guinness beer and st patricks day

Guinness Beer and St. Patricks Day. Each year, this mid-Lenten holiday honors the patron saint of Ireland through drinking and feasting.

St. Patrick’s Day, initially a day to celebrate the life of the patron saint of Ireland, has evolved into one of the most celebrated beer-drinking days of the year.

Saint Patricks Day History

Saint Patrick’s Day honors Patrick of Ireland, an English-born missionary teaching in Ireland. Although never formally beatified, the Roman Catholic Church, on March 17th, 461, the anniversary of his death, relaxed Lenten food and alcohol restrictions to allow drinking and feasting. 

The day and celebrations became known as St Patrick’s Day.

Little did the 5th Century monks understand that this small accommodation intended to bring harmony to the populous would forever link the March holiday with eating and green beer.  

Americans have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day for over three hundred years. While the holiday began in the 5th century, the New World’s first St Patrick’s Day celebration occurred in 1601. The world’s first St. Paddy’s Day parade walked the streets of Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737. Each year since 1962, Chicago has dyed the downtown Chicago River green. And New Orleans holds a week-long celebration for St. Patrick’s Day.

The Story of Guinness Beer

If St Patrick’s Day had an official beer, it would have to be Guinness

Guinness is a dry Irish stout that originated in the St James’s Gate brewery of Arthur Guinness at St James’s Gate, Dublin, Ireland. In 1759, Arthur Guinness craftily negotiated a 9,000-year lease for £45 per year.

Even though the corporate headquarters have moved to London, Great Britain, the St. James’s Gate area, known as Guinness Open Gate Brewery, remains the home of the Guinness Brand – complete with its Guinness-owned power plant.

One of the most successful alcohol brands worldwide, Guinness began by producing three variations of a single beer type: porter or single stout, double or extra stout, and foreign stout for export. Now there are over dozens of Guinness beer and licensed food products.

Brewers make Guinness stout from water, unmalted barley, roast malt extract, hops, and brewer’s yeast. Roasted barley gives the beer its characteristic dark ruby color and taste, although it is affectionately known as the ‘black stuff.’

In the late 1950s, Guinness moved from cask-conditioned beers into an aluminum keg brewing system – nicknamed iron lungs. Shortly after, Guinness began using nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide for its smaller bubbles — forever changing the texture and flavor of the dark beer. Nitrogen gas gave the beer a creamier and smoother consistency taste.

Contemporary Guinness Draught and Guinness Extra Stout are weaker than in the 19th century when they had an original gravity of over 1.070. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Special Export Stout, with Alchohol By Volume (ABV) of 7.5% and 9%, respectively, are perhaps the closest to their industrial age counterparts.

The Art of the Pour – 119.53 Seconds

Whether you are pouring Guinness original or a newer brew such as Guinness Blonde, a perfect pint of Draught Guinness is the product of a “double pour.” According to Diego PLC, this pouring technique should take 119.53 seconds, and the beer served at 6°C (42.8°F).

A pint of Guinness beer should be served in a slightly tulip-shaped pint, preferably the glasses especially designed by the brewer. 

Truly an art, form the perfect pour consists of four basic steps.

  • Hold the glass at a 45° angle below the tap filling it 3/4 full. 
  • The tap creates friction and tiny nitrogen gas bubbles – forming a creamy head. 
  • Allow the initial pour to settle.
  • Fill the remainder of the glass until the head develops a slight dome over the top of the glass – “just proud of the rim.”
  • Never grab the Guinness pint. Allow the server to hand it over. Anticipation is part of the process.

Over 13 million Pints Sold

Restaurant patrons celebrate each year with a shamrock on their lapel and a pint in their hand. 

And each year, on St Patrick’s day, bartenders pour over 13 million pints of Guinness beer – that’s 25,904,667 minutes of perfect pours. 

The original Guinness Stout is considered the epitome of Irish beers and is served 819% more often on St. Patrick’s Day than the rest of the year.

Irish Beer

While Ireland brews many other popular stout brands, such as Murphy’s Stout – a creamy brew that packs toffee and coffee undertones, these rich brown delicacies are an acquired taste for many. 

Never fear. There are numerous other types of tasty beers to fill an Imperial pint glass. 

Ireland is particularly famous for red ales. Irish Red Ale is a pale ale brewed using a moderate amount of kilned malts and roasted barley. These give the beer its red color.

Famous Irish Red Ale brands include Smithwick’s, established in 1710 in Kilkenny, Ireland, Smithwick’s acquired by Guinness in 1965, and now part of the UK beverage giant Diageo PLC. 

And Harp Lager is a smooth pilsner-style Irish lager created in 1959 and a United States favorite. Formerly produced at the Great Northern Brewery in Dundalk and now brewed in Dublin at the Guinness brewery, as part of the Guinness PLC, a family of beers.

More than Beer – Guinness World Records

Guinness has given the world more than just great beer.

While most are familiar with The Guinness Book of Records, many do not know that it started as an idea for a book of facts to solve arguments in pubs. The idea came about in the early 1950s when Sir Hugh Beaver, Managing Director for Guinness (1890—1967), attended a shooting party in County Wexford. There, he and his hosts argued about the fastest game bird (the red-breasted merganser). And an idea was born.

Uniting past and present, the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the home of Guinness, kicked off a Guinness campaign – on St Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2012, to make it into the book of Guinness World Records –and they did.

So Cheers and Erin go Braugh with friends on Saint Patrick’s day — the ‘The Friendliest Day of the Year.’

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

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