Guinness – Pouring and Enjoying The Perfect Pint

Words: Callie Maritz

I was introduced to the art of drinking Guinness by my good mate Charl on 5 February 1994. With the words “you will love this”, he pushed my first-ever pint of Guinness across the well-worn counter at Bob’s Good Time Blues Bar, Ladbroke Grove, London. How right he was. We have had thousands of pints together since – with a few more added every week, even now.

Pouring for Guinness Aficionados

Like all Guinness aficionados, we search for bars, pubs and clubs that serve a good pint, eschewing establishments where the bartender dares to treat our beer with anything less than the respect it deserves.  (eschewing: to avoid habitually, especially on moral or practical grounds; to shun).

It starts with the two-part ‘double’ pouring ritual.

A slightly tulip-shaped pint glass is held at a 45-degree angle to the spout. When the tap is opened, the Guinness should run smoothly down the side of the glass with the spout never ever being submerged.

When the glass is about three-quarters full, the glass should be straightened, the tap closed and the Guinness left to settle and some magic to happen. At this stage, it is perfectly acceptable to stare at your pint.

The bubbles from the nitrogen will start to rise from the bottom, but those against the side will find some traction and thus, will rise more slowly than the bubbles in the middle of the glass. The middle bubbles will rise unhindered in a column ­– eventually pushing the beer closer to the sides of glass to cascade down. Although this effect happens in all liquids, it is more noticeable in Guinness because of the dark colour (actually closer to ruby than to black) combined with the smaller bubbles, caused by the use of nitrogen (as opposed to CO2 in lagers).

A mesmerising thing of absolute beauty to behold!

Once the Guinness has settled properly, the bartender will fill up the pint to the top, then lightly push backwards on the handle of the tap to top it off. The head of the beer should be nice and thick and rise out ever so slightly above the rim of the glass. This whole process officially takes 119.53 seconds. Well worth the wait!

Drinking Guinness Properly!

Once presented with the Guinness (a good bartender will ensure that it is presented with the harp logo facing you), the drinker happily waits until there is a clear demarcation between the black (sorry, ruby) of the beer and the creamy head. Only now is it permissible to start drinking ­– but beware, one never sips at a Guinness. You get a good grip on that glass, raise and then tilt it to your lips and drink off a good quarter of the liquid, making sure you drink the liquid through the creamy head.

The sweet and toasty notes of the roasted barley will hit your tongue in different areas, followed by just a bit of lovely bitterness in the back of your throat – just before the overall smoothness of Guinness hits you all over. With every deep draught of Guinness, a ring (referred to as ‘lacing’) should appear on the glass. For this to happen, you should always drink from the same side of the glass, hence the importance of being presented with the harp logo facing you.

With the beer down to the last quarter, a good bartender will catch your eye and upon receiving even the most imperceptible of nods, will start to prepare your next pint.


Have a Guinness…

Guinness, quite surprisingly to most people, contains fewer calories (only 125 per 300 ml) than most lagers (145-166 per 300 ml). Some perspective – a 300 ml glass of skimmed milk contains 135 calories, and a 300 ml glass of orange juice has about 185 calories.

Thirsty? Try Callie’s deliciously decadent Guinness & Peanut Butter Ice Cream Float.

Want more? Try these tasty beer recipes

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