Please Drink Responsibly.

guinnessIt’s St. Patrick’s Day, a day some Americans commemorate by dyeing beer green and drinking it, as opposed to the other 364 days when they just drink un-dyed beer. I’m tempted to make a cheap shot about the poor quality of American beer but I’m not going to because American beer is not what it was when I was growing up. When I was growing up it was all thin, watery pilsners. The joke “Why is American beer like sex in a canoe?” wasn’t funny because it hit so close to the mark.

When I was four or five my father let me try a sip of his beer and I said I liked it because I thought beer was a grown-up thing to drink, sort of like coffee, which I also pretended to like because I thought it was a grown-up thing to drink. At least with coffee I could get away with adding three or twelve heaping spoonfuls of sugar but if you try that with beer the guys look at you kind of funny even though deep down we all know it would improve the flavor greatly.

I’m a fan of beer now as my friends and waist can attest, and for once in my life I was actually slightly ahead of the curve. It was Ireland that made me love beer and specifically Guinness that started it all. I was in a pub in the fair city of Dublin and a friend who’d been exasperated by my avoidance of beer said, “Chris, you’re in Dublin, capital of Ireland, the emerald isle, home of Yeats and Oscar Wilde, of Cuchulain, a land of sweeping history, great beauty, of magic and fairy tales, and some pretty damn good beer.”

This was the same guy who, earlier that same day, convinced me to go into the Judge Roy Bean Tavern—which is apparently still a going concern in Dublin–and eat nachos and drink tequila, but that’s another story. I like to think it was the Guinness that made him change his tune from Home on the Range to Molly Malone.

Anyway I tried a sip it tasted like very bitter, burnt coffee. I was looking for the sugar when he said, “Take a large drink.”

I took a gulp and it was good.

For weeks afterward I only drank Guinness. I still labored under the impression that there were only two types of beer in the world: Guinness and thin watery pilsners. I was oblivious to the fact that Britain and Ireland had done for beer what the French did for cheese. Not to mention what Britain and Ireland have done for cheese. Seriously. Stilton is delicious.

Then one night the same guy and I were in Edinburgh, in a pub. They didn’t have Guinness.

“Chris,” he said, “you’re in Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, land of the kilt and thistle, of Robert Burns, the Scottish crown jewels, of your own ancestors the Murrays, sweeping history, great beauty, magic and fairy tales, and some pretty damn good ale.”

He handed me a pint of Scottish ale. And it was good. My eyes and throat were opened. After that my answer to the question, “What’ll you have?” was usually, “Whatever I haven’t tried yet.”

So I’m thrilled with the whole craft beer movement, and happy to be in one of the top ten cities leading the way.

Today, though, out of respect for Irish tradition, should be celebrated with Guinness.

Or coffee, if you want something you can add sugar to. Or some cheese. You can have anything you like, really, as long you don’t need to add dye to it.

Guinness posters adorn JJ's Coffee Shop. You can also get beer there.

Guinness posters adorn JJ’s Coffee Shop. You can also get beer there.

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  1. halfa1000miles

    Whatever taste buds are needed for beer, mine are broken. I don’t “get” beer. I think beer is an “Emperor’s New Clothes” type of joke and someday all the beer drinkers will be told they are actually drinking *insert awful thing here* and I will put my superior I-told-you-so face on. My husband often asks me to “just taste” a new beer. It always tastes exactly like…beer. Just like the 1000 before it. They all taste exactly the same. Beer belongs in cheese dip. I am broken.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m the same way with wine. Sometimes I can detect a minor difference between one wine and another but I don’t like either one. And I get tired of people telling me I just haven’t tried the right wine. Maybe I just don’t like wine. Maybe you just don’t like beer. Different strokes for different folks. That ain’t broken and it don’t need fixin’.

  2. Gina W.

    Like HalfA100miles, I can’t drink beer. I just can’t. This reminded me that I recently saw an article about why some people don’t like broccoli; the genes for our taste receptors are different in different people. It makes broccoli taste bitter. Thankfully that’s not me because I love freshly steamed broccoli with a little bit of real butter on it. So I’m thinking that something similar must be at work here. And by the way, I’m not a doctor but I do pretend to be one on your blog.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I can’t believe I didn’t think to bring up cilantro. It seems to be an even more commonly cited case of something that some people love and some people just can’t tolerate. For some of us it’s indescribably good and it really brightens up pho and guacamole and for some people it just tastes like dish soap. As a doctor of fauxology perhaps you could offer some explanation for that.
      And while I’m going to stick with saying that some people just don’t like beer and shouldn’t feel pressured into even trying yet another beer I wonder if you and HalfA1000miles have tried anything like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Technically it’s beer, at least according to the British definition which is much less restrictive than German’s Reinheitsgebot. And I’m assuming you like chocolate which is a dangerous assumption because some people don’t.
      Anyway I have this conflicting belief that there’s at least one beer out there for everybody, but I’m not going to push anybody to try beer if they don’t want to. At least not until some beer company starts paying me to shill for them.

  3. Ann Koplow

    Sweet post, Chris, especially the part about Edinburgh. These days, I drink neither coffee nor beer, but I still eat sugar and cheese.


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