March 16, 2012 - SPD - The Route
St. Patrick's Day. After Christmas day, St. Paddy's has to be my favorite day of the year. And like Christmas, St. Patrick's Day is rife with ritual and tradition.
Growing up, my father always had his St. Patrick's Day traditions. Every year the same routine, first Mass at St. Mary's, then the flag raising at the AOH then The Son's of St. Patrick breakfast then back to the AOH for a full day of pints, boiled meat and tomfoolery.
When I became an adult, I established my own routine and rituals. For the past 22 years, I've celebrated the feats of St. Patrick in the same way, with the same friend crawling the same pubs (with new friends and pubs thrown in each year for variety). It's an all day affair, with other friends dropping in and out along the route. Now in our wiser middle age, we hire a driver to ferry us among the capital district watering holes we visit (starting in Troy, stopping in Albany and ending in Schenectady). Nothing ruins a St. Patrick's Day more quickly than flashing lights...
Below is an account of our 2012 pub crawl, with images after in correlation:
- We start the day with irish coffees and a full irish breakfast.
- After breakfast we always watch John Ford's "The Quiet Man" (another tradition courtesy of my father). If you haven't seen The Quiet Man, it's a rollicking story of an american boxer (John Wayne) who returns to his ancestral home in Ireland to forget his troubles. Upon arrival, he incurs the ire of the local bully (Victor McLaglen) and falls in love with the bully's sister (Maureen O'Hara). What follows is two hours of beautiful irish countryside, rich irish characters and a good old fashion Donnybrook. The movie is a love letter to a mythical ireland and a great way to kick off the day. (My brother also follows this tradition at his bar. Every St. Patrick's Day he offers a full irish breakfast with a viewing of the Quiet Man - this year they had 101 people turn out. Fun stuff).
- First stop on the SPD pub crawl is always Marty Burke's in Troy, NY (also known as The Southend Tavern - http://southendtavern.com/
). Marty Burke's is a classic working man's pub, a throwback and tribute to Troy's industrial past. On St. Patrick's Day they serve over 1,500 pounds of corned beef - holy cow!
- Next stop on the crawl is Brown and Moran's in Troy (now known as Brown's Brewing - http://brownsbrewing.com/
). Here they do an annual 'Blessing of the Bar' where a local priest comes in and blesses the bar and all bellied up to it. The first year they did this, the bartender actually stopped the priest mid-blessing to refill our pints - the priorities shall be observed.
- Next we added a new stop to this year's tour, the new Dinosaur BBQ in Troy (http://www.dinosaurbarbque.com/locations/troy/
). The Dinosaur started as a biker bar in Syracuse and has grown into a statewide chain. They have great BBQ and a very respectable beer list.
- The penultimate pub on the Troy leg of the tour is Jose Malone's (http://www.josemalones.com/
). Jose's is an eclectic Irish/Mexican hybrid that somehow works. They also have a nice beer selection.
- Next stop on the tour is Ryan's Wake in Troy, NY (http://www.ryanswake.com/
). Chris Ryan is a great guy who was one of the original bartender's at Brown and Moran's. He's since opened up his own place and it's a perfect place to observe the intersection of pope and pint that St. Patrick straddles. Chris used a lot of reclaimed church interiors in his bar, to great affect. He also has Utica Club on tap and the nicest urinals this side of the Atlantic.
- After Ryan's we leave Troy and head across the Hudson River to Albany where this year we added a new favorite to SPD crawl - Wolff's Beirgarten (http://www.wolffsbiergarten.com/
). Sure it's a german biergarten and about as irish as bratwurst, but it has all the characteristics of a good pub, so it gets an honorary inclusion.
- In Albany, we always stop at McGeary's Pub (http://www.mcgearyspub.com
). McGeary's is the only regular stop on the Albany leg of the crawl as it's THE irish pub in town and as such attracts the largest crowd. It's a veritable La Brea tar pit of people, pints and music. We see so many folks that we know there that it's like a reunion of fellow fenians. Good times.
- Once we are finally able to break free of McGeary's we take the crawl to Schenectady where BL's is our home pub. We also stop at Katie O'Byrnes and Pinhead Susan's, both great irish pubs in the own right.
All in all it's a very long day of pints and palaver. But a great day to get out and celebrate all that we love about the irish - pubs, people, music and mayhem. It's a great day for the irish!
Another tradition we've picked up over the years is sharing dirty limericks with folks we meet out. It's a great way to break the ice and make conversation. Here's my favorite:
There once was a man named Adair
Who was having his girl on the stair.
When the banister broke,
He doubled his stroke,
And polished her off in mid-air.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!