Irish brew is hot stuff

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There's more than meets the Isle when it comes to St Patrick's Day drinks. Ben McFarland looks at alternatives to traditional stouts.It might only be...

There's more than meets the Isle when it comes to St Patrick's Day drinks. Ben McFarland looks at alternatives to traditional stouts.

It might only be on a Monday night, but there's no reason why licensees can't have more craic than a builder's bum in their pub this St Patrick's Day.

Over the last decade, Paddy's Day has established itself as one of the biggest money-spinning dates on a publican's calendar with an estimated 10 per cent of the population joining in the annual celebrations of the saint that banished snakes from Ireland and spread Christianity throughout the Emerald Isle.

For the most part, however, revellers will be blissfully unaware of his legacy and more interested in consuming vast amounts of stout instead.

The battle between the big two, Guinness and Murphy's, is likely to be more hotly contested than in previous years during which Guinness has very much had the rub of the emerald green.

Having stepped up its marketing activity with the sponsorship of a first ever St Patrick's Day festival in 2002, Murphy's is set to do the same again this year and use the parade and festival as a high-profile showcase for its new Fastflow dispense system that delivers a pint of the black stuff in less than 30 seconds.

Guinness, meanwhile, is showing little sign of relinquishing its grip on the event with a £2m "St Patrick's Party" campaign spearheading its efforts in more than 15,000 outlets.

Away from the stout battle, however, there is a colourful range of Irish beers to choose from for those licensees looking for more than the usual black and white stuff this St Patrick's Day.

Ireland has a strong brewing tradition going back many years, but the Irish microbrewery industry is a relative newcomer having emerged in the 1980s and only really got going in the mid-1990s.

Today there are approximately 10 microbrewing companies in Ireland producing an eclectic range of beers, ales and stouts in bottles, kegs and casks - and a number of these are using St Patrick's Day as a shop window to gain listings in the UK.

"We've got a great reputation for drinking alcohol but we're trying to let everyone know that we're pretty good at making it as well," said Ian O'Rourke of the Irish Brewing Company, one of the first microbrewers in Ireland.

Its No.1 Brew (pictured top)​, a handcrafted pilsner that combines Bavarian yeast, hops from Washington state and water from Wicklow, is proof that stout and porter are not the only beers Ireland have to offer.

As well as two stouts, the Dublin-based Messrs Maguire brewery produces Rusty, a fruity red ale, Yankee, an American-style pale lager, Haus, a European pilsner and Weiss, a fruity and spicy wheat beer that has gained quite a following in the fair city.

The Biddy Early Brewery, based in County Clare, was established in 1995 in an effort to revive the dying tradition of microbrewing in Ireland and to provide drinkers with an alternative to the range of mass produced beers.

Owner Niall Garvey has joined forces with the Crouch Vale brewery in Chelmsford, Essex, to import a range of four cask ales with bottled versions planned. Red Biddy, a creamy red beer, is a strong Irish ale (4.9 per cent) brewed using bogmyrtle, one of the herbs used before hops were discovered.

Other brews include Blond Biddy, a thirst-quenching lager, Real Biddy, a cask conditioned red beer and Black Biddy, a fruity Irish stout which when it was first brewed, was the first new stout in Ireland in more than 200 years.

"St Patrick's Day is a great opportunity to have a genuine Irish product behind your bar," said Niall. "None of the big brewers in Ireland are owned by the Irish anymore so this is a great opportunity to get in touch with the great Irish brewing tradition - and the beers are tasty too."

If you're after more taste and less speed this St Patrick's Day, look no further than O'Hara's Celtic stout from the Carlow Brewing company, winner of the Gold Medal and Championship Trophy at the Millennium Brewing industry International Awards.

O'Hara's was also voted "Top Brew" by the men's magazine FHM, beating more than 100 international beers in the process.

Other Carlow beers, all available through Edwards distribution, include Curim Gold, a celtic wheat beer and Molings, a traditional Irish red ale.

Annette Gahan, general manager, said: "There's definitely interest in the run-up to St Patrick's Day but there's also potential for our products all year round.

"Drinkers are becoming increasingly interested in trying new beers - its just a matter of making them available."

Contacts

Biddy Early Brewery:​ 00353 6568 36742Carlow Brewing Company:​ 00353 5033 4356The Irish Brewing Company:​ 00353 1626 9787Messrs Maguire:​ 00353 1670 5777

Battle of the black stuff

Guinness

Diageo estimates that more than four million pints of Guinness will be sold on St Patrick's Day, which considering it's a week day is not bad going.

To boost sales on the weekend before and the day itself, more than 22,000 pubs and bars will receive a 2003 St Pats Kit containing promotional and PoS material. In return for buying a pint of Guinness, customers will earn a token and when they have five tokens they can redeem them for a choice of a St Patrick's hat or a Bodhran, an Irish drum. A number of Irish pubs will also receive a kit containing an Irish flag and their PoS material will emphasise the official Saints Day on the March 17.

As part of a direct marketing campaign, more than 400,000 Guinness drinkers will also be sent a "lucky" four-leafed clover inflatable pint carrier to help carry rounds in their local.

The Guinness website is also geared-up to direct drinkers to the nearest pub - all stout-loving surfers need to do is type in their postcode and Guinness will provide a list for their area.

Murphy's

The new Murphy's Fastflow dispense system takes centre stage for the brand's "Why Wait for St.Patrick's Day" campaign.

In an effort to further underline the difference between Fastflow and the traditional two-pint pour favoured by its rival, Murphy's has teamed-up with Irish bookmaker Paddy Power for an on-trade scratchcard promotion in more than 4,100 outlets.

From March 1 drinkers buying a pint of Murphy's will be given the chance of winning one of 60,000 free bets of up to £1,000.

Participating outlets will be supplied with a comprehensive visibility kit and publicans who send Interbrew UK a photo of the "Why wait for St Patrick's Day" activity in their outlet together with the correct answer to the question in their kit have the chance of winning a £100 bet.

"The 'Why wait for St Patrick's Day' activity is a great way of rewarding existing Murphy's drinkers whilst attracting new ones as well as raising awareness of the brand's involvement with St Patrick's Day up to two weeks ahead of the event", said Richard Evans, marketing director at Interbrew UK.

Jameson Irish Whiskey

Jameson Irish Whiskey is celebrating St Patrick's Day with a two-pronged strategy aimed at its core market as well as those trendy, young things.

St Patrick's Day PoS material (including bottle highlighters, balloons, bunting, drip mats and a branded spirits measure) is being distributed to traditional pubs and licensees are also being urged to trade-up to a 1.5-litre bottle for the event - a move which the brand estimates will uplift sales by 10 to 15 per cent.

As part of its ongoing objective to recruit younger drin

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