When Irish Beers Are Pouring
Thursday, 26 March 2009 09:14

New Zealand is about as far away from Ireland as it is possible to get yet Saint Patrick’s Day is an unofficial holiday here and one of the biggest drinking days of the year.  This year was certainly no exception.

As the sign on the door suggests, the Malthouse proprietor is Colin the Handsome and Softly Spoken Scotsman.  Given his nationality, he personally does not celebrate Ireland’s big day.  The fact that St Paddy’s Day for him means starting to pour Guinness 90 seconds before opening the doors and not stopping until 90 seconds before closing probably does not help either.

However, Saint Patrick’s Day does have many fans in this country.  One of them is almost certainly Colin the Handsome and Softly Spoken Scotsman’s Accountant.  It is a huge day in New Zealand hospitality because virtually everyone discovers some spurious Irish ancestry and heads to the bar at hours they normally wouldn’t consider.  My suggestion of renaming it “Saint Cashflow’s Day” is gaining only limited traction.

Much like the Wellington Sevens, people increasingly feel obliged to wear outlandish fashions when out on St Patrick’s Day.  It is hard to imagine how your bank manager waving an inflatable four-leaf clover particularly honours the patron saint of Ireland.  Equally, the local teacher wearing a two-foot high hat shaped vaguely like a glass of Guinness sends at best an unclear message to the man who drove the snakes from the Emerald Isles.

Anything green will do it seems even if the results can send some very mixed messages.  This Saint Patrick’s Day I had a couple of beers with a man I shall call Andrew, mainly because it is his real name.  He had Guinness, I had Epic Pale Ale.  Now, Andrew – a dashing rake about town – not only had the virtually compulsory silly hat but was showcasing a bold green t-shirt with “100% born and bred” written on the front.  Only on much closer inspection did the tiny Kiwi emblem in the logo become visible and give the game away.  The shirt was about as Irish as Yao Ming and Andrew has only slightly more Irish ancestry than Nadia Comaneci.

I’m in the vast minority with scepticism about the day though.  Most are happy to celebrate with endless pints of Guinness and a soundtrack alternating solely between versions of “Dirty Old Town” and “Fairytale of New York”.  The beer of choice, for 24 hours at least, is Guinness, the legendary “good stuff”.  Guinness was founded 250 years ago and for many drinkers still epitomises Ireland and Irish beer.

That said, there are a number of other fine Irish beers including the O’Hara’s Celebration Stout (6%) which recently arrived at Malthouse.  This is a small family brewery in the Carlow region which was established in 1998.  Carlow is the traditional malt and hop growing region in Ireland and once boasted a number of breweries.  Those numbers dwindled steadily over time until brewing had all but disappeared in the region.

In 1998, they launched O’Hara’s Irish Stout.  The Celebration Stout is a limited edition brew to mark the 10th anniversary.

It pours a deep black with slight ruby tints under a tan head.  On the nose there is plenty of milk chocolate, roasted coffee and a touch of spice.  The beer is creamy and full with notes of chocolate, coffee and toast before a decadent chocolate finish.  John McKenna, a brave Irish beer critic, wrote in the Irish Times "At a time when Guinness now produces a drink that puts one in mind of what Americans call popsicles , the toasty, roasty, hoppy enervation of O’Hara’s is thrilling.”

In another great milestone, Malthouse will officially turn two years old on 29th March.  Now there is a real excuse for a pint.

Cheers


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine

Links

Saint Patricks Day - http://www.nexternal.com/masquerade/images/17431-m.jpg
Guinness – http://www.guinness.com/
O’Hara’s - http://www.carlowbrewing.com/home.htm
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine - http://www.beerandbrewer.com/

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