In all the
vast complexity of the beer world, there’s nothing like Guinness.
Plenty of other beers may have more flavour, plenty may be more
refreshing, and plenty may attract fiercer loyalties, but when it
comes to recognition and global reach, no other beer comes close
to the dark stuff.
It’s big in
Jamaica, big in Malaysia, huge in West Africa, the liquid equivalent
of bread and butter in Ireland and an unremarkable staple of any
British pub. On St Patrick’s Day half the hostelries on the planet
seem to become great Guinness dispensaries, and from Brighton and
Bondi to Cape Town and Phuket the memory of the holy man said to
have driven the snakes out of Ireland comes a very distant second
to the opportunity to down as many pints as possible, preferably
in a Guinness-shaped hat.
The myths are
just as pervasive. Guinness is good for you, they say. It’s even
better for you if you’re pregnant or a nursing mother. It’s brewed
from the twinkling, poetry-inducing, leprechaun-infested waters
of the Liffey itself. It responds to the gentle touch or rough handling
of each particular landlord like a delicate filly. It needs to settle
for an hour and a half before you drink it. It is, as Shanahan famously
says of a pint of porter in Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds, “your