Guinness Irish Stout is a strong black porter brewed in Dublin since the eighteenth century, by Arthur Guinness & Co., now owned by the global conglomerate Diageo. The drink is noted for its distinctive deep black body and creamy white head, although it shares these characteristics with other Irish stouts such as Beamish and Murphy's.

Guinness is enjoyed throughout the world, but especially in Ireland, the UK, Africa and the Caribbean. It is also brewed in many countries throughout the world, although it is popularly held that the best Guinness is that which is served within a short radius of the original brewery in St. James's Gate, Dublin. This brewery is thoughtfully equipped with a visitors centre, the Guinness Storehouse, where you can test out this theory.

A "proper" pint of Guiness should be poured in "Guinness Time": roughly three quarters of the pint is pulled, and then left to settle. Once the head has fully formed, the glass is then topped up. This convention is often disregarded outside Ireland, which is one reason why people think Guinness tastes better in Ireland. Another reason is that the lines which carry the Guinness from keg to tap are treated with a special reverence in Ireland, and are generally always kept scrupulously clean.

The best Guinness is that found near the Guinness brewery in Dublin. Or is it?

A famous anecdote goes that U2 once visited Jamaica. They were talking in a lift and the attendant noticed they were from Ireland, although didn’t realise exactly who they were.

“Do you know where they make the best Guinness in the world?”
“Yeah, Dublin of course.”
“No. Right here in Jamaica.”
“You’ve got to be joking.”
“I bet you £10 that it is. Come with me to my local tonight and I’ll show you.”

So the lift attendant, still unaware of who they were, took them to his local drinking establishment. To much staring and open-mouths Bono ordered a pint of Guinness and took a sip. A long pause followed.

Fucking hell, that’s the best pint of Guinness I’ve ever had!

And now Bono swears by Jamaican Guinness. Why it’s apparently better is unknown, maybe it’s the heat?
One thing a barperson can do while pouring Guinness is to move it under the tap so as to draw a shamrock. (I have also seen someone do a harp because it amused her artistic sensibilities, but a shamrock is the traditional device.) If this is begun when the Guinness is half poured, it should continue in existence as the rest of the glass is slowly filled, and stay there. The froth is firm.

Guinness's advertisements have been famous for imagination; I shan't condone advertising by describing them, however. I suppose it's safe to say that one from many decades ago featured a toucan, I'm not sure why. They also touted the notion of physical strength (the kind that allows you to lift iron girders, that is).

The old slogan was "Guinness is Good for You". They probably can't get away with this now, but it certainly is quite nutritive. When I've been on benders involving lots of alcohol but no food for more than 24 hours, the only way I could have survived it was by having plenty of Guinness amid my other drinks. More seasoned drinkers than me have said they've gone for a week living on it. I believe them. The story is that nursing mothers used to be given a bottle of Guinness to get their strength back up after the ordeal. Whether the iron and B-group vitamins in it are as nutritious as their legendary reputation has them, I leave to others.

I don't much like ordinary Guinness. (Nor Beamish nor Murphy, neither of which seems an interesting alternative.) One St Patrick's Day my local was giving it away free. I arrived early and had a couple, but it's too weak for my taste, and bland, and I went back to buying proper beer.

A different matter is Guinness Foreign Extra, a vastly stronger drink (at 7.5%), sold in bottles, and formerly not sold here in Britain at all. It was intended for export to tropical climes, or was locally brewed in places like Nigeria and Trinidad. (Could U2 have been drinking that, and not draught Guinness?) It's black, it's nutrient-rich, it has a sharp, bitter iron taste, with a huge amount of body. The back of the bottle is utterly useless for explaining it. Anyway, it's an entirely different drink from the weak stuff that's served in pubs, and I grab it all whenever I see it.

Drinking Guinness may be a close approximation to heaven, but something people often ask me, as I'm an Irish person living in England, is:
"Does it really taste different at home?" And the answer? Yes, yes, yes, unbelievably and subtly so!

Irish Guinness, which is brewed in Dublin tastes crisp and clear (whether it is the extra-cold stuff or not), a touch more bitter and tart than the English version (which is brewed in London). Additionally, Irish Guinness feels smoother in the mouth and can certainly be downed more easily (not that I advocate the practice).

On a recent visit to the Dublin brewery, I asked what the difference between the two is. The answer explains the above mentioned differences perfectly: Water. In Dublin, the Guinness is brewed using water from a Spring which occurs naturally somewhere near the brewery. In London, the Guinness is brewed from good old Thames Water (not from the river, the stuff the "Thames Water" company pumps down the mains). Since it is an oft-quoted, but no doubt apocryphal saying that the average molecule of Thames Water has been through a Human body eight times since it last was in the Sea, I will rest my case.

