The LA Times has an interesting article today on the changing state of Guinness in the beer drinking life of Ireland:
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.
About 20 years ago, my brother came back from a visit to the relatives in Scotland complaining about the jukebox in the family's ancestral village playing "Born in the USA" more than any other tune. We live in the globalized market and even Guinness is not unassailable in its own home town. We seldom talk in the beer chattering classes about the role of large scale imports - other than perhaps periodically mocking Stella - preferring to debate macro v. micro, factory v. craft.
But it is generally through these imports that people first meet diversity in flavour. One wonders whether a beer culture that is homogeneous in its demand for Guinness is any more interesting than one that is solely focused on industrialized pale lager, even with those hundred or more labels pretending that the lagers represent difference. One wonders if some of the displaced Guinness brewery staff may spin off a few new local breweries, too.