PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- If you actually held out until today, St. Patrick's Day proper, to hoist a pint or two and celebrate all things Ireland, congratulations: You made the exact wrong move.
Getting a beer on St. Patrick's Day itself is perhaps the worst idea this side of going Christmas shopping Dec. 24. It's worse than hitting your supermarket on the afternoon before Super Bowl Sunday. It's worse than showing up to a movie theater at 7:29 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. showing of a film that's debuting that night and asking for four tickets.
You either need to lower your expectations to somewhere below awful or just accept that your sense of timing and priority likely isn't all it could be. You're already gambling that that lovely Guinness flowing from the nitrogen tap isn't going right into a Solo cup or, worse, you're wagering that it's food dye that's making the cheap light lager at your local watering hole that lovely shade of green.
We're not saying that St. Patrick's Day, the parades that accompany it or the celebration of Irish heritage in general are in any way terrible things. All that is just fine. It's just the beer element that becomes a bit of a bother when everybody decides to go out for the holiday.
At best, it's an uncomfortable elbow-to-elbow day at the pub spent shouting over the third version of The Wild Rover you've heard in the past hour. At worst, it's an overpriced, overhyped, overindulged bane of a barkeeper's existence that reduces the beer drinking experience to a live version of the '80s video game Tapper and turns the cozy, communal aspects of pub into a nightmarish inversion of themselves.
We've already made our case against St. Patrick's Day and for better beers (and more Irish ones) on several occasions. Just in case that didn't sink in, here are some even stronger reasons not to blow your lunch break, evening or a Tuesday "sick day" on St. Patrick's Day beer.
5. It's beer's offseason
A look at the Brewers Almanac put together by Washington-based lobbying group The Beer Institute indicates that American beer consumption drops around Labor Day and doesn't really pick up again until folks start buying their Memorial Day 30-packs in May. St. Patrick's Day is the only modest boost in between.
In 2010, for example, Americans hit their peak beer consumption in June, when they took down more than 20.1 million barrels. Their thirst for beer kept them buying roughly 19.5 million barrels a month until the end of summer, but trickled off every month thereafter until they were down to 15 million barrels each month in January and February of 2011. By March and St. Patrick's Day, however, that amount shot up to 19.1 million before settling back to 17 million in April just before the summer resurgence.
The past decade is marked with similar March upticks, with the greatest prompting hibernating revelers in 2006 to up their beer intake from 15.4 million barrels that February to 19.2 million the next month. That would be great, if it meant anything. Last March, beer production was off 5% from 2012. Despite the St. Patrick's Day surge, when more than 3 million pints of Guinness are sold in the U.S. alone, Diageo-Guinness sales in the U.S. still fell an estimated 7% for the first six months of 2013.
There are great spring bocks and kellerbiers out there, but they're swamped by lesser offerings and a calendar that's unkind to beer until it's actually spring.
4. You're being gouged
According to IbisWorld, St. Patrick's day beer consumption in the U.S. amounted to $245 million. They also estimated 2.1% growth within two years, which would bring this year's take to $255 million. That's great for bars and packaged goods stores, which make 1% of their beer sales on that day alone, but it's not great for the rest of you who are paying whatever holiday price a bar chooses to charge.
It's hard to blame them. Considering that 30.6% of consumers surveyed said they planned to hit a bar on St. Patrick's Day, any increase in price could be considered combat pay for dealing with the abrasive, slow-ordering, second-guessing, non-tipping amateurs who opt to play publicans for a day.
Oh, and those St. Patrick's Day pubgoers tend to be these folks ...
3. Nobody's drinking "socially"
The Centers For Disease control makes clear what seasonal anecdote, holiday police budgeting and campus riots only allude to: St. Patrick's Day is a binge drinker's playground.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration to 0.08% or above. This happens typically when men consume five or more drinks and when women consume four or more in about two hours. If you wait for an hour for your one Guinness, drink it at a moderate pace, chat with friends for about an hour and leave, you're doing just fine.
Of course, if you feel the value of the amount of time spent in a bar can be measured only in the number of drinks you have there, there's a chance you're going to be having a little more than two per hour. As the CDC notes, that doesn't make you an alcoholic: It just makes you perhaps not the healthiest person on Earth and part of the problem when governments decide to tax beer more heavily, limit liquor licenses and restrict sales points.
Oh, and it also makes you 14 times more likely to drink and drive, which brings us to our next point:
2. "Cops are cracking down"
Unless you live in a place with amazing cab/Uber access or a great bus or train system that keeps you out of cars more often than not, you're depending on a designated driver or yourself to get home.
Roll the deep-voiced "cops are cracking down" commercials. The Department of Transportation has an entire Traffic Safety Marketing branch dedicated to this sort of thing, including a whole campaign focused on St. Patrick's Day alone. Sure, it involves that terrible reboot of RoboCop from last month, but it has a point.
This is just about the last day of the year you'd want to be on the road for any length of time, never mind pulling out of the parking lot of Billy O'Ray's on Route 46. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 269 people were killed by drunk drivers on St. Patrick's Day over the years 2007-11. There were 45 people killed in 2011 alone.
You don't get points for not being the drunken one in that equation. Even if you're stone sober and haven't been to a bar all day, the increased police presence makes it about the worst time to have a taillight out, have a car overdue for inspection, fail to signal when switching lanes or have an outstanding parking ticket when the cruiser that suddenly appears behind you decides to run your plate "just in case.' It's a hassle you don't need.
1. Dude, it's a Monday
You had the whole weekend before to mark the occasion and you won't have a day off to recover afterward if you knock back a few too many.
Unless you're one of those lucky folks in Boston who still gets "Evacuation Day" off -- thanks to some quick-thinking politicos who discovered Colonial forces drove the British out of that town on the same day newly arrived Irish city workers honored St. Patrick -- you don't even have this day off, never mind the next. A Tuesday hangover isn't a good look for any grown adult, but it's the kind of thing that can make the entire week a disaster.
Thinking about taking a sick day tomorrow, maybe? How original. Just consider for a moment that the day after St. Patrick's Day is also when the play-in games of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament are scheduled. According to a survey by MSN and Impulse Research, 7% of survey respondents said they take time off from work to watch the tournament, while 12% of those polled admitted to calling in sick in the past so they could watch the game.
Those folks usually hold off until the Round of 64 later in the week, but do you really think HR isn't going to see that one coming? Ceridan reports that at least 11% of HR groups report a spike in sick days after holidays or televised sports events such as the Super Bowl and March Madness.
If this was a Friday, we could see the argument, but starting the week off on such a painful note isn't going to increase your affection for beer, St. Patrick or Ireland in the slightest. If anything, it may make you a bigger fan of sports drinks, pain relievers and the inside voice.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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