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Irish, if Only for a Day

Sterling bars serve it up on St. Paddy’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day may be for the Irish, but O’Faolain’s won’t hold it against anyone who wants to drink something other than their Guinness, Harp or Smithwick’s beer.

The restaurant’s bartender Barry McMahon, a 25-year-old native of County Clare, Ireland, said people are encouraged to drink the imported brew because the day belongs to the Irish. And a poster promoting the amber Smithwick’s — which McMahon pronounces Smidicks — provides an incentive. “Ireland’s oldest ale is here and it’s bringing the luck of the Irish.”

WITH A CONTAGIOUS smile and a twinkle in his eyes, he entertains the patrons with his heavy brogue. When asked about the unusual taste in Harp, McMahon quipped, “To be honest, it isn’t very popular in Ireland. We just give it to the Yanks to get rid of the last few barrels.”

McMahon, who visited Countryside and liked the people so much that he stayed, said one of the differences between Americans and the people back home, is how they pronounce Harp. “We’d prefer they have a pint of Harp rather than a pint of Harps,” he said.

All kidding aside, the one thing Virginians won’t get at O’Faolain’s Irish Restaurant & Pub is beer with green dye in it, he said. “Anywhere you have green beer, you’ll probably see a Leprechaun sign flashing on and off the roof. In other words, it won’t be a real Irish bar.”

Kathy and Chris Collier were among the patrons keeping McMahon busy Saturday. She said they love celebrating with the Irish, but they won’t be at the pub this Thursday. They only acknowledge St. Paddy’s Day when it falls on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

“It’s a project,” Chris Collier said.

Kathy Collier nodded, saying they start the revelry in the morning and party all day. “We debated for many months whether we’d do it this year,” she said. “He’s Irish, you see.”

Which part of Ireland? Her husband gave a hearty laugh, “Pennsylvania,” he said.

The couple will be missing live Irish music, authentic Irish fare, dancers, favors and a heated tent outside the pub and restaurant. Co-owner Justin Holohan, a native of County Laois, Ireland, said his brother Damien Holohan will be cooking the shepherd's pie, corn beef and cabbage, Bushmill’s salmon, fish and chips and other Irish food that’s always on O’Faolain’s menu. Restaurant reservations are required after 3 p.m.

BUNGALOW BILLIARDS and Brew Co. in Cascades, however, will be serving the shamrock-colored brew on St. Patrick’s Day, when “everybody’s Irish for a day,” manager Greg Reed said. He is planning an American-style St. Paddy’s Day celebration with all the trimmings. The restaurant is planning for the partying to begin Thursday and last through Sunday. “It’s a seamless weekend,” he said.

The highlight will be the Danny Morris band of Cocoa Beach, Fla., on Saturday night. “It’s like surf music meets rock and roll,” Reed said.

A disc jockey will be on hand Thursday night, with a few Irish songs. “It’s fun for maybe half an hour,” Reed said. “He’ll mostly take requests.”

The green food coloring is added to the kegs at the plant before they are distributed to the bars. Otherwise, it would be “nuts” trying to add it to each pint, he said.

Scott Stiehl said he will be making Irish meals with a Bungalow twist. “We’re doing a Rueben roll, but it’s like an egg roll,” he said.

Stiehl also is baking Irish soda bread, which is more along the lines of the real thing. “And we’ll have beef and Guinness stew, which is delightful,” he said.

MIGHTY MIKE’S RESTAURANT and Bar in Sterling Park is planning a party, but it will be low key, said Jay Segar, who serves as manager and bartender. “We’ll have a couple of church choirs here,” he said, with a straight face that gave way to a grin.

Segar said he plans to enjoy the Irish fare and green beer instead of bartending. He’ll be playing the part of an Irishman, he said. “The drunk part, definitely that part that doesn’t want to get up and go to work the next day.”

Mike Schawalder, owner, said he will have shamrocks, leprechauns and the like to decorate the bar. The disc jockey will play trivia games, asking patrons to name the artist and year of various songs. “He’ll throw in an Irish song,” Schawalder added.

The bar/restaurant also will offer a door prize and host a “Luck of the Draw” dart tournament. Prizes will include cash, T-shirts and hats. Revelers also can play pool and dance.

While the holiday draws a huge crowd at most bars, Schawalder said he doesn’t expect to break any records. His customers know he doesn’t want anyone driving home drunk, he said. “It’s a very cautious day. We try to make sure they don’t overdo.”