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I’m ruined.

No longer can I be the girl who judges beer by how many I can buy with sofa-cushion change or by what stacks well in my undersized Japanese refrigerator.

No longer can I cheerfully scream “It’s Miller time!” or “PBR me, ASAP!”

This former “Tastes great, Less Filling!” girl has become “Tastes Refined, More Annoying!” and the simple joy of cracking a brewski, any brewski — cold, warm, homemade, skunked or even free — is gone forever.

Because now, I’m THAT girl.

That beer snob. The one fated to start every Irish pub conversation from now till eternity with “When I was in IRELAND … ” and wax poetic about the glories of drinking Guinness in the country that made it famous.

Don’t get me wrong; Guinness gets around. I’ve put down plenty of the dark, bitter brew in pubs all over the world — with and without clovers on top. But it was different in Ireland, an observation I will no doubt repeat until my friends hit me in the mouth with a hammer.

Even now that I’m back to work at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, the memories of my family trip to Ireland are still fresh — especially the memory of the last Guinness I had before my flight.

The airport pub was rocking with Guinness- mustachioed tourists trying to down a final beer before boarding. It was 10:30 in the morning.

What’s the point of this diatribe, you ask?

I guess it’s that Guinness in Ireland is better than anywhere else.

Granted, bartenders worldwide agree that Guinness is more fuss than the average brew. Serving a pint requires the “two-part pour,” which means filling half the glass at a 45-degree angle, waiting until it settles, then topping it off. You don’t even dream about starting the second pour until you see the “Bishop’s Collar” — the line between the brew and the foam. The entire process takes about two minutes.

In Ireland, I rarely saw my Guinness sooner than 10 minutes after I ordered it, as they take the pour very seriously. A rush order will get you thrown out on your can — and a canned Guinness is what you’ll be stuck drinking.

I disagree wholeheartedly with the Guinness Web site’s claim that its product tastes the same everywhere. Guinness brought out the frustrated critic hiding in several of my family members as each pint spurred on discussions about subtle differences in flavors and consistency from pub to pub. And we’re not pinky-raisers.

Our winning pint was found in Fanore, where the Guinness foam was so thick that the cast of “Riverdance” could stomp upon it without getting their feet wet. And the brew beneath sang with a lip-smacking coffee tang. It was incredible.

So while I bemoan the loss of my undiscriminating beer palate, I am filled with the righteous glory that comes with drinking some of the best beer ever.

But I’d better stop with the “When I was in Ireland … ” stuff soon. Otherwise I won’t have anyone to drink beer — inferior or otherwise — with at all.

A few things I learned

1. If someone offers you crack, take it. Crack, spelled “craic,” is not a drug or something that breaks your mother’s back. It’s a term for fun, as in “Watching that car catch on fire is good craic.”

2. The pint can be used as a unit of measurement for time as well as volume. For example, “Last Tuesday was a four-pint night” means you stayed at the pub for only a couple of hours.

3. No one says “Top o’ the mornin’, ya wee lass!” That’s called “Oirish” — the language Americans think the Irish speak.

4. A hurling player is not someone who vomits frequently and is constantly on the make. It is a bat-and-ball field game and is one of Ireland’s most popular sports.

5. Under no circumstances should you do ANYTHING that would cause someone to put an Irish curse on you. They are really scary. Some examples taken from my nightmarish “Irish Curses” book by Duncan Crosbie: “May you rot like untreated leather.” “May your sleep be that of a chicken in a dunghill.” “May you choke on butter.”

6. Fairies do exist. I saw them in Cork.

7. Blarney Castle is where you can find the American tourists in Ireland — getting the stone’s powerful gift of gab doesn’t seem to fixate other cultures as much as ours. Expect to be felt up by the old guy who “helps” people kiss the Blarney Stone. Take a shower afterward.

8. Drink Irish beer there, not your standard American lager — even though some pubs carry it. Drink Guinness everywhere, Murphy’s in southern Ireland and Beamish when you’re on a budget.

— Allison Batdorff

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