Around the world, millions of people will discover some sketchy Irish connection, throw on something green and decide to seriously “drown the shamrock” (generally known as consuming numerous alcoholic beverages). 

It is perhaps ironic that the English celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day more than they do Saint George’s Day.  Certainly, here in New Zealand, Paddy’s Day parties tend to be better attended and more fun than the corresponding Waitangi Day shindigs.  People will happily invent a mythical great-aunt from County Cork for March 17 but no-one seem to make up a great-uncle from Wagga Wagga as an excuse to celebrate Australia Day.

Award-winning English beer writer Pete Brown traced the developed of this fascination with the Emerald Isles in his seriously good first book “Man Walks Into a Pub: A Socialable History of Beer”.  He wrote:

“In the early 1990s Guinness was a brand in the right place at the right time.  As the Provencal fad faded, we looked for somewhere romantic, and fell seriously in love with Ireland.  And so we suffered Riverdance and the inexplicable success of the Corrs, and a thick Irish vein running through every sentimental product oozing out of Hollywood.  Fake Irish pubs colonised not only the UK, but the entire world.  You went on holiday to specifically to get a drink somewhere, anywhere other than your local O’Neill’s, and there they were: Van Morrison on the jukebox in the heart of the jungle, Guinness on tap in the middle of the desert.

The Irish fad got so huge that eventually the big brewers actually spotted it.  Bass realised that people liked Ireland but didn’t like stout, and launched Caffrey’s bitter on St Patrick’s Day 1994.  Initially it looked like they were going to walk away with the entire beer market as a result.  They might have done, if only they’d spent a little more time thinking about the product.

The Caffrey’s strategy was brilliant.  They took a mundane, failing bitter, pumped it with nitrogen to make it creamy and swirly, and served it chilled, combining the smoothness and stillness of Guinness with the more palatable flavour of bitter and the cool bite of lager.  The ads showed people in hip, trendy New York bars ordering a Caffrey’s while making meaningful possibly homoerotic eye contact with each other, then being magically transported back to the Ireland of green rolling hills and wild horses running through the streets, the Ireland of Enya and Hollywood.

People loved it.  Everybody who drank beer went out and spent a thoroughly enjoyable night getting riotously hoonered on Caffrey’s, telling each other what an absolute craic the whole thing was, to be sure.  The trouble was, all but the most hardy or masochistic drinkers only did it once.  The combination of its smooth, easy-drinking taste, 5 per cent ABV and all that nitrogen meant that the Caffrey’s hangover was one of the worst comedowns this side of heroin.  People still loved the beer, but would only ever drink one or maybe two pints of it in a session, which immediately limited the volume that could be sold to a level far below Bass’s expectations.  By the time they figured out what was wrong and reformulated the beer to a lower ABV, the Irish fad had faded.”

According to Pete, “hoonered” is just one of around 800 English phrases to describe some form of drunkenness.  The only other topics which inspire as many pieces of slang are generally far more intimate in nature.

Especially for Saint Patrick’s Day 2010, Malthouse has put Murphy’s Irish Stout on tap.  It is not expected to last much past today.  Brewed for over 150 years, Murphy’s is lighter and less bitter than other Irish stouts, but still retains its creaminess and plenty of roasted, toasted flavours in the glass.

The title for today’s blog is taken from a sketch by Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy (linked below).  In it, he explains the difference between a Scottish accent and an Irish accent.  Both the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Malthouse Proprietor and This Humble Malthouse Blogger were born in Scotland and think that it is very important that people can tell the difference.  The key segment is about 50 seconds in but it is well worth watching the whole video.

Finally, to you keep the craic going every day, Malthouse now has off-licence sales of your favourite beers.  Just ask the bar staff for details and prices.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


Pete Brown’s Beer Blog –
“Man Walks Into a Pub: A Socialable History of Beer” –
Murphy’s Irish Stout –
Danny Bhoy “Difference between a Scottish Person Talking and An Irish Person Talking” Sketch (50 seconds in) –
Malthouse Facebook Group –
Real Beer –
Beer and Brewer Magazine –