[OSBURN ON TAP] Guinness

Oh, St. Patrick’s Day. Of all of the holidays associated with imbibing beer, this middle of March day is by far my favorite. I am not technically Irish (More English and Scottish, but who’s counting?). But, as we all know, everyone is Irish on St. Patty’s Day as long as they are wearing something green.

Here is the abridged story of why we even celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. According to History.com, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, died on March 17th sometime in the fifth century. The holiday is a day of remembrance of his death that has been celebrated in Ireland for over a thousand years. St. Patrick’s mystery almost outweighs his world wide fame. There isn’t very much known about this iconic figure other than the fact that he was kidnapped by Irish raiders when he was sixteen. While in captivity he started to become extremely religious to attempt to cope with his miserable situation. He later escaped and became an important figure in the conversion of many Irish to Christianity. So, though technically this is an extremely religious holiday; even those who aren’t very devout can still take part in this party for Patrick.

Too soon for an article about St. Patrick’s Day you say? Well, I know this column will be published during the last week of February and that is more than two weeks before this most beloved of all holidays. Normally, I like articles to come out closer to the actual event I’m writing about. But, to write an article about St. Patrick’s Day after the fact is just laughable. Plus, Guinness drinking season has officially begun.

The official “Great Guinness Toast,” according to the St. James Gate Brewery is February 13th. There is definitely some confusion about the actual date, since many websites including www.thegreatguinnesstoast.com has the date listed as February 20th. Personally though, I trust the boys at Guinness more than some non-affiliated website. Either way, it is alright to start drinking Guinness again in preparation for the big day (Not that any of us ever stopped drinking it).

Speaking of Guinness, A few years ago I was writing a newspaper beer column for the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York. While there, I got a chance to live out every beer writer’s dream. Somehow, due to some kind of magical cosmic event, I was afforded the opportunity to interview beer royalty. An associate who worked for the public relations firm that handles Diaego, the biggest beer distributor in the world, was able to get my fellow “Beer Buddies” and I an interview with legendary Guinness Brew Master Fergal Murray.

This was back in 2007 if I remember correctly. It was around ten o’clock in the morning that Mr. Murray was to call my cell phone from Atlanta where he was about to do an interview with CNN to air on St. Patrick’s Day weeks later. My fellow columnists Peter Borrelli and my brother Matt, as well as our friend Jeff and I eagerly awaited his call as we nervously hunkered around the phone resting on my coffee table. Fergal called right at the time we were expecting him and the interview flowed seamlessly, save for the fact that for the first few minutes he thought he was being interviewed by the Providence Journal.

We talked about various topics including whether or not Guinness tastes different outside of Ireland (Murray claims it doesn’t), the best foods to eat with it (Shellfish and steak topped Murray’s list) as well as the importance of the year 2009. That brings us to the real point of this article.

Murray told us that Dublin is definitely the place to be in 2009. Why 2009? Since St. Patrick’s Day ‘09 is almost upon us, it only makes sense to explain why you should book a flight to the Emerald Isle if you still can. 2009 is the 250th anniversary of Arthur Guinness signing a 9,000 year lease for the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin. When it opened in 1759, the brewery was small and lacked the proper equipment for brewing on a large scale, but Arthur wasn’t deterred. The famous stout that we all hold dear became the sole style produced at the brewery in 1799. By 1886, Guinness was the largest brewery in the world and remains one of the biggest even today. Even though he died in 1803, the legacy of the brand remains alive with countless generations continuing the work Arthur Guinness started.

Fergal Murray loves St. Patrick’s Day. That’s why he is on a quest to change the day from a religious holiday to an official national holiday in the U.S. The official Guinness website is www.proposition317.com . Murray has a letter to President Obama on the site where he asks the president to, “Congratulations. Americans have embraced your platform for change and now it’s time to make decisions. Tough decisions. But why not start with a fun, easy one?”. Murray is hoping that over one millions people will sign the petition to draw attention to his cause. As of the time I’m writing this there are 383, 890 signatures. Murray’s message is simple. He is, “Here to ensure that there is enough black stuff for everyone around the world to raise a pint.”

I love everything about this holiday. From the delicious (and nutrient rich meal in a can) Guinness, to the corned beef and cabbage, to the countless parades in every burg, the whole event is one big party of Irish traditions and customs. And while St. Patty’s day is a day for families, it is also a day to enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two and not have to feel guilty about it. I am all for enjoying a few pints of Harp or Smithwicks at one of the various Irish Pubs in your neighborhood, but it’s important to make smart choices and be safe out there. Make the right choices and you’ll have a lot more fun in the long run.

*My question for the week pertains to St. Patrick’s Day. Even if you aren’t Irish, will you be celebrating? If so, how? Feel free to leave a comment or email me at osburnontap@hotmail.com.

Article image by: mandolux, Flickr

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