The Feast of St. Patrick or as it is commonly known now “St. Patrick’s Day” falls on March 17th every year and has more than a small reputation for being a day filled with drinking, debauchery, and more drinking. How exactly does a day dedicated to the memory of a canonized person, the “Apostle of Ireland” turn into the green beer, parade having celebration of now? Legend has it that Patrick drove the “snakes” out of Ireland. While it is a lovely sentiment and even better story that is all it is in a literal sense: a story. The Emerald Isle and her waters surrounding her are far too cold for any snake (or other cold blooded animal) to migrate there in the first place. However, if you take into consideration that the snake represents many pagan religions it becomes clear how the tale of driving the snakes off the island came to be since St. Patrick brought Christianity to the Irish folk. Now on to how this man became linked to binge drinking. March 17th which is the anniversary of his death was considered a pardon day from any lent obligations and it was the one day when you could break your fasts and drink. Essentially the equivalent to Fat Tuesday but in the middle of lent. The Irish people would overindulge and pin a shamrock to their outfit in honor of its use to represent the trinity in the teachings of their Patron Saint.
So what began as a break in lent was eventually modern and americanized to become the dyeing of entire rivers green, turning every pilsner in sight the Kelly green shade and consuming Jameson & Irish Car Bombs by the gallons. I’m not at all against the all day partying in the streets and specials on Irish whiskey, however; if you really want to impress your friends at the Pub with your “Irish-American” roots here are some basic Irish alcohol facts to add to your repertoire: Lets start with the big “E”. This is the biggest difference between “Whiskey” and “Whisky” at their most basic one is Irish and one is Scottish. (you can remember the correct version to consume since Ireland has an e in it and Scotland does not.) It should also be noted that it is literal law that Scotch can not have an “e” in the word whisky which is appended behind it. This delineation has long and historical roots where the distinction comes to us via the way the Celtic language translated the words for this “elixir of life”. Outside of the spelling it is required that all Irish whiskey be barrel aged in the Republic of Ireland and/or Northern Ireland for a minimum of three years time. It has also long been popular to identify Bushmills, produced in Northern Ireland, as “Protestant,” and Jameson and other whiskeys produced at Midleton in County Cork as “Catholic” While whiskey mixes will with many things, I don’t suggest it with politics or religion.
Of course whiskey takes center stage but you can’t forget about Irelands other national brewed treasure: Guinness. This iconic Irish stout has a long running history with more than a few interesting facts. The “perfect pour” takes 119.53 seconds which is a true testament that you can’t rush perfection. While you wait for your pint you could read a few pages from the Guinness Book of World Records which was started by the managing director of Guinness Breweries, Sir Hugh Beaver, in 1951. It is also interesting to note that a pint of Guinness draft is only 125 calories (a budlight is 110). And while Guinness is sold in 150 countries around the globe, but 30% of all Guinness sold is in Africa where it is labeled as “Foreign Extra Stout”. If there was any doubts in you mind that this beloved stout was going anywhere, fret not because the Guinness brewery signed the lease at St. James’ Gate in Dublin, Ireland on December 31, 1759 and it runs for 9000 years.
So to all the lass’ and lads out there who will be raising pints & glasses of Whiskey this St. Patrick’s Day remember to drink one for the man who started it all: St. Patrick himself. Also don’t forget to drink responsibly and give up your keys. We’re remembering the life of St. Patrick that day, no need to try and upstage him by trying to drive home! Slainte!
– Kathryn Flynn, HashtagWV #111. March 2019. Kathryn is a sommelier at The Greenbrier Resort and Hotel.