Crown Imports, a joint venture between Constellation Brands and Grupo Modelo that brings Corona, Pacifico and Modelo beers to the U.S., produces nearly five times as many barrels of its product for U.S. consumption as Guinness does and now makes up more than 5% of the U.S. beer market. That's how a brewer develops enough audacity to suggest its Mexican beer might be the official brew of Saint Patrick's Day.
Heineken USA, meanwhile, produces four times as much product as Guinness in the U.S. and has scored roughly 4% market share. It's an obstacle for Guinness at taps in the states, but Heineken creates a whole other pint full of problems for the stalwart stout back in its home country. Ireland is drinking less beer in general these days, with consumption dropping from nearly 4.16 million barrels in 2010 to 4.14 million barrels last year.
When the Irish do pick up a pint, it's getting a lot less likely that said pint is a Guinness. While Guinness was unquestionably Ireland's beer of choice in the early 1970s, when stouts made up 70% of the beers consumed by Irish drinkers, a 2006 report from Ireland's Competition Authority noted that European and American lagers had become "more fashionable" and taken 63% of Ireland's beer market compared with just 32% for stout. Guinness' Irish market share has slipped from nearly 31.1% in 2006 to just 26.9% last year, according to Euromonitor International. By comparison, Heineken, Budweiser and Carlsberg now account for 33.8% of all beer consumed in Ireland, up from 33.3% in 2010. Given the international competition between beers all owned by multinational corporations and all the non-Irish beers taking up the majority of beer sales, is there any way to accurately declare a beer the official beer of Saint Patrick's Day?
"That's a loaded question for so many reasons that I don't know where to start," Simpson says. "You're dealing with individual pub owners and their preferences and clientele, so the ones trying to gain craft appeal are going to want to try alternatives to macro beer product that folks are used to drinking on Saint Patrick's Day. The ones that consider themselves sports bars or family places may not want to and may want to stick with the best deals their distributors give them."
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