The pubs in Ireland serve up more than pints of Guinness, though we scarcely need more of a reason to hit a pub than for the pint. That said, the Irish pub embodies so much of what draws us back to Ireland again and again. It’s hard to remain a stranger in a pub; Irish hospitality usually flows in a pub as much as the stout. At one of our favorite pubs, the owner taught me–a Yank and a non-local–his secret to pulling the perfect pint, then allowed me behind the bar to give it a go myself. (And, yes, that pint ranks among the best-pulled pints I’ve had the pleasure to drink.) Would that happen anywhere else than in an Irish pub?

The pub is a meeting place, a living museum of local lore, a fertile ground for both heated and heartfelt discussions, the stage and house for vibrant music sessions. It’s not uncommon for a pub owner to wear many hats including that of running the funeral home next door, or–as with Leonard’s Pub in Lahardaun–that of grocer and hardware store owner…as well as mortician.

Many of the pubs have been in the same families for generations–the decor unchanged, the wooden booths and barstools worn smooth and shiny from the steady cycling of local clientele through the doors–neighbors, friends, family, community. You can feel the presence of all the pints sipped, stories told and notes played.

Alex Fegan has captured all of this and more in his beautifully poignant documentary, The Irish Pub. We’ve had the pleasure to down a pint or two in nearly half of the pubs featured in the film and are looking forward to completing the list. This film is a brilliant glimpse into the Irish pub and culture–an institution that is feeling the effects of change. As of this writing you can watch it on Netflix. Treat yourself to a virtual pub crawl.