Book Review - A Compendium of Irish Pints - The Culture, Customs and Craic

Ali Dunworth is well known as a writer, journalist, consultant and events curator ‘who loves writing and talking about food and drink so much that she’s made a career out of it’. And no better woman to come up with the idea for this brilliant book - and to undertake the job so thoroughly, and write it with such warmth and easy flow that the tone sums up perfectly everything that is so dear to us about the pint, and the Irish pub culture.

As her (highly empathetic) publishers say in the press release, “In Ireland, a pint – having one, going for one, buying one – is a cultural institution. It’s so much more than 568ml of beer in a glass. But how did a simple pint become such a phenomenon? Like all great superheroes, the pint has its own origin story, a full-bodied narrative that explains how the beloved beverage came into being and part of everyday life.”

It’s a great read and perfectly packaged in a neat hardback that will tuck handily into a handbag or large pocket for a chuckle wherever you need it. And Stephan Heffernan’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment too - get the flavour of this little work of genius in the extract below. Sláinte!


“A Compendium of Irish Pints” by Ali Dunworth is published by Nine Bean Rows and illustrated by Stephen Heffernan. It is available from all good bookshops and many independent retailers around the country as well as online at


Unwinding after work with a drink, shaking off the day and the shackles, getting to have some unstructured time with your colleagues to build camaraderie or bitch about your boss – few things taste better than that well-earned after-work pint, so it’s no wonder drinking after (and sometimes during!) work has been part of human culture in various forms for a long time.
A short history of after-work pints
The practice of a post-workday pint in a pub kicked off around the Industrial Revolution. As Ireland became more urban and industrial work increased, people gathered at pubs or taverns after working on the docks or in a mill (people predominantly being male, which was a factor in how the pub was traditionally the preserve of men – see also ‘The old man’s
pub’ for more on this). Alcohol began its infamous relationship with the after-work crowd and after-work drinks eventually became a staple ritual to separate work from play.
In Kingsley Amis’s book On Drink, he writes about the rapid increase in drinking in urban cultures:
'The strains and stresses of urban living, to coin a phrase, are usually held accountable for these increases … sudden confrontation with complete or comparative strangers in circumstances requiring a show of relaxation and amiability … the reason why I, and most others, usually turn out to enjoy meeting such creatures is simply and obviously the co-presence of drink.'
The three types of after-work pints
After-work pints can differ depending on the type of job you have but in general there are three main types of situation you are likely to encounter when you swap the swivel chair for the bar stool.
The swiftie When you genuinely go for just the one. You have one pint that quenches your thirst and marks the end of the day and the start of the evening (or even better, the weekend). You have a nice brief chat with your work friends, then you head off. This after-work pint tends to be a bit of a unicorn, though. Calling it after one pint is not a skill that everyone has in them.
The proper pints This is the sweet spot. It may be an occasion, a birthday, a leaving do or just a Friday or sunny midweek evening, but whatever it is there’s a reason you should stay for more than one. Bonus if someone’s there with a company card buying the drinks. You get the polite chat out of the way and then you get a bit more into it. You end up sitting beside your work bestie or someone you’ve wanted to have a gossip or a chat with or maybe even someone you fancy. The pints and the chats flow. When the proper pints go well, you’ve bonded, you’ve laughed, you’ve had a good time. Ideally you don’t say anything too inappropriate or overshare. This is after-work pint perfection.
The one too many (oh no, what did I do/say?) It started out as proper pints. Things were going well but you or someone else got carried away. There was that extra pint you said you didn’t need, someone ordered shots or maybe you were deep in a bitching session and didn’t want to leave. Whatever the reason, if you’ve been there, you know – and you may still
even have the fear about whatever happened or was said. Let there be solace in knowing you are not alone. The less said about the one-too-many-after-work drinks, the better.
After-work pints in the hospitality industry
Anyone who works in hospitality has another take on after-work pints because they have their pints when we’re all at home in bed or recovering from the night before. Irish chef Christine Walsh describes the magic of off-duty chef pints perfectly:
'Picture this. You’ve worked for 10 hours straight. You’re annoyed, exhausted and fed up. You’re off tomorrow but no plans are made. Half an hour to finish and your mate texts, ‘Pint?’ It’s one of the best feelings – giddiness, excitement, knowing you can go and sit in a pub, no rush on anyone, have talks and laughs and just completely decompress for a few hours in the company of the people you’re most comfortable being around before going home. My favourite type of pint is on a Sunday afternoon, when all the messy arseholes from Saturday nights have crawled home in bits. Sundays are left with the best people out just wanting slow, happy, drama-free pints. Going for pints is not about getting pissed. It’s the social, banter-loving atmosphere that we crave the most with the people we like the most.'

There is an unwritten rule once you pass airport security that you are in no man’s land when it comes to time, which means having a drink is acceptable – and often encouraged – at any time of the day. It’s always five o’clock somewhere when you’re in a departure lounge. Dublin Airport is a particularly good example of this, with Terminal 1 leading the way. Even if you arrive bleary-eyed in the wee hours, someone will be drinking a pint. At busy times there’s a palpable buzz that only adds to the excitement if you’re heading off. For many, the airport pint is a holiday tradition. They plan to get there early, meet with friends and catch up. It’s the ultimate klaxon to say, right, I’m switched off and holiday mode is on. You might spot groups in matching tracksuits with ‘Team Bride’ emblazoned on the back tucking into drinks before they board their Ryanair flights to Spain or rowdy gangs in matching T-shirts proclaiming their tribe (Johnno’s Stag! Mary’s 50th!) en route to Liverpool or Vegas. In the 1950s, the Dublin Airport restaurant was the place to be. It was a chic, linen tablecloth affair. People with no intention of ever flying would get dressed up and head there for the evening. Dances were even held there. No doubt a few bottles of porter were drunk. It’s no wonder there’s still a sense of devilment in the air when you get there. Non-drinking travellers look on and laugh (mostly) and business travellers pretend to ignore them and tap on their laptops. Couples heading off without their kids (yay!) order a drink, looking forward to the undisturbed sleep as much as as much as the sunshine. Solo travellers sip away and enjoy the unrivalled people-watching an airport offers. Then there are the travellers who are leaving Ireland for a while, cherishing what might be their last decent pint until they return.
Whatever the reason, the airport pint is unique and the camaraderie in Irish airport bars is something not seen elsewhere. And it’s become a ubiquitous social media post. You’d think you can’t get on a flight without uploading a ‘pint and passport’ picture along with a cheesy caption like ‘Out of office is on!’ Guinness has cottoned on (as they usually do) that there’s quite the demand for a perfect pint of the black stuff before people head off and in 2022 opened a dedicated Guinness bar in Dublin Airport’s Terminal 1. It’s a fine pour there and it’s hard to resist a quick stop if you’ve got 20 minutes to spare. If you’re not an airport pinter, why not? Next time you fly, try it for yourself – just don’t forget your ‘out of office’ social media post.


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