In Flann O’Brien’s book The Third Policeman he suggests the theory that, after a lifetime spent in the saddle of a bike, the molecules of policeman and bike would start to mingle, and eventually the policeman would become part bike, leaning against walls while idle, etc.
If his theory is correct, it is possible that I am now 70% Guinness, and therefore should make brief reference to this special day. Today is Arthur’s Day, celebrating the fact that the Guinness brewery was founded 250 years ago in 1759, and at 17:59 today a concert is taking place in the Guinness Storehouse which will be broadcast, in pubs only, all around the world.
It may surprise those of my readers not from here that not everybody in Ireland drinks Guinness. It is possible to retain’s one’s Irishness while not liking it, in the same way that it is not obligatory for us to like Riverdance, boiled bacon & cabbage, or those songs that begin with a long nasal “Neeeeahhhh”, which can only be sung with one’s eyes closed and one hand cupped over one ear.
It is true, though, that Guinness has come to be seen as a symbol of the Irish, and rightly so. It is popular, inclined to be bitter, and too much can give you a real headache.
I’ve only recently reverted to Guinness, having actually stopped drinking it for a few years. Like a 50-year-old flirting with a selection of blonde ladies, I underwent my own mid-life crisis by flirting with a succession of bland lagers. As an excuse for this infidelity I can only offer the standard male excuse, which is that Guinness drove me to it. As a wife will change for the worse after a marriage (I only get away with stuff like this coz Mrs Tin doesn’t read this blog) Guinness altered for the worse after it had originally ensnared me.
Back in the 1970s Guinness introduced a new stout called Guinness Light (with the unfortunately prescient tag-line “they said it couldn’t be done”). It was less heavy and bitter, and aimed at younger drinkers, so I drank it one night. I should point out that I was not a mad teenager on a weekend spree, I was a guy in his 20s out with his brother and sister-in-law for a couple of quiet Tueday night drinks. So the fact that I spent the following days vomiting solidly (if such a thing is possible),till I was eventually throwing up green stuff that I reckoned was the lining of my stomach, was entirely down to the product, and not at all due to my youthful excesses.
And apparently I wasn’t alone, as Guinness Light died a quick and unmourned death. Instead of leaving well enough alone, however, Guinness were still determined to attract the younger drinker, so about a decade ago they messed with the formula of the Guinness pint itself.
Prior to this Guinness was a heavy drink with the consistency of soup. When they messed with it they produced instead a load of watery shite that gives you, well, watery shite, and although they quickly realised their error, they have never been able to get the original standard back (If you think this is just nostalgia talking, notice how many of their ads relate to quality control, and to how many people they have on the road checking the standard of the pint. They know themselves that they have a problem).
No article about Guinness would be complete without a brief mention of its effects on your insides. For an accurate and hilarious description of a visit to the toilet after a night drinking Guinness I recommend Twenty Major’s first novel, and all I say in addition is that you will notice that Dr Gillian McKeith has never had a Guinness drinker on her programme, because if she had it would cure of her of her curious obsession with poo forever.
Anyway, today is Guinness’s birthday, and for all that I have given out about it here, I am doing so in the same way that one gives out about a favoured uncle – full of deprecation, but with an underlying affection.
Here’s to the next 250 years.