Stout with the old…

It's not you Arthur. It's us.

It’s not you Arthur.
It’s us.

GUINNESS is Irish?

Pull the other one. The other tap that is. The one that contains lager.

Because the stout is off.

If, as predicted by some, drunken hordes stumble around Dublin tomorrow most won’t be fuelled by the black stuff.

Most of them will be putting back lager and/or wine. Or vodka. Or a cocktail of the above.

They’re less and less likely to be sinking pints of stout.

Which is why, in a roundabout way, the country’s spent the past week getting very animated about Arthur Guinness Day.

Diageo, who own Guinness and pack a hefty marketing punch, want to reverse the drinking trend.

For the past five years they’ve sponsored music events around the world, a commemoration based on a ruse based on the Guinness founder’s birthday.

This year’s no different, except there’s more outrage in the mix.

From doctors to folksingers, Government ministers to irked pub regulars, the backlash has been considerable.

A lot of ungrateful Irish are refusing the invite to Arthur’s birthday bash.

Nonetheless pints will be raised at 17.59 tomorrow, and A&E admissions will, it’s claimed, rise by a third this evening.

All a-board? Pic: Dean Molyneaux

All a-board?
Pic: Dean Molyneaux

Then, glasses washed, tills cleared and hangovers underway Ireland will rise tomorrow and get on with it.

The to-ing and fro-ing surrounding Arthur’s Day will peter out in the coming days, as most discussions of Ireland’s drinking do, until the next crisis is reported.

And Guinness will resume it place as the top of taps, as planned. Right?

Yeah right.

Whether or not we see Arthur’s Day again, or a variation of it, the stricken love affair between the Irish and their ‘national drink’ is unlikely to be repaired anytime soon.

Sales of Guinness in Ireland were down five per cent in the year to June last and are expected to fall further. “Another very tough year,” is the official Guinness line.

Pub-owners in Ireland might describe it in less charitable terms. Sales in Ireland have been falling since 2008 and show no signs of stopping.

The Guinness Storehouse may be Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction but most of the 40m pints Diageo plans to pump out each year at the adjacent St James’ Gate facility won’t be sipped anywhere near the Liffey, they’ll be sent abroad.

The brand remains a behemoth in Ireland, no doubt. One in three pints sold here is a Guinness.

Calling time? Guinness drinkers in its heyday.

Calling time? Guinness drinkers in the stout’s heyday.

But the problem – for Diageo – is that the Irish are drinking less and less of these pints, and frequenting less and less bars.

A generation have done the once-unthinkable – they’ve called time on the Irish pub. Bars here closing at the rate of almost one a day, according to the drinks’ industry.

The Irish haven’t stopped drinking though. We’re just doing it at home. And not with Guinness.

If Arthur’s Day continues – despite this year’s controversy – it risks becoming more and more of an anomaly – a rare day when Irish pubs are actually full of drinkers.

In a decade’s time the occasion may be seen as less of a public order or health menace and more a quaint reminder of the way we used to do things, way back when.

Arthur? Who was he?

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