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Over a Glass - with Aaron Ridgeway

Of course, we dearly love Irish whiskey, yet each year as St. Patrick’s Day creeps up from the depths of winter, our fancy turns to thoughts of a pint or two of Guinness. It’s obligatory.

So I say, “yes,” when someone asks me if I would I like to chat with Aaron Ridgeway, who is in New York by way of Guinness’ Open Gate brewery located in Dublin in the old country. While I would prefer to do this in a proper bar, I pour myself a glass of Guinness draught stout and pick up the phone.

Ridgeway and I start by talking about the differences between celebrating the day in Ireland and in America. “It’s bigger over here,” Ridgeway said, noting than there are more people of Irish heritage in America – about 35 million – than there are in Ireland – almost 7 million, counting both the republic and Northern Ireland. “In Dublin, we hang out with friends,” he says, “and try to make it an occasion to remember.” Another reason there’s so much enthusiasm in the U.S. is that we only have one day to celebrate, while in Ireland the revelry is spread over four.

Of course, the big Guinness news in America these days is its new Open Gate Brewery and Barrel House which debuted last summer in a reconverted Diageo facility just outside of Baltimore. While most of us traditionalists think of Guinness as being synonymous with stout, preferably on draught, the brewer is trying to emphasize its other beers, especially those brewed in the U.S. The most popular in Baltimore is the Guinness Blonde American pale lager, which actually does have some effervescence. Guinness also makes there an IPA and a white ale.

I ask Ridgeway about the current obsession among beer drinkers for food pairings. His first reaction is typical – how can I choose just one? While admitting to a special fondness for Guinness and oysters, he finally settles on beef and Guinness stew, whose recipe you can easily find on all the food sites. “The malt sweetness and the coffee notes blend in perfectly,” he says.

I admit to a fondness for trying to make my way a cappella through the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem songbook, especially “Finnegan’s Wake” and “Haul Away Joe,” when I’m one pint over the line. After all, there’re a Fogarty and a Lynch among my grandparents. I ask Ridgeway if he, too, likes to celebrate with a little Irish music. “Well, the Wolfe Tones are in town,” he notes (Thursday and Friday at Connolly’s in Times Square), so I get the idea you might find him there on one of those evenings. 

Before we hang up, Ridgeway reminds me of Guinness’ do-good drive - #stashforcharity. “You know how you get that little Guinness mustache when you’re drinking a pint?” he asks. Indeed I do. In fact I probably have one now. “Post a selfie with the hash tag,” he says, and Guinness will donate $1 for a U.S. charity.

We say goodbye, and I go check a mirror.  The stache is there, but it looks anemic.  Maybe another pint, strictly for charity’s sake, will grow it a bit

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