The Feast of St. Patrick commemorates the death of a Briton who was carried to Eire in shackles only to become the isle’s patron saint. If that doesn’t merit a celebration, we don’t know what does. So each March 17, we raise a glass to St. Patrick and his far-flung flock — and what better glass to raise than a pint of Arthur Guinness’s eponymous, alchemical Dublin stout. We asked a panel of expert tipplers to offer their explanations as to why Guinness — with apologies to Commodore John Barry — may well be Ireland’s most momentous export. Sláinte!
CLIFFORD D. MAY
I like Guinness because it tastes like Ireland.
I also like Guinness because the company was a pioneer in brand management, marketing, and strategic messaging.
Starting in the 1930s they ran simple but compelling advertising campaigns on such themes as “Guinness Makes You Strong,” and “Guinness is Good For You.” (Though my favorite, from the 1940s, may be: “Toucans in their nests agree / Guinness is good for you / Try some today and see / What one or toucan do.”)
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
It is common enough that you can find it in most bars, yet it’s not as common as Budweiser or Miller. Not everyone likes it, and that’s fine; if everyone did, it would be boring and generic.
If you’re ordering a light beer, you’re either dieting or not really that interested in having a beer (but if you care all that much about your waistline, drink Guinness, which has fewer calories than most lagers). Or perhaps I should say, not that interested in enjoying one. Life is too short, as the Irish know. If you’re going to have a beer, have a beer.
When a waitress brings a tray full of pints, all variants of light yellows and golds, you look at that black-brown and know, “that’s a real beer.” It is distinctive. It is strong, but not so much that you can’t have two or three (or, er, six or seven). And when you’ve been in a Muslim country for a long time and haven’t been able to get it on tap, finding it is like finding an oasis in the desert.
— Jim Geraghty writes the “Campaign Spot” blog for NRO.
BRIAN C. ANDERSON
It is an old brew, deserving of respect.
— Brian C. Anderson is editor of City Journal.
Arthur Guinness was only able to lease his brewery in 1759 due to an inheritance he received seven years earlier. His godfather, Archbishop Arthur Price of Cashel, left Guinness £100 — exactly the amount needed to purchase the 9,000-year lease on the brewery. You can still almost taste the divinity, can’t you?
— Raymond Arroyo is a host at EWTN.
ANDREW C. McCARTHY
It is content to stay in Ireland and otherwise travel only where it brings joy; it offers equality of opportunity but not result; and it has no interest in intoxicating the Islamic world!
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.
Arthur Guinness started his brewery with an inheritance from the Protestant Archbishop of Cashel, his godfather, and I drink it because it’s the only nice thing the Church of England ever did for Ireland.
— Charlotte Hays is a senior editor at the Independent Women’s Forum.
Because Guinness invokes a mythical place (pre-post-Industrial Limerick) and time (1953ish). My pasty legs have always yearned to walk to their native land — so as to avoid the tanned legs of my adopted home California mocking and bullying their manifest and mockable translucency. (I am by blood three-quarters Irish.) Given the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, and my default lethargy, a Guinness — toss in the Pogues as the soundtrack — is the next best thing. The ultimate escape.
— Andrew Breitbart is author of the upcoming book Righteous Indignation.
You have to love a liquid that sticks to your ribs.
— Ed Gillespie is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
I confess I don’t love Guinness and can’t understand why my parents forsaked me so.
— Brent Bozell is president of the Media Research Center.
Because I’m a lightweight and it has lower alcohol-content than other beers.
— Will Cain is a CNN contributor.
Because it’s the beer that drinks like a meal? Because it has a soul-filling richness that makes it more substantive than other beers? Because a fresh, settling pint is a thing of sublime beauty?
— Jonathan Adler is an NRO contributing editor.
“Because I was thirsty and ye gave me to drink.” (From the stained-glass window donated by the Guinness family at Trinity Cathedral, Dublin.)
— Michael Novak’s latest book is No One Sees God.
So I can give it up for Lent and feel like I’m really getting days off Purgatory.
— John McLaughlin is a pollster.
EDWARD JOHN CRAIG
Apocryphal legend has it that Arthur Guinness created his eponymous stout accidentally, having added too much roasted barley to his porter recipe. O felix culpa!
Guinness is, in fact, good for you: it contains iron and antioxidant flavonoids. Plus, it makes you feel good.
Forget pizza, there really is no such thing as a bad pint of Guinness. Some are better than others, of course. Nothing compares with drinking directly from the well: after my tour of the St. James Gate brewery in Dublin back in my university days, the complimentary pint I enjoyed in their in-house pub — an establishment that accepted no cash, only the tokens given to tour-takers — was such a revelation that I walked outside and paid for another tour (at a student discount) just to secure a second pint.
Where instruments are played, songs sung, stories told — wherever the craic is mighty — there you’ll find tha black shtuff.
— Edward John Craig is managing editor of NRO.