Guiness GlassCredit: Dirk Van Esbroeck

Saint Patrick’s Day approaches and many will partake of a pint or two of Guinness, the magnificent stout that has a unique and storied past. On that special day, have some convivial conversation or, better yet, start a spirited argument with these choice tidbits of information.

Some "True" History

Not everyone knows the story of the Texan who went to Ireland to challenge the best drinkers of the day, so I’ll recap it for you. On a trip to Ireland, the Texan enters the most famous pub in Dublin and lays down a challenge. He can drink twenty pints of Guinness in an hour and he’d like to see someone beat that record. He will go pint for pint against any man in the house. If someone can beat him, he says, he will acknowledge that the beer drinkers of Ireland are superior to those of Texas.

He watches with amusement as most of the Irishmen stay quiet. He even notices one lad with a particularly distinctive cap slip out the back door. An hour later, the Texan is almost ready to give up and claim the title for himself when he feels a tug at his elbow. It’s the boyo with the cap who left out the back door.

“I’ll take your challenge,“ says the Irishman, “ and I‘ll beat you too.” The Texan looks him up and down and answers, “No problem. We’re on, but first answer a question from me. Why did you leave out the back door when I first made the challenge?” The Irishman looks back, takes a sip of his Guinness and replies, “Well, I thought it might be difficult to best your record, so I just slipped next door to Clancy’s to make sure I could do it.”

 

  Guinness BarrelsCredit: Sebb                                                           The Situation Today

Guinness is, beyond a doubt, the most popular beer in the South of Ireland. In fact, there is very little in the way of home brewing of even microbreweries. If you walk into an Irish pub in the South, you are sure find Guinness and your health will be toasted with the Gaelic word, “Slainte.”

To be sure, this is the fact in the South of Ireland. In the still divided North, while you will find Guinees in pubs that cater to a Catholic clientele, it is unknown in pubs that serve Protestant drinkers. In fact, entering a “Protestant” pub, buying a beer and saying “Slainte’ is grounds for  being thrown out or worse. The drinkers in those pubs are staunchly pro-English and one, instead, should say “Cheers.”

 

Arthur GuinessCredit: Public DomainYour Man - Arthur Guinness

It is an unfortunate situation that the Irish in the north and South will not reconcile with each other but the history of Guinness brings has another bizarre twist. Arthur Guinness was a member of the Anglican Church, that is, he was a Protestant. He despised the Catholic religion, through and through, and the company he started embodied that sentiment completely.

Though all of the beer was initially brewed in Ireland, its headquarters is still in London, England. In addition, until the mid-twentieth century, any brewer who intended to marry a Catholic was “asked” to resign. Mr. Guinness, himself, was, until his death, an unrepentant Irish Unionist which meant that he favored English sovereignty over the country of Ireland. There is no word on whether he changed his mind afterwards.

Though much of this is ancient history, it is still interesting to note that in mans quest for the best beer, no amount of aggravation or animosity is insurmountable. Just some thoughts to ponder as you have those wonderful pints on Saint Patrick’s Day.