Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Work Is The Curse Of The Drinking Class."

           Oscar Wilde said that...

     Excerpted and edited from a piece in the Los Angeles Times:

     Even Guinness, it seems, is not immune to the forces of open markets, suburban sprawl and Ireland's evolution from an impoverished backwater of emigrants to one of Europe's economic powerhouses, a country that imports cheap labor now from Eastern Europe.
     As sales have boomed elsewhere, Guinness has seen its business decline in Ireland over most of the last seven years, a trend that eased only slightly last year with a growth rate of 3.5%
     Ireland is still the second-biggest beer-drinking market in the world, after the Czech Republic. But beer consumption has declined 15% since 2001. Rural pubs were closing last year at the rate of more than one a day, victims of high taxes, increasing supermarket sales and a nationwide smoking ban that went into effect in 2004. 
     Add to that an explosion in demand for wine and high-end coffee here, and Guinness now sells more beer in Nigeria -- "there's a drop of greatness in every man," the ads for the extra-robust, 7.5% alcohol foreign extra stout tell Nigeria's receptive males -- than it does on the Emerald Isle.
     "Years ago, everybody drank Guinness," said David Donnelly, a 36-year-old Dubliner. "But young people don't drink Guinness. If I was going for a few drinks with me mates, we just drink Budweiser. Guinness is more of an old fellow's drink."
     Still, it's the Guinness that keeps barman Stephen Delany busy much of the night. He's pouring to exacting standards, which is, officially, 119.5 seconds for the perfect pint. The first half is poured into a glass tilted at 45 degrees, a process that produces a tumult of nitrogen and carbon dioxide that has to be left sitting on the bar to settle. Then, the second part of the pour, up to the brim.
     "You must wait until the head rises over the top, and that's when you start. And if you drink it when it's first risen, the head will stay with you all the way to the bottom of the glass," customer Roy McCutcheon says.
     "If you go into a pub in another country, and they just pour the Guinness straightaway . . . ," Paul Winter says, one stool over.
     "Refuse that," interjects McCutcheon. "You never rush the Guinness. You let it settle. Tell the barman, 'Keep it high. No hurry.' There's one bar in Dublin where you can pour your own Guinness, but that is a waste of money for people who don't know what they're doing."
     "You're paying, in essence, for a rotten Guinness. But it fools the Americans, because they're dumb," Winter says.
     "What do they drink in California?" McCutcheon asks the Times writer.
      A lot of Mexican beer, they're told. Dos Equis. Corona. The answer is delivered with a little note of defiance, daring them to scorn L.A. as much as they obviously do. "Nice and crisp and light. Refreshing when it's hot."
      McCutcheon looks disgusted. "I would stop while you're ahead. Stop while you're ahead."
      "What's the point?" Winter says. "You know?"
      I know.

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