It takes a stout man to run an Irish pub

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The Guinness contest, now in its fifth year, sounds like a dream come true.

Write a short essay romanticizing the wonders of serving stout in Ireland, compete in a few bar games and the winner gets his own pub in some rustic village on a verdant hillside.

Sounds like something out of a Daniel Day-Lewis movie.

But get past all that clover and lucky-charm stuff, and you’ve still got yourself a bar. Fistfights and folk music and crabby waitresses and potato soup – you might as well stay home in Kensington and rent “Riverdance.”

Joe Sixpack wondered how last year’s winner, Doug Knight, was doing after six months of serving drunken Irishmen and other upstanding citizens of Cahir, County Tipperary.

Not so bad, it turns out.

Yes, he’s dizzy and tired. But Knight – who stopped in town this week for a publicity tour – reports he’s still unbruised.

A musician and songwriter from Milwaukee, Knight, 32, tied on his apron at Morrissey’s Pub on Aug. 12. “We were just swamped right away,” he said, “and it was wonderful.”

He and his wife, Suzanne, had long dreamed of owning a business and traveling. The pub “basically was the answer to all our prayers,” he said. “It’s a great town. People say hello on the street. We have a milkman. The doctors make house calls.”

This week, Knight dropped in at a few local Irish haunts, including Moriarty’s (1116 Walnut St.) and the incorrectly spelled Finnigan’s Wake (3rd and Spring Garden streets). How do they compare with his place?

Not surprisingly, Philly’s Irish pubs lose something in the translation. You don’t see a lot of shamrocks in Ireland – and the locals don’t get loose on happy-hour pitchers of light beer.

“Most of the traditional pubs in Ireland aren’t as fancy as they are here,” said Knight. “The bars here are a lot bigger. In Ireland, they’re not as decorated. My pub looks a lot more lived-in.”

Morrissey’s sounds like Joe Sixpack’s kind of place.

A SIXPACK OF Q&A

Knight won his Irish pub by beating out nine other finalists in a contest of tavern activities, including pint-pouring, dart-throwing and all-around bar knowledge. I tested him with my own drinkin’ quiz.

What’s in a half-and-half?

Harp and Guinness – but no one’s asked for one yet.

Bushmill or Jameson?

Bushmill.

Have you had enough Guinness yet?

No, but some mornings I wake up and, oh boy.

How long is it to Tipperary?

It depends on if you’re walking or flying.

What’s a ton-eighty?

I’ve never heard of that before. [Note: It’s dartspeak for 3 triple-20s.]

Who tips better: Catholics or Protestants?

No one tips in Ireland.

SHARPEN YOUR PENCILS

OK, stout fans – here’s this year’s essay. In 50 words or less, complete the following phrase: “Why Guinness is my perfect pint . . .”

Entry forms are available at most bars and distributors that carry Guinness; further info is available at the brewery’s Web site, www.guinness.ie.

This year’s winner will take over the tap handles at Finucane’s Pub in Listowel, County Kerry.

So, why is Guinness my perfect pint?

Because it’s not Coors Light.

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