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  • Good Old Saint Paddy

    Your intrepid liquor reporter will need a full year to recover from the gallons of green beer that were consumed during a 3-day pub crawl over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

    Yes, gentle reader, there were plenty of Kiss Me I’m Irish t-shirts to be found, as well as plastic leprechaun hats and giant 4-leaf clovers stuck to the walls of nearly every drinking establishment in the land.

    Most of us know Saint Patrick’s Day as that one day of the year we wear green and drink to excess. Those are certainly worthwhile activities that your humble narrator wholeheartedly supports, but there is more to the day than that.

    Saint Patrick (386-461AD) is the patron saint of Ireland, and is widely credited with both bringing Christianity to Ireland, and driving all the snakes out of the country.

    While scholars have found considerable evidence that Saint Patrick was wildly successful in converting the pagan religions of the island to Christianity, that whole story about the snakes is a load of blarney. Ireland is an island that has been separated from the European mainland since the end of the last ice age, nearly 8000 years ago. There have never been snakes in Ireland, and most students of Celtic history agree that the story is symbolic, representing the chasing out of the pagan rituals of the Druidic priests, which made heavy use of serpent imagery.

    Saint Patrick was born into a wealthy British family, and although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been widely suggested that he took the role mainly for the tax incentives, and not due to any deep religious convictions. Saint Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders when he was sixteen, and spent six years in captivity in Ireland. He eventually escaped back to Britain, but returned to Ireland in his thirties as a missionary, working to spread the message of Christianity.

    Since his years of captivity had made him familiar with Irish language and culture, he incorporated existing rituals and symbols into his teachings, making them more palatable to the natives. Since the Celtic tribes honored their gods with fire, Saint Patrick started using bonfires to celebrate Easter. He also added a traditional Irish sun symbol to the Christian cross, creating what we now know as the Celtic cross, which was much easier to sell to the natives as a symbol of worship.

    Owing in part to its large population of Irish descent, our Newfie brethren call home the only Canadian province to observe Saint Patrick’s Day as a statutory holiday. That’s right folks – they get the day off in Newfoundland! Despite ongoing lobby efforts by the Guinness corporation, none of the other Canadian provinces seem to be following suit. If there was ever a reason for you to write to your MP, this is surely the one!

    Your humble narrator had friends visiting from the west coast on March 17, so I took them into downtown Calgary for a pint at every Irish pub within stumbling distance.

    I do admit to pounding back a more than a few mild lagers that had been tinted with green food coloring, but I would never besmirch the true spirit of St. Patty’s Day by befouling a Guinness with such an adulterant.

    Yes, gentle reader, your humble narrator enjoyed his St. Paddy’s Day Guinness the old-fashioned way, poured the way my pappy and his pappy before him enjoyed it! Just what is the correct way to enjoy a Guiness, you ask?

    The most popular way is to enjoy a Guinness is from the draught tap at your local watering hole. Unlike most beers, Guinness needs a pressurized nitrogen system to produce that famous white creamy head. A special creamer tap system forces the draught beer through fine holes in the tap, giving us the characteristic creamy head without making the beer fizzy. While not as popular as draught, Guinness is available in bottles or cans, with a nifty little pressurized widget of nitrogen inside to simulate the same effect as the draught tap.

    While your local bartender may want to push drinks across the bar as quickly as possible, a true Guinness fan knows that some things are worth waiting for.

    The “perfect pour” is said to take 119.5 seconds, starting with a beer between 4-7 degrees. Pour the first two-thirds slowly into a tilted glass, wait for it to settle, then add the rest.

    Ask your friendly local bartender for a Guinness and see for yourself!