Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


The Journeyman

Thjackete man beside me picks a bottle of beer off the shelf.

“Like the craft beers?” I ask.

“Yeah, love this one,” he says, “made with unfiltered water spring water. You never know what’s in the water these days.”

“True,” I answer, “I like this one.” Picking a bottle of Journeyman IPA off the shelf, not knowing if it’s filtered water or not, but that it is a good drink for a winter’s evening.

“Never tried that one,” he answers, looking at the bottles on the shelf, while rubbing his grey hair back over his ears, sliding a hand along either side of the head. The denim jacket looks in good condition but must be one from the eighties, as I haven’t seen one like it in a long time. No Status Quo or Black Sabbath badges on the pockets but this man looks old enough to have appreciated all the great bands in their heyday.

I’m always wary of recommending anything to anyone, in case they don’t like it and blame me. The best I can do is say how much I like something and leave it at that. Also if someone doesn’t like something I do like, it often makes me wonder about my own tastes. What am I missing? Have I got everything wrong my whole life? What am I doing wrong that the good looking, suave, sophisticated, urbane other person is doing right? So leads to a world of doubt that makes therapists rich. Best to just leave each to his own and get on with your own life, I suppose.

I leave my aging rocker at the shelf and go off to get wine for Lisa. At the checkout he’s standing in front of me, paying for the three bottles of Journeyman IPA the assistant is putting in the bag. Solely on me saying I like the beer, me who’s he’s just met, he’s buying three bottles and I notice none of the one he was taking before I spoke up. On paying he turns the other way, not seeing me standing behind him and heads off out the door. I just hope he likes it and I don’t hear a “Hey you!” someday soon when walking the streets of Tralee and have to duck the three empty bottles chucked at me in anger.

Six weeks later and I’m walking down the aisle of the local Super-Valu. Around the corner by the mustards and tomato sauce, comes a man in a classic blue denim jacket, shoulder length, wavy grey hair and white runners finishing off the blue Wranglers. There is nowhere to go, the aisle is empty, the last person scurries around the corner toward the tills. All we are short of is the music from the Good, Bad and the Ugly stand-off scene, though we do get a ‘Shane Murphy to the self-service area please’ over the instore Tannoy. I’m not even looking at anything and a sudden turn to check the noodles in the Chinese section may show my guilt.

As he walks towards me I look him straight in the eye. He stops and points and me; instant recognition may or may not be a good thing. He looks at me for a second or two longer before he places me fully, giving me that slightly quizzical turn of the head to make sure he has the right person. I raise my eyebrows; my usual response to people who think they may know me. He smiles. I relax and let the Beta blockers take over.

“The craft beer man,” he says.

“That’s me,” I laugh. Along with my beard, black coffee and natty dressing, thanks to Lisa, the liking of craft beer just ticks another box in the hipster textbook. In my defence I’ve been brewing my own beer and drinking black coffee since the early eighties, though if it wasn’t for Lisa I’d probably still be dressing like the early eighties too.

We get into a discussion about beer and life in general. Not too surprisingly he plays guitar, though just a home with friends in the afternoons. We get into how big brands and the big retailers are defining our tastes and limiting our choices when out shopping. The worst are the big breweries and now both of us have lost our love for Guinness, which hasn’t been the same, in our opinion, for years.

“Fluoridation of water is the biggest culprit, ruins everything, killing us from the inside out,” I’m told and I nod, as it’s not a favourite of mine either.

Before I know it a quarter of an hour has gone by. I’m late, it’s almost 3.45pm and I need to collect Ruby in five minutes. We say our goodbyes. Just as we shake hands he pulls me slightly towards him, looks me in the eye and, while still holding me in a tight grip, says:

“Thank you for that beer,” there is a genuine appreciation in his voice, “the best yet, I’m just on my way to buy some more.”

I smile, relieved as he hadn’t mentioned the Journeyman and I was worried that he may not have liked it.

“No problem, good luck.”

We go our separate ways and there is a smile on my face as wide as Cork Harbour.

He’s made my day, though he may never know it.