Friday 17 July 2009


Damn, I just remembered I was supposed to write a post about Guinness. I have not had one in years - mainly due to the happy arrival of kids, rather than any distaste for the beverage. Drinking Guinness until late at night and Monkeys climbing into bed at 6am saying, "Daddy, get up" do not go well together.

I think I have also been drinking in the wrong sort of pubs, on the odd occasion when I do go out for a bevvie. Spotting the Guinness logo on a beer tap has been like the green shoots of economic recovery - you read a lot about them, but never actually see any.

After all that, I spotted the right sort of beer tap the other weekend, and ordered a pint of dark muck. Actually, I didn't order it - J ordered it.

I was quite surprised when she turned up at our table less than a minute later with my Guinness. Having toured the Guinness brewery back in the early 1980's (when I was 15 or 16), and drunk quite a few pints of it on a 2 week long jaunt around Ireland, I know that it takes some time to pull Guinness properly. It looks like the tour that we took back then is no longer available; tourists having been siphoned off to some sort of Guinness museum.

How long should it take to pour a Guinness?

What Diageo calls the "perfect pint" of Draught Guinness is the product of a lengthy "double pour", which according to the company should take 119.53 seconds
This tradition comes from when Guinness was served from the cask, and initially older beer was poured into a glass until it was 3/4 full, then left to stand. When ordered by the customer, the glass was topped up from younger, gassier beer, producing the traditional head. As the beer is no longer blended from different ages of beer, the double pour is no longer required for the mixing of beers but is still maintained as it produces a better pint as the head does not over fill the glass and need to be discarded.
I'm a traditionalist that believes in the double pour. I saw the concept explained in the second paragraph in action in a small pub in rural England, when our family hired a manor house over Christmas one year. The pub was small - not much bigger than a large lounge room in a McMansion, and it had a normal patronage of only a dozen or so regulars each night. The arrival of our family, and our thirst for beer, easily tripled their sales for the length of our visit.

The publican had a problem with beer sitting in kegs for long periods - he sold a wide variety of beer on tap, but it could take weeks to go through a keg, given the slow rate at which he sold it. I remember doing a taste test one night where he pulled beer from an old keg and a new keg and we did a "vertical" tasting of beer. I think my palate these days is too wasted to detect any difference, but back then, I certainly could.

How does this relate to Guinness?

My recollection of the Guinness that we drank in Ireland is that it was deliciously creamy, right to the last drop. The head was still in place when the glass was almost empty - it was a point of pride for a barman to be able to pour a head that was so thick and creamy, that it didn't quickly fade away like it does with lager. You could write your initial in the head with your finger, and it would still be there when the glass was empty - that's what I call a good head.

The stuff I had recently though was nothing like that. The mouth-feel was all wrong, the creaminess was missing, and the head was gone before the glass was half empty. I didn't bother drinking the last third of the glass - the magic had gone, and I am not in the habit of drinking pathetic Guinness.

That's my rant.


kae said...

Anyone who has ever pulled a beer knows that dark beer (old which is really new?!), is hardest to pull without ending up with a head like a cappuccino.
It's frothier than ordinary beer and in most places it's not a common order - black and tan was murder for me! I think I got it in the end.

I only did the job for four days as work experience.

kae said...

The double pour is coming back to me, too.

Old Tanker said...

They began selling "Guiness Draught" in the bottle here in the states no too long ago. There is a small Nitrogen capsule in the bottle and actually pours very well out of the bottle as well. Serve VERY cold and you get that creamy texture. It works well for a black and tan or a black and blue (Blue Moon Belgian Ale)

Old Tanker said...

I knew I'd find a Black and Tan!!! and some lamb too...

Boy on a bike said...

I've tried those cans with the gizmo in the bottom. They do a surprisingly good job, but I still prefer to have a properly pulled pint in a pub. Preferably one wreathed in cigarette smoke, where one is surrounded by singing drunks.

1735099 said...

I became fond of Guinness after visiting Ireland. Returning home, I tried to rekindle the pub magic (the singing and the craic) by ordering it here.
It wasn't the same.
On the positive side, I've learned to drink Black and Tans, and my eldest son drinks only Guinness after I introduced him to it when he turned 18.
It (Guinness)is well worth a rant.

kae said...

People really don't believe how SERIOUS Aussies are about beer!

It's a staple food here!

Mehaul said...

The longest pouring of a Guinness that I paid for was in Cobh in Cork Eire. Seemed like an eternity. She levelled the top with a bone and then told me to write my initials in the head. Drink from one side and if it's a good beer the initials will still be as crisp when the head lies on the bottom of the glass. It did. They were. A real Guinness.