomenon that is the "Irish pub". Barich laments the fakery that is found in as many out-of-the-way rural Irish pubs as it is in foreign inner-city ones; and ponders the liking we have for such kitsch homeliness as is replicated in cities around the world. I'm not sure he comes to many conclusions but his study is fascinating. It includes such facts as that the Irish Pub Company has decorated 400 pubs in more that 40 countries (Italy being its best client); and the revelation that if an ordinary British pub adopts an Irish theme, simply by redecorating with some "tin signs and etched Jameson mirrors", its profits can be expected to increase three-fold.

The long-standing association between alcohol and the Irish has done their economy no harm, but the damage to the health of a nation is, alas, more authentic than the pubs themselves, and tends to be downplayed in Barich's account.