14/02/20183 min of reading

Saint Patrick's Day - Big, green and unmistakeably Irish

Picture the scene, Fifth Avenue, New York City, March 17th 2018 – Saint Patrick’s Day. 5th Avenue is a sea of Kelly green flags, shamrocks, leprechaun costumes and fake ginger beards.

There are two things that will surprise first-time visitors to New York me - firstly it’s SO big. Really BIG. Big with a capital B.I.G. The second thing is that everyone is Irish. Or at least, for one day each year, the whole of New York is Irish. Ok, there’s the marching bands from NYPD and the New York Fire Department – traditional Irish stuff, but there were people there of every ethnicity, every religion who on 17 March turn out to celebrate. There were Irishmen in Kelly green dashikis, turbans and muumuus, black, white, red and yellow, some standing on top of telephone boxes, some hanging off lampposts, but all dressed in bright green, all there to celebrate their Irishness and all having a good time. Together.

The second thing that surprised me is that everyone is Irish. Or at least, for one day each year, the whole of New York is Irish. Ok, there’s the marching bands from NYPD and the New York Fire Department, and there’s the carnival floats, but there were people there of every ethnicity, every religion who on 17 March turn out to celebrate. There were Irishmen in turbans or muumuus, black, white, yellow, some standing on top of telephone boxes, some hanging off lampposts, but all dressed in bright green, all there to celebrate their Irishness and all having a good time. Together.

"Once again, beer is a great way of bringing people together"

Once again, beer is a great way of bringing people together – thanks in no small part to promotion by that most Irish of Irish beers, Guinness. In fact, Irish culture and Irish beer became so intertwined with the sponsorship by the Saint James Gate brewery that it became known in some circles as Saint Guinness Day. And that’s great.

"Guinness, that most Irish of Irish beers"

But there’s so much more to Saint Patrick’s Day than just sinking pint after pint of Guinness Stout. The story goes, that the original Saint Patrick performed a number of miracles back in the day, including banishing snakes from the island of Ireland – there’s still no native snake species there – and planting his walking stick in the ground so it grew into a tree.

These days the most people know about the Patron Saint of the Emerald Isle is that there’s a festival held every 17 March to celebrate him. And that he drank Guinness. Probably. But remember, other Irish beers are available.

Like in every corner of the civilised world, the Republic of Ireland has seen its own Craft Beer Revolution, with artisan breweries springing up from Counties Cork to Kildare, and from Waterford to Sligo, each with its own special take on the Craft Beer gospel.

If you’re planning your own Saint Patrick’s Day party, then we’ve got a few suggestions – the first is don’t go climbing any lampposts or phone boxes, in case the Garda come after you.

"There’s more to Irish beer than just Guinness Stout"

Good though it is, there’s more to Irish beer than just Guinness Stout. The brewery famous for ‘a drop of the black stuff’ now produces a range of specialist beers, including the chewy, malty Dublin Porter  and Hop House 13, a superb Lager full of floral hops that represents a real break with tradition. And for the purists there’s that most Stout of Stouts Guinness Special Export.

We’ve also got beers from The Carlow Brewing Company, an independent brewery in Bagenalstown, County Carlow. Something of a well-kept secret in beer circles, the brewery produces classic stouts, like its flagship brew Leann Follain Stout, as well as more contemporary Ruby ales, IPAs and its Celtic Wheat Beer, Curim American Pale Ale.

So, whatever your origins, and wherever and however you choose to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, why not mark the occasion with a few well-chosen Irish Ales…

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