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March 17, 2008

At the risk of alienating the pseudo-Irish population of the world, whose idea of celebrating the day devoted to the patron saint of both Ireland and engineers is to take their fizzy light yellow beer and add green food dye to it so they can drink fizzy light green beer instead, we thought we'd step in to discuss how those of you turned Irish (or an engineer) for a day might improve your celebratory experience.

First, pour out that green food dye contaminated fizzy light yellow beer. You're not fooling anyone and you're only asking for trouble. And although it might taste like it, it does not work well as a degreasing agent for automotive parts, so there's no point in trying to save it.

Having said that, when we mention beer in the rest of this post, we'll be referring to Guinness draught, the most commonly known Irish stout, although a knowledgable fan of such stouts may substitute Beamish, Murphy's or any number of other not-fizzy green-dyed light yellow beers of their choice.

Second, you need to find a proper Irish pub, or at least a close copy of one. Here's what you need to look for to find a qualified server:

  1. Clean glasses.
  2. 20 oz. pints.
  3. Clean beer lines.
  4. Correct gas mixture, 75 percent nitrogen, 25 percent CO2.
  5. Correct serving temperature: 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius).

From here, let's follow Alan Clinton's Guide for the Un-Initiated to Buying Guinnes in an Irish Pub:

1 Choose your pub carefully. A pint of Guinness does not appreciate loud music, loud people or bright flashing lights.

2 Ask politely for a pint of Guinness. Depending on the pub, it is possible to catch the barman's eye and mouth the word "pint", he will translate this accurately.

3 The barman will fill the glass between 70% and 80% capacity. It will then be put to the side for a few moments to allow it "to settle". Once the brownish liquid has almost turned to a solid black the barman will then fill the rest of the glass. NB: do not under any circumstances take the glass before it is filled. Some virgins seem to think that the settling stage is the final stage and walk away with an unfinished pint. At this point we Irish DO understand the predicament, but I assure you it causes endless mirth as well.

4 Once you have received your pint, find a comfortable stool or seat, gaze with awe into the deep blackness, raise the pint to your mouth and take a large mouthful. Be firm.

5 A good pint can distinguished by a number of methods. A smooth, slightly off- white head is one, another is the residue left on the inside of the glass. These, surpise surprise, are known as rings. As long as they are there you know your're okay. A science of rings is developing - the instance that comes to mind is determining a persons nationality by the number of rings (a ring is dependent on a swig of Guinness each swig leaving it's own ring). An Irishman will have in the region of 5-6 rings (we pace ourselves), an Englishman will have 8-10 rings, an American will have 17-20 (they sip) and an Australian won't have any at all as they tend to knock it back in one go!

6 As you near the end of your pint, it is the custom to order another one. It is a well known fact that a bird does not fly on one wing.

Now for our contribution: how to tip your bartender. For any true Irish pub, the traditional tip is to buy the barman a pint. You may tip the equivalent value in cash should the barman choose to have one a bit later.

And that's how you might more properly celebrate St. Patrick's Day!


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