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A toucan enjoying a Guinness

St. Patrick’s Day is the annual holiday on which the Irish like to remember how their patron saint banished snakes from their country.*

It is also the day on which anyone with even the vaguest association with the country heads out to their local hostelry to celebrate – usually with the customary imbibing of stout and the traditional wearing of outsized, novelty hats.

Despite famously ‘not travelling well’, more than 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed around the world on St. Patrick’s Day each year.

Originally an ale brewer, Arthur Guinness unleashed his world conquering Irish stout in 1759.

The company was later able to steal the march on London brewers when the British government imposed restrictions on malting and beer strengths during the First World War.

Stylish advertising and the canny appropriation of St. Patrick’s Day did the rest.

Like comedy, the secret to pouring a pint of Guinness is timing. According to the Guinness website, the ‘perfect pour’ should take 119.5 seconds and the glass should be held under the tap at an angle of 45 degrees. The drink must then be allowed to rest. This is considered crucial. After a pause long enough for the drink to settle, the glass is then filled – again, at a 45 degree angle.

The drink that’s handed across the bar to you should have a smooth, creamy head and be served at exactly 42.8F. If it isn’t, naturally you should complain wildly…

Popular myths about Guinness

  • Due to its slightly nutty aroma, a lot of stout and porter buffs insist that Guinness contains oats – but this is actually not true. The sole ingredients of the drink are roasted barley, hops, yeast, and water.
  • Despite being nicknamed ‘the black stuff’ – and variations thereof – Guinness is not actually black. It is a very dark shade of ruby.
  • Though they retired their ‘Guinness is Good for You’ slogan decades ago, recently the Guinness company have found out it might actually be (quite) good for you after all. In 2003, a team of American researchers tested the health-giving properties of stout against lager, by giving it to dogs with narrowed arteries. They later recorded that those given the Guinness had reduced clotting activity in their blood. This is because dark beers are packed with anti-oxidant compounds called ‘flavonoids’, which help reduce damage to the lining of the arteries.

If you think that the Guinness brand will be with us for a while yet, you’re probably right.

St. James’ Gate Brewery, the home of Guinness in Dublin, was originally leased to Arthur Guinness in 1759 at a cost of just £45 per year – and for a staggering 9000 years!

It makes you ponder the fate of the junior land agent that went back to his boss that day and told him: “well, he asked for 10,000 years…but I managed to get him down.”

*This story checks out. I’ve been to Ireland loads of times and never seen a single snake.

E O’Higgins

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