Tradition, Change and the Fate of the Irish Pub

Travel Blog  •  David Farley  •  03.26.09 | 4:16 PM ET

A couple decades ago, the authenticity of Irish pubs both within and outside the Emerald Isle was never questioned. Pubs abroad, one assumed, were likely started by an Irish immigrant, looking to offer homesick lads a taste of home and the wanderlust-stricken a rehashed memory of that last trip to Dublin.

Today, however, things are different. Welcome to the Irish Pub Company, which has birthed hundreds of near-identical “Irish” pubs from Shanghai to Sienna. Yes, the décor in that pub you’re nursing a Guinness in isn’t decades- or centuries-old; it wasn’t transported from a farm house or old church in County Cork. It was manufactured by a company that’s making a killing exporting Irishness.

Bill Barich’s fascinating book, A Pint of Plain, released in February, details the history, the present state and the inevitable fate of the Irish pub. Both in Ireland and abroad. Barich, an American in Ireland, travels around the isle, chatting up publicans and pub owners and discussing how modernity and globalization have led to falling attendance at Irish pubs as well as the movement to dispatch cheap prefabricated models across the planet. The only problem with Barich’s book is that you’ll start to wonder if that Guinness you’re crying into is real, too.

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