Sep 15 2011

How to celebrate Arthur’s Day in Kuala Lumpur

Published by at 12:13 pm under Festivals

When Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease on his iconic brewery in Dublin in 1759, he could not be accused of short-term thinking. But I’m sure even he would be surprised by the worldwide popularity of the beer that bears his name, more than 250 years on. An estimated 10 million glasses of Guinness are drunk every day, in some 150 countries.

Cheers! Or as we say in KL, it's your round!

Many of those countries are new to the delights of the black (and white) stuff. But for Malaysia, the love affair stretches back to 1893, when Guinness was first imported. Go into any place that sells beer in Kuala Lumpur, and you will almost certainly find Ireland’s most famous export, either in bottle or draught form.

"Oirish" pubs -- Ireland's second most famous export.

Not that Guinness can truly be considered a wholly Irish export any more: it is now brewed under license in more than 50 countries. One of the very first places to do so was Malaysia, nearly half a century ago. The brewery, located on the outskirts of KL, was officially opened in 1966 by the country’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman.

This raises the question of whether what’s sold in Malaysia is the real thing. My opinion, for what’s its worth, is that if you like the Guinness that is brewed in Ireland, you will most probably like the one available locally. In blind tastings, the Malaysian brew not only holds its own against the Dublin original, it also scores well against the other international versions, being judged the best Guinness brewed outside Ireland for the last four years in a row.

Guinness' popularity is ballooning around the world.

Given the long history of Guinness in Malaysia, it seems appropriate that it has been chosen to host the only Asian leg of Arthur’s Day 2011 on September 23. The global party, which is now in its third year, marks the anniversary of when the Dublin brewery lease was signed. Arthur’s Day may be a marketing wheeze, but that does not mean it cannot be used as an excuse to have a good night out.

The centrepiece of this year’s event in KL will be a concert headlined by Taio Cruz, at Speed City. No, I hadn’t heard of him either, but then I’m old. As far as I can tell, this invitation-only party is only open to (non-Muslim) locals, because the application process requires a Malaysian IC (identity card). Of course, a kind local could apply on your behalf. Email for further information.

The celebrations are not limited to the Speed City concert, or even September 23 for that matter. Dozens of pubs are taking part in the event, putting on gigs, giving away Guinness-themed stuff, and most crucially offering discounts on the drink itself. The problem, as with most things in Malaysia, is getting clear information. Your best bet is looking at the Guinness Malaysia Facebook page.

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