I need help. Desperately. Can someone tell me where I can get a glass of Guinness without encountering apologetic faces and listening to the ‘we don’t have it’ spiel? Pub after restaurant after pub I’ve visited in the last four-odd months is ‘out of stock’. Place an order and explanations and suggestions start flying thick and fast — ‘We are in the process of updating the menu’, or ‘Would a Corona do, ma’am?’.
No, it won’t! (no offense to Corona; it’s a great beer in its category, but not when I’m hankering after a strong, hoppy stout) I love Guinness. This sounds strange to many, who find it ‘too bitter’, ‘too strong’ or even, as one friend puts it, ‘difficult to handle’. But this 250-year-old porter-style beer, with its caramel, malty taste, is a class unto itself.
It has always been available in very limited stock in Delhi owing to a short shelf life and high import costs, which, when combined with relatively low demand, did not make sense for bar owners to stock it by the gazillion. Nevertheless, even that thin beam of stout light has made a baffling disappearance from the radar. It was time to get to the bottom of the Mystery Of The Vanishing Guinness.
The findings paint a bleak picture. The problem doesn’t lie in the distribution system; it’s the source that’s developed a crick in the neck. Diageo India, the local arm of global spirits giant Diageo plc, which owns the brand, has been at the centre of allegations of fraud by some mid to high-level employees since March. The company is in the process of reorganising, reshuffling, restructuring... The by-product of all this has been a hault to the import of Guinness.
According to several bar owners and salesmen in the Capital, the situation is likely to continue till the end of the financial year. [I was unable to get in touch with anyone at Diageo India.] Till things fall into place there, Guinness lovers will just have to sit tight — there’s a stout drought in the country and it’s here to stay for a while.