Kiwi Guinness lovers starved of Arthur's Day fun
St Patrick's Day is arguably the only Irish festival with mainstream acceptance in New Zealand, but there is another one brewing which celebrates another great Irishman: Arthur Guinness.
It hasn't caught on in New Zealand yet, but in Ireland – particularly Dublin – it is a big deal.
It started in 2009 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the first batch of Guinness stout.
The official day is September 28. That is founder Arthur Guinness' birthday.
It is not his real birthday, but the de facto date the company settled on because, in a not unusual Irish way, no one knows exactly when he was born.
But he definitely brewed his first batch of stout in 1759, and that's what this event is all about.
At exactly 17:59 – one minute before 6pm – you're supposed to take a swig of Guinness in honour of the marvelous drop.
International music festival
The company's owner, Diageo, made the event an international music festival from its outset.
It featured big artists and was held in Dublin, Kuala Lumpur, Lagos, New York and Yaounde.
Headline acts – big ones, too, such as Tom Jones, Kasabian and Estelle – performed in smaller locations than normal.
Welshman Tom Jones, for instance, sang in a small Dublin pub.
The event hasn't just been a success in Ireland, though. Last year's Arthur's Day in Kuala Lumpur attracted 10,000 Guinness enthusiasts, and across Indonesia 22,000 people celebrated.
But three years on, Arthur's Day gets barely a thought in New Zealand.
Which is partly because the distributor, Lion Nathan, hasn't really bothered getting anything going.
St Patrick's Day is Guinness' big day in New Zealand, and the company has plenty of different beers to sell at other times of the year.
Brand manager Hayden Abercrombie told NBR ONLINE the company is holding a "pint master" to coincide with Arthur's Day to see who can pour the best Guinness. But that's about it.
His oddly contradictory reason is that 17:59 in Ireland is very early in the morning in New Zealand, hardly the time to be taking a swig of Guinness.
But even the most prolixed drinker would know that 17:59 is 17:59, no matter where on earth.
But really, it just hasn't caught on here yet.
New Zealand's Honorary Consul General of Ireland, Rodney Walshe, was in Ireland for the first Arthur's Day.
He says it was a "marvelous" day, which is gathering momentum".
"But I think we'll have to hang something else around it, rather than just, 'it's the 252nd anniversary, drink a pint of Guinness', or whatever."
Mr Walshe suggests a Guinness and oysters day.
Not much of a big deal
Auckland Irish Society president Kevin McCaffrey says St Patrick's Day is their big day. Arthur's Day isn't much of a big deal.
"It's not something we've even thought about, to be honest."
The owner of popular Irish pub The Claddagh in Newmarket, Bridget Maloney, says they are making an effort for Arthur's Day.
"We're going to have special menu items with Guinness in them, such as a Guinness cheese cake.
"We'll have a live band, Father and Sons, they're actually incredible playing Irish music, as well as Guinness discounts."
Ms Maloney wasn't aware of the traditional 17:59 swig, however.
While Arthur's Day doesn't have much of a presence in New Zealand yet, drinkers feel Lion Nathan is missing a healthy marketing opportunity.
There are countless Irish pubs across New Zealand which would relish the opportunity to celebrate an Irish brewing icon.
Arthur's Day could take a permanent place alongside St Patrick's Day on March 17, and James Joyce's Bloomsday on June 16.
Perhaps, though, it's just viewed as unnecessary for many people.
When Mr McCaffrey and Mr Walshe were asked what they think of Arthur's Day, both replied: "I don't need an excuse to drink a pint of Guinness."
No one does.
But it's a fun way to get together and celebrate a tasty Irish legend.