"When in Rome do as the Romans. When with the Irish, drink lots of Guinness."
I normally don't like Guinness. The last time I enjoyed its roasted malts was exactly three years ago, when summers were mild and friends called instead of texted.
But I was at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in DC. I did not second guess. I easily gulped it down because I was with new friends from Northern Ireland, and I wanted to immerse myself in the merry spirit that they so gladly touted. "When in Rome do as the Romans. When with the Irish, drink lots of Guinness."
But for the last three years, I practically refrained from tasting this popular stout. It was too strong, too dry, too heavy, not tasty. But then again which light beer had flavor. I wanted to head the other way.
But then when my wanderlust travels took me to the hills of Northern Ireland, I knew it was time. For the first three days, the moment wasn't right. Yes, I passed many pubs and yes, the mugs were overflowing with creamy head mixed with liquid nitrogen. As tempting as it may seemed, I just didn't want to go solo, even in a bar filled with Patricks and O'Malleys. I wanted to enjoy the thick stout in the company of friends and better yet, in the mist of a special celebration, even if it was the very last day in Ireland.
Welcome to Dublin, the home of the "pub crawl". The Celt, a merry Irish Pub with a lively atmosphere was the very right place and certainly the right time. The Shenanigans were performing, their banjos strumming, and I was in for a delightful treat. The music was jazzy, Irish mixed with some Blues and even Reggae. The pub was cozy with lots of adrenaline and good conversation that didn't make you blush. I had now slipped into my perfect mood. This was the precise moment -- I had to break the cherry over the creamy top.
It hit me like a lightning bolt My eyes lit up and my belly warmed up over an outdoor open fire. I had never tasted any stout this good, this satisfying. For some reason that night, the roasted malts started to twirl in my mouth, had a special tang that I never realized, never knew existed...smothered my thirst and carried me away in a thrilling tidal wave all the way back to Belfast. I ran the rolling, green hills, up and down, over Irish pastures, the summer night air felt refreshingly cold. I needed the stout now to warm me up some more.
I had expected heaviness, but I got milk. I had expected a full frontal assault on my taste buds, but got just a bit of almonds and caramel all mixed in one. I expected body, and I got head, torso and leg. My goodness, is the water truly different here? It wasn't just St. James Gate Dublin water -- it was fresher, richer, bolder. Yes, please do drink the water here.
It was on this special night that I wanted to leap for joy. An incredible three-week trip and a wonderful finale in a land paved with luck and gold. Here I had found love, and this time it won't hurt as bad, I promise.