05 December 2008

Prohibition in Ireland

Repeal of prohibition in Ireland happened in 1961.

Well, a repeal of prohibition. That year, the number of days on which it is illegal to serve alcohol was reduced from three to the current two: Good Friday and Christmas Day. People regularly complain about the former -- aside from the inappropriate imposition of religious values in a supposedly secular state, it has turned Holy Thursday into one of the biggest drink-buying days of the year, with supermarket shelves swept clear of booze by panicked buyers. Oddly, there isn't the same fuss about Crimbo. Which is weird because where I'm from, just twenty minutes north of the border, Christmas is one of the biggest drinking nights of the year, when the pubs and clubs are thronged with people catching up with long-lost friends and escaping from the horror of being cooped up with their unspeakable families. In the south, going to the pub on Christmas Day is something that one sees on EastEnders, but would be unthinkable to actually do.

The third day of prohibition, repealed in 1961, was St Patrick's Day. I think I'd happily have that one back in exchange for either of the other two, thanks very much, if it wasn't for my overriding belief that the state should keep its nose out of my drinking habits, what with me being a grown-up and all. 21st Amendment, who are hosting this month's Session, have asked "what does the repeal of Prohibition mean to you?" In the case of section 4 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1960, which made it legal to buy a drink on St Patrick's Day, it has meant that I tend to spend the 17th of March at home, drinking decent beer and complaining about how hard it is to get decent beer. But I certainly welcome the principle of letting people buy a drink when they want one and look forward to the repeal of the last two days: when I can't find a pub open on Christmas Day I'd much rather that was the publican's choice instead of the state's.

And there's much more to counter-productive licensing laws than simply banning the sale of alcohol on particular days, or altogether. One of the maddest I've come across was in New Zealand where, between 1917 and 1967, closing time was set at 6pm, with similar laws in place in different parts of Australia around the same era. The upshot of this prohibition was a phenomenon called the Six O'Clock Swill: a massive one-hour binge which probably did more damage to the nation's well-being than the rise of the mafia in the US did during the lifespan of the 18th amendment.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I've picked a Kiwi ale to accompany this post. My reactions to Brew Moon's beers have been mixed so far: I really enjoyed their Dark Side stout, but wasn't so thrilled with their IPA. So I arrived to their Broomfield Brown Ale with no preconceptions at all. From the generous 640ml bottle pours a dark red beer with a long-lasting creamy head and soft carbonation.

The aroma is sugary caramel, followed by an even sweeter taste suggesting marzipan and saccharine, though not overpowering thanks to a thin body and just 4% ABV. Sadly, a very slight metallic tang just on the end lets it down. Without it, this would be a beer I'd happily chug before getting turfed out of the pub at 6pm. And for all its faults, I'm very glad that I am allowed, under the law, to buy it and try it.

8 comments:

  1. Surely the most bizarre(and least successful!) trial of prohibition was that in Russia between 1914-1925. Trying to stop Russians drinking, as Gorbachev later discovered, is pretty much impossible.

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  2. How about the prohibition on home distilling that is still in progress?

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  3. It's not exactly the same thing, David. The state will at least permit you to go out and buy something really nasty to drink, should you wish to.

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  4. "The state will at least permit you to go out and buy something really nasty to drink, should you wish to."

    You can get pure alcohol in most European countries. You cannot get that here. Other countries have various pooteen like brews. Genterba sat 70+% is my Italians friends one. High Alcohol drinks are not allowed in Ireland. Possibly with good reason but it is still prohibition.

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  5. You can buy a 90% ABV poitín in Celtic Whiskey. That's plenty for me.

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  6. Can you get Emersons' over there? There Pilsener is great- i searched your blog but i couldn't find a mention.

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  7. Ah the swill , of note is the fact that the Irish dominated west coast always ignored 6 O'clock closing, in fact they were the only region to vote against moving to 11 o'clock closing because once enforced 11 o'clock closing marked a restriction on their opening.

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  8. Cultureshot66, we don't get Emerson's here, tragically. I really enjoyed the Emerson's beers I had in New Zealand, though. Somebody somewhere has decided we need Steinlager instead...

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