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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Some Tweaking Required (All Your Irish News in One Place)

What a strange thing that Americans follow the news from Ireland so closely.  It's got the population of Tennessee and is the size of Maine, but never mind: we love it.  Last week, news came out about a nascent Diageo-created holiday dubbed "Arthur's Day" for the founder of Guinness.  The four-year-old PR campaign seems to have had fairly benign origins:
At 17:59 p.m. today, drinkers will raise a toast to the 18th century brewer, who invented the iconic stout in Dublin. Diageo Plc (DGE), which owns the brand, says Arthur’s Day is a celebration that supports Irish bars struggling after the worst recession in the nation’s modern history.... 
Diageo came up with Arthur’s Day four years ago to celebrate the beer’s 250th birthday. It has since morphed into a nationwide festival every September. The London-based company is staging 500 concerts as part of the event, with bands including Manic Street Preachers and the Script turning up at bars.
If any brewery has the juice to start a new holiday, I say more power to them.  Problem is, the shindig may be too successful. 
Yet this year, the campaign against Arthur’s Day is gaining momentum. In 2012, emergency ambulance calls in Dublin rose by 30 percent from the prior week amid the revelry, the Irish Times newspaper reported.  Emergency consultant Stephen Cusack in Cork described the streets of the city on Arthur’s Day last year as being akin to the “last days of Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Whoops.   Part of the problem is that Guinness reportedly hands out free pints at that fateful hour, and it leads to a country-wide kegger, replete with late-night booting in the bushes.  This has led to something of a PR backlash, which sort of defeats the point.  Mayhaps Guinness needs to make a few changes for the 2014 celebration.

Now, since we're talking of news on the distant island, let me draw your attention to the Brewbot homebrewing system, developed by tech nerds in Belfast.  It is a fully-automated homebrew system that you operate from your cell phone.  I am not promoting this so much as regarding it with my jaw on the ground.  What some people won't do for a pint of beer, eh?


  1. I got to line 10 before my knuckles went white: "to celebrate the beer’s 250th birthday." Are Diageo actively trying to suggest that in 1759 Arthur Guinness brewed stout (presumably 4.2% ABV and served on nitro)? Or are their PR folks just ignorant of company history? Or both?

    As regards the country-wide kegger, the blame here lies more with the publicans than the brewery, I think. Many of them give out discounted pints during a limited period of the day in flagrant breach of Ireland's 2003 law which made "happy hours" illegal. The public order problems (which were much less this year than last) are down to the publicans' irresponsible retailing, not Diageo's wholesaling and promotion, IMO.

  2. So, the crazy thing is that the brewbot is not alone. I discovered this

    only yesterday on Kickstarter. I think the broader implication is whether or not these newer devices represent an evolution in home brewing. Many people are put off from brewing because of all the labor and quality control required to make beer on par with what is commercially available. I think the extereme thinking here, is a home brew system that produces beer on par with anything on the shelf, thus creating a sort of indirect competition with big breweries. far fetched?

  3. BN, I think "beer" in that sentence is meant to represent the lineage of all Guinness's products. It is a small fudge--and compared to the bill of goods you have against Diageo, only a misdemeanor. Good to hear more detail from the ground. (But I'm not sure you can divide the baby so easily--seems Diageo does bear some responsibility there.)

    Dan, I wonder about that. Are people put off? It seems like homebrewing is growing at least as fast as craft brewing. The best-selling books, far and away, are homebrewing books. I don't know what these things are going to cost, but I assume it ain't gonna be cheap.

  4. Pah! The 1759 date comes from the signing of the lease, which is dated 31 December. There can't have been Guinness beer at James's Gate in 1759, and Arthur Guinness had of course been brewing elsewhere previously. 1759 makes no sense as a birthday for the beer.

    I've been looking around today for when the company adopted 1759 as its official founding date and can't find anything earlier than Time magazine in May 1937. I know of one mirror in an old Dublin pub which advertises "Guinness: estd. 1796", which seems to be the year the company really started to take off, and where its brewing records begin.

  5. I should know better than to contradict you on matters of Irish brewing. I give, I give! It's all corporate hackery, but perhaps I'm inured to PR gloss.