Eight years on and still we read about the abomination of green beer, the correct spelling of the drunken holiday and holiers than holy insisting Guinness is not what it was. Lecturing. Nothing like keeping it dull, craft. Way to go.
Let’s be honest. It’s a “spring is coming” fest. It’s a “I don’t have to study for final exams quite yet” fest. On the drive in this morning, a lovely sunny morning recovering from the last few days of deep cold and whipping winter storm, I saw two of the local university gits standing at the shoreline,
gazing out upon the head of the St. Lawrence backs to the road wearing matching baseball jerseys, white with green pin stripes. Their jerseys were both numbered “17” and the name above the number was “WASTED” on both. I expect they already were. By noon, they have gathered in herds. Tomorrow I shall rise early, just about when I trust they will be hitting the hay… or the floor… or wherever.
Every seven or sometimes thirteen years, the 17th of March lands on a Friday. You might see ten in a reasonably long life time, fewer in your adult years. One – or two, if you are lucky, at most – during the time of your greatest stupidity as a bar crawler. Short of death or injury, breach of liquor law or crime – is it so bad, craft beer cognoscenti, that the young have their good time? Is it so bad that the beer is green and cheap or that the beards lack moustaches?*
*Well, I never got that facial hair bit but you get my point.
This is a difficult date on the calendar for me. Like in many places, the Irish, lapsed or otherwise, and their fellow travelers in small town eastern Ontario have gathered and tightly packed themselves into traditional bars like the Douglas Tavern or the Tweedsmuir drinking macro lager dyed green and/or Guinness and/or whatever else is going. But I am not of them. Scots me. These celebrations can get quite elaborate and have been mentioned in our national Parliament. They seem to rival the… err… passion seen in the larger urban St. Paddy’s events in US centers like Syracuse where it lasts so long it forms its own season. The day seems to serve the need for a New Year’s Eve party ten weeks after that hammering of the brain cells – and one with less of the pretense, more of the getting pickled for being legitimately pickled sake.
I say legitimately as these descendants of the Irish in this part of North America embrace themselves and the generations before them through this ritual. Me? It’s been tea and water for me today. A Saturday even. I am being sensible, see. Sensible. Four years ago, I called for the embracing of March 17th by the fans of good beer. Things may have changed. From the Twitter feeds and Google news items floating by good beer fans seem to be rejecting rejection. And some craft brewers are getting into the day. Beaus, as Bryan recently noted, has a seasonal beer out now called Strong Patrick. Are there others? Why not? If ever there was a reason to brew a seasonal beer it is in response to a season focused on beer. One problem, however, is that craft beer has somewhat abandoned standard Irish stout. As Andy noted last fall, it was the least competitive category at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival. Imperial Irish reds are all very fine in their way but why not make an Irish dry stout for when the Irish are dry? I might even join in.
Have a thought for Saint Patrick, the actual guy. Taken as a teen age slave from his native Wales to Ireland, familiar with all the details of Druidism from whose bondage he was destined to liberate the Irish race, able to paralyze those who would deter him from his mission and all we can do is get pounded in his name. Isn’t the 17th of March now a bit of a sad legacy given, at least in certain places, the celebrations reach a pitch which would make a Druid blush?
Craft beer fans seem to object to the St. Patrick’s Day as a general thing. Andy Crouch is turned off by the exploitation by big American breweries, the push by Guinness for a holiday is seen for the commercial exploitation that it is and slightly excruciating efforts are made to find another angle on green beer.
But not being Irish, not being American, no longer being a regular Guinness drinker and not being a person to go out and get sloshed in bars like some cheese-eating frat boy…what’s the harm? Isn’t the cheeriness associated with the day and the doings somewhat compelling? Aren’t there peoples from Patagonia to the Republic of Palau who ache with jealousy at the good PR the Irish get out of it? And, given all the free press about beer this time of year – if we are like Patrick to be evangelists ourselves – isn’t this a great opportunity for a teaching moment? Isn’t this, frankly, the sort of beer holiday that craft brewers would dream of making up if it didn’t already exist?
Saint Patrick can be associated with bringing the gift of civilization, of the pluck to take on an impossible task, of the enduring drive to achieve passion’s dream. These all seem great values you can associate with hard working craft brewers. Take back and take on the day, I say.
There are some things I won’t put on the beer blog – including some new gack called “Guinness Red”. Apparently the much jiggered with recipe moves over the last few decades have done their deed leaving the brewer to consider “the brand is the asset” now that it has destroyed the actual drink:
The launch of Guinness Red is the latest in a series of slightly odd, innovative brand extensions for the famous beer brand, which has been hit with declining sales. In February, in time for St Patrick’s Day, Diageo tied up with Marmite to produce a limited edition Guinness-flavoured Marmite spread, with just 300,000 hitting supermarket shelves. The company also launched the battery-powered “ultra-sonic” Guinness Surger that enables Guinness fans to create a proper “tight creamy” head to their beer when drinking at home. Perhaps the most bizarre brand extension was a tie-up with Northern Irish bread company Irwin’s Bakery, to create – after two years of research and development – Guinness bread. Guinness Wholegrain Bread, which has 17% Guinness content, is described as “the perfect malty bread” by Irwin’s.
Stonch has it right: “If this diabolical stuff passed the taste test, I despair of the British people.”