By: Nicole Zempel
Bill Dempsey, owner of Dempsey's Irish Pub, dreams of one day telling stories of Irish
culture and history. He said he can’t think of anything better. And on this day, I couldn't think of anything better than being right where I was - catching a glimpse into his story.
Born in Heidelberg, Germany in an Army hospital to an Austrian mother and a "New York Irish" father that hailed from the Bronx and served this country during World War II - Bill points out that during the War he had family that fought with the United States, the British and the German.
His father, Bill Sr., was part of the "Big Red One" first infantry group. And this is how Bill Jr., met his future wife. Bill's parents and his wife's parents were all moved to Kansas at the same time, as Fort Riley is known as the "Home of the Big Red One."
As it went, both Bill Jr. and his wife were born in Germany as their parents were moved and living in the same places at the same times. As a result, they met as youth and have now been married forty-three years.
I have to say, I hope Bill realizes his dream of telling stories, as I was quite taken by all he was kind enough to share with me. And this was just in the first ten minutes of our visit! Bill seems a soft spoken fella, but he was generous enough to play to my ceaseless curiosity.
After awhile we moved onto all things Irish. I told him of my fascination with Ireland, the landscape, the culture, the music, the charming accents and my love of Bagpipes. We talked a bit about Irish music - and my favorite tune - On Raglan Road. I had referenced the Dubliners, but Bill informs me that Van Morrison does a splendid rendition of the song. I also learned that Van Morrison is, in fact, Irish.
This conversation prompted Bill to ask if I'd like to hear some bagpipes. Unknown to me until that moment I had been conversing with the "Official Bagpiper of South Dakota!" In no time bagpipes were in hand as Bill treated myself and a handful of afternoon guests to some hauntingly beautiful sounds.
Bill got his start on the bagpipes as the result of a fifty dollar bet with his friends. They said he couldn't do it, but Bill said he could. After years of hard work and determination Bill made good on the bet and also got his fifty dollars. Let it be known that this "Official Piper" was also kind enough to treat everyone to two more performances upon my request :)
After a while we also got around to talking about his family owned and operated business, Dempsey's Irish Pub. He has been in business for fifteen years and has been brewing beer for twenty years.
A fellow patron named Matt, who happened to be visiting from Denver Colorado, describes Bill's brew sampler as, "Batting 100." I should also mention that Matt's hobby includes taste testing at breweries in every state including Alaska and his now home state of Colorado.
Matt says that the craft beer he sampled on this day is, "Right up there with the best breweries." Adding, that he orders the sampler platter at every brewery he visits and typically can't finish all of it. But, here at Dempsey's, he finished the entire sampler which consisted of five craft beers ranging from light to dark.
They also brew up a fantastic Root Beer! And, in addition to a menu that is by and large "made from scratch," along with in-house smoked bacon and grinding their own meat, it is their Pizza that has been in high demand! Baked on Granite Slabs by Bill's son Se'an, who learned from the best, World Pizza Cup Champion Tony Gemignani. Folks can't get enough of it.
From the sounds, to the foods, to the beautiful brick walls adorned with Irish flair - Dempsey's Irish Pub is truly a little slice of Ireland found on Main Street Watertown. I am thankful to Bill for being such a fantastic host and story teller!