Irish culture is synonymous with New England and especially Boston. When you think of Boston you think of the Celtics, St. Patrick’s Day, and of course Irish pubs. It’s the city where everything is green for St. Patrick’s Day, especially the beer. When we think of Irish pubs, we think of Guinness, Irish whiskey, Gaelic music, Irish stew, and fish and chips. The Irish are a big part of the area and have been for well over 100 years. So do elements of Irish heritage influence the drinking culture in Boston and New England? The short answer is yes.
The Irish Population Numbers
According to Forbes 35.5 million Americans say they have at least partial Irish ancestry. That’s equivalent to 11.6% of the population, which is higher than the entire population of Ireland. Ireland has a total population of just 6.4 million people. Boston has the highest percentage of people with Irish heritage in the country at 20.4%. That’s followed by Middlesex County Massachusetts at 16.9%. Other areas within New England rank high on the list as well. As you can see New England has a high concentration of people with Irish ancestry than other parts of the country. These high numbers alone would lead to some influence on the culture.
It’s no surprise with such a large population that Irish pubs are everywhere in New England and especially Boston. You can find Irish pubs in just about every neighborhood in the city. Many of the pubs downtown cater to tourists and college students, and the stereotypical image of Irish pubs (4 leaf clovers everywhere, people doing Irish car bombs, the Dropkick Murphy’s blasting). This is not the case however for all the local pubs. Locals fill the pubs in Southie and areas such as Dorchester. These bars can get ruckus too, but you also find quieter ones to talk in and listen to Irish music.
Irish pubs have a long history in Boston. The green dragon tavern is one of the oldest Irish pubs and bars in the city. It dates back to 1654 and counts some of our founding fathers like Paul Revere and John Hancock as patrons. Doyle’s cafe is another Irish bar with a long history dating back to 1882. It’s such an iconic Boston bar that it appears in several movies including Mystic River and Patriots’ Day. Bars like Eire pub have served as photo ops for politicians like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to curry favor with the local population, Irish pubs are woven into the fabric of Boston, and cater to people from all walks of life.
The Drinking Culture in New England
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public health, New Englanders like to drink. New England ranked as one of the areas with the highest rates of problematic drinking and overall drinking. Irish Americans have a higher alcohol drinking rate of 80% compared to the 67% found in the overall population. This isn’t necessarily a smoking gun that Irish heritage has influence the drinking culture, but it does show some linkage. It’s hard to deny that an area with such high Irish heritage wouldn’t have an effect on the drinking culture given their higher drinking rates.
Bostonians and New Englanders alike love to drink as we’ve stated before. Boston, after all, is a home of the famous Sam Adams brewery. Sometimes the drinking can go a little too far. 2.1% of Massachusetts residents admit to driving drunk which is higher than the National average of 1.9%. DUI’s in Massachusetts come with some pretty stiff penalties nowadays including fines of $500-$5000, a loss of your license for a year, and potentially jail time. A good lawyer can help minimize these penalties and possibly get you off. The services you need, if you’ve received a DUI, can be found here.
It’s hard to say anything other than yes; the Irish have influenced the drinking culture in New England. Based on the data available given the population numbers and drinking number it’s fair to say they have. The Irish pub scene has helped shape the drinking culture in Boston for decades. Many of the lists you’ll find online for the best bars in Boston have some Irish pubs on the list. The number of Irish pubs is so high that it’s its own sought-after category in the area.
The Irish pub has turned Boston at the very least into a vibrant, multifaceted drinking culture. It’s created establishments for the throngs of college students, tourists, and locals. You can find pubs that double as nightclubs, as well as quiet places to grab a pint or a glass of whiskey and catch up with an old friend. The Irish pub has a special place in the heart of New England.