Why Guinness Is Flat as St. Patrick's Day Beer

DUBLIN ( TheStreet) -- Slapping a brand logo on bar-window paper shamrocks doesn't make a brew "the official beer of St. Patrick's Day," but there's no easy answer for what does.

If St. Patrick's Day was like any other day on the calendar, some of America's biggest brewers would be able to make a pretty strong argument for wearing the green. Anheuser-Busch Inbev ( BUD) holds 49% of U.S. beer market share, according to Beer Marketer's Insights, followed by MolsonCoors ( TAP) at 29.6%, Corona importer Crown at 5.1% and Heineken at 4.1%. Guinness' 1.2% share is more akin to Boston Beer's ( SAM) Samuel Adams or Yuengling at 1% each.

The theory on St. Patrick's Day in the U.S. is that Guinness is the most "authentically Irish" beer to have in your pint, but that's not how they feel in Ireland.

But this is St. Patrick's Day, when the yellow beer turns green, the taps flow freely and the crowds clamor for pints of something more Irish than Coors' Killian's Irish Red. The theory on St. Patrick's Day in the U.S. is that Guinness has more than 250 years of history in Ireland and it's in all those movies such as Waking Ned Devine and The Matchmaker so it must be the most "authentically Irish" beer to have in your pint on St. Patrick's Day, right? That's making a lot of assumptions before the pint's even poured.

"Guinness isn't even Irish anymore," says Joseph Tucker, executive editor of RateBeer.com, who notes that Guinness' corporate masters have a London address. "It's owned by Diageo ( DEO)."

While Guinness was unquestionably Ireland's beer of choice in the early 1970s, when stouts made up 70% of the beers consumed by Irish drinkers, a 2006 report from Ireland's Competition Authority noted that European and American lagers had become "more fashionable" and taken 63% of Ireland's beer market compared with just 32% for stout.

Today, Guinness leads all beers in Ireland with a 26.6% share of the pub take, according to Euromonitor International. Yet its two closest competitors -- Heineken and Budweiser -- already eclipse the dark stout with 30% of all sales. Some of that's come directly out of Guinness' till, as Guinness' share of Irish pints is down from 31.1% five years ago, while Heineken sales are up 0.6 percentage points, Bud's risen 0.3 and brands including Miller, Carlsberg's Tuborg and Corona have all bubbled up more than a percentage point since 2005, with Corona having a bit of a laugh about it a few years back:

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