Thursday, September 23, 2010
Well, here we are again, at the intersection of marketing masquerading as culture.
Noted masters of the dark arts of advertising, Guinness, are trying for the second year running to parlay some bullshit date they picked almost at random into a secular national day in honour of their piss-poor product.
Most Dubliners, indeed most Irish people, were prepared to tolerate this blatant hijacking of Ireland and Irishness for a once -off event, especially since there was little we could do about it, short of banning their pub promotions.
But now that they're trying to make their secular Paddy's Day into an annual event, it's time that people started protesting.
Why bother, you might ask. After all, if Diageo want to give away cheap pints in Dublin, what's the problem?
The main problem I see is that it is yet another elision of drunken behaviour with Irish character, one that plays to outdated stereotypes that the global media laps up, just as it lapped up the idea that our Taoiseach is an ardent boozer who does interviews while hungover.
There's the secondary problem of anti-social behaviour resulting from this Arthur's Day nonsense, as Garda figures for arrests for disorderly conduct last year in Dublin will testify.
But if we really must have another national drinking day, why must it celebrate one of the great tragedies of the Irish brewing industry?
Not only did the growing hegemony of Guinness (a British run firm owned by a multinational) destroy the vibrant local brewing industry in Ireland in the past century, but their own much-vaunted flagship product is, frankly, muck.
Don't get me wrong. They do know how to brew at St James Gate. But the marketing wankers won't let them. The Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is one of the world's great beers. But try buying it in Ireland. The carbonated Guinness Extra is also pretty damn good, but is restricted to a few dusty bottles hidden away on pub shelves behind the ranks of Smirnoff WKD.
The draught version of the stout is nothing like what it was even after the nitrokeg creamy head was introduced. On order from on high, the brewers have been forced to try to brew all the taste OUT of the beer, so that the marketing wankers can 'position' it against swillable piss-lagers like Budweiser.
But Guinness is a stout. It never was, nor never could be a competitor for bland, fizzy alco-waters. The result is that they lose their traditional consumers and yet fail to attract the 'Heino or Carl' contingent either.
It doesn't stop them trying though. We've had Breo. We've had Guinness 'Lite'. Now we've got 'black lager'. All diabolically bad. And this is the direction they keep pushing Guinness draught towards.
There's a reason why Guinness doesn't compete in international beer competitions anymore. It's because they're not only not the best stout in the world, they're not even the best stout in Dublin.
(That honour goes to the spectacular Wrasslers XXXX by the Porterhouse Microbrewery.)
Thankfully, there has been something of a renaissance in craft brewing in Ireland in recent years. In addition to the Beamish/Murphy (same brewery now) Guinness alternative, there are now real options for stout drinkers who wish to avoid the fish-scales slop coming out of St James' Gate.
Carlow do an extremely tasty O'Hara's stout, and College Green in Belfast have the excellent and sumptuous Molly's Chocolate Stout. And of course the Porterhouse boys specialise in stouts and porters, as the name suggests. Their Plain, Oyster Stout and XXXX are all superb.
These are REAL Irish beers, deserving of people's attention, palates and money.
I propose that all right-thinking beer lovers and Irish people turn their back on the bullshit that is Arseholes' Day and spend the evening instead exploring the delights of Irish craft brewing either in the nearest enlightened hostelry or else in the comfort of their own home.
Maybe when Diageo start shipping market share in large amounts to real brewers, they will realise the error of their ways and permit their own brewers to do what they do best and make some proper stout.
After all, they do it for foreign markets and they've done it in small batches for Ireland too. The only thing stopping them is the delusions of the ponytailed wanker brigade who have such contempt for both beer lovers and the Irish nation that they genuinely believe you'll buy into their new national day proposal just because they'll discount their pints of muck for the night.
And now Budweiser are getting in on the act, proposing their own 'national happy hour' in the US.
This crap is going to spread, people. Not content with privatising our public spaces, now they want to privatise our holidays too. Don't let the marketing vermin win.