The French drink wine, the Brazilians drink cachaça, and the Irish drink Guinness. Of course they all drink other things as well, but in the case of Ireland, Guinness is — as it has long been — the country's best-selling alcoholic beverage by far. More than that, though, it is a cultural symbol of Ireland, an icon, a ubiquitous marker of national identity. A big pub glass of the stuff, deep brown in color with a creamy head on top, is as much an emblem of the place as the shamrock or the Celtic cross. It is impossible to imagine Ireland without it. Unless, apparently, you're Travel Channel.
In 1759, one Arthur Guinness took over an unused brewery, which he named after himself, at St. James’s Gate in the heart of Dublin — having negotiated a 9,000-year lease for a rent of £45 a year (roughly $3,000 in today's money). A tour of this still-thriving, massive facility is practically essential for any beer-loving visitor to the Irish capital, and it seems like it would have been a no-brainer for celebrated tosspot Anthony Bourdain when he ate and drank and wisecracked his way through Dublin on the most recent episode of his Travel Channel show The Layover. But somehow he missed it. More to the point, as he wandered the streets of the city and settled in at some of its pubs, Guinness was strangely absent. Bar taps that surely bore the name of this world-famous stout were blank when the program's cameras panned past them (Smithwick wasn't affected); restaurant placards that I'm pretty sure read "Guinness and Oysters" the last time I was in Dublin had lost the "Guinness" in a fuzzy haze. Though he surely appeared to be drinking the stuff on more than one occasion, Bourdain didn't even mention it by name. Travel Channel brought us something truly extraordinary: A Dublin without Guinness. Talk about crypto-geography.
What on earth could explain this curious lacuna? More cynical observers have suggested that perhaps the channel — sibling to Food Network — had sought commercial sponsorship, or at least a "product placement" fee, from Guinness, and, when they were turned down, decided to banish the brewery from its own version of the city. How very ridiculous that would be if it were true. When it comes to Dublin, Guinness isn't a "product" — it's part of the landscape.
Bourdain obviously knows this very well. When one of his followers on Twitter noted that the program was "the first time I have seen a Guinness logo blurred out on TV," Bourdain replied "Dumbest [expletive] ever, right?" Right.