To add my two-pence worth, the best pint of Guinness I've ever had was served in my local pub.
A bottle of Guinness was split on the floor
When the pub was shut for the night
Out crept a mouse from his little hole
And sat in the pale moonlight

He lapped at the frothy brew
Then back on his haunches he sat
And all night you could hear him roar
"Bring on the fucking cat!

read in one of those horrible Irish-themed chain pubs, but none the less it has stuck with me

Some Interesting facts about Guinness
  • Drinking a pint of Guinness is roughly as nourishing as eating a loaf of bread.
  • A drink that people have recommended to me (which I haven't tried, being a Guinness purist) is a fifty-fifty mixture of Guinness and Coca-Cola
  • "Dublin makes five or six principal versions of Guinness, in a total of 19 variations, and exports around 40 percent of its output. (Taken from the book; 'Michael Jacksons' Beer Companion)
  • The Guinness you buy in bottles is different to the Guinness in cans and on tap. The Guinness in the bottle has live yeast in it, and in America is called 'Guinness Extra Stout'. The cans and draught are simply 'Guinness'.
  • The floating ball in cans of Guinness provides the bubbles when poured. Guinness refer to this as a 'Floating Draught System', but it (and other beer cans which contain it) is usually called a 'widget'
  • You might like to try an Irish Car Bomb if you think you can handle it: A shot of Jameson or similar whiskey, a touch of Baileys on top, dropped in a whole Guinness and taken as a shot before the cream curdles. Not for the unseasoned drinker.

If you're in Melbourne, Australia, the best place to go for Guinness is the Cornish Arms, on Sydney Rd, or the Rob Roy, both located in Brunswick. The Empress Hotel in North Fitzroy, The Tote in Collingwood, the Espy in St. Kilda and the Charles Dickens Tavern in the CBD don't serve a bad drop either.

Some interesting myths about Guinness that need to be dispelled.

"Some time ago, at the main Guinness brewing plant in Ireland, the vats were opened and drained to clean them out. Once empty, the bottom of the vats were found to be full of dead rats. Of course, as soon as this was discovered the vats were cleaned and sterilised. However people started complaining that the Guiness didn't taste right, and so now Guinness is filtered through lamb's blood, which goes some way to explaining the unique taste. (I was told this, and it may not be true."
- This is not a true story. Guinness is most certainly not filtered through lamb's blood, neither were dead rats ever found at the bottom of vats as St. James' Gate.

""Dublin makes five or six principal versions of Guinness, in a total of 19 variations, and exports around 40 percent of its output."

- Dublin makes two versions of it's "Guinness" product, in a total of about three variations, packaged and distributed in a variety of different forms. The Guinness brewery itself brews many other products that aren't Guinness.

"The Guinness you buy in bottles is different to the Guinness in cans and on tap. The Guinness in the bottle has live yeast in it, and in America is called 'Guinness Extra Stout'. The cans and draught are simply 'Guinness'."

- Guinness is available in bottles in both forms: Draught Guinness in a bottle and Guinness Extra stout. They are two different products. Both products are available in cans and bottles. Guinness Extra stout is not available on draught.

That takes care of the blatant untruths.
Now for the misunderstandings.

The Guinness brewed in Dublin is not "better" than Guinness brewed in London.

Despite what your pub genius buddy may have told you, and taking into consideration his in-depth knowledge of quality control within the brewing industry, the product brewed in London is identical to the product brewed in Dublin.

But everybody knows that the Guinness in Ireland is better than anywhere else!

This is bullshit, an urban legend almost. When Guinness is brewed and ready for distribution, even the most acclaimed brewmasters cannot tell the difference between the "geography" of the product. Bear in mind that these guys can identify minute traces of chemicals in beverages and estimate their quantity... by taste alone.

The reason Guinness tastes better in Ireland, correctly pointed out by ryano, is the way the product is managed when it leaves the brewery or distributor. In Ireland, thousands of pints of Guinness are consumed every day, therefore the volume of Guinness coming though an Irish pub is much greater than an equivalent English pub. This means the kegs are changed more often and the lines are cleaned more often.

This equals fresher and better tasting Guinness.

Because less is sold in the equivalent English pub, the stout is lingering in the keg longer, becoming less fresh, giving it that distinctive bitter taste. The Guinness lines in the equivalent English pub would not be maintained as well as the Irish pub either. These factors, plus illiterate bar staff who don't know what they're doing, all contribute to the Guinness tasting bad in England sometimes.

Don't get me wrong, I've had some lovely pints of Guinness in London, I've also had some really, really shitty pints in Dublin, including a pub next door to the brewery itself.

It has nothing to do with the Thames, the Liffey, rats or lamb's blood.

It's about volume and attention to detail.

Sources: My father worked for Guinness for 32 years, 20 years R&D and quality control, 12 as a director. He'll give you a clip if you don't watch your manners.

Guinness is a personal favourite of mine and is well known for having an amazing degree of brand loyalty from its customers, partly as a result of the interesting stories told about it.

Guinness, like many beers, does have a reasonably high calorific content. However, it is not 'a meal in a glass', 'liquid bread' or anything similar. Draught Guinness contains 43 calories per 100ml or 244 calories per UK pint. For comparison, orange juice contains about 220 calories per pint and milk has about 260 calories per pint.

A pint of Guinness will have the descending bubbles but so do most dark beers. It's nothing specifically related to Guinness.

The stuff marketed as Draught Guinness (cans and apparently bottles but I've never seen them) is different from the Original (cans and bottles as well) in that the Draught has a widget which contains a pressurised nitrogen/carbon dioxide mix, the same as the gas mix pubs use. When the container is opened the gas mix is released, sending the gas through the beer. In contrast, the Original contains only carbon dioxide to give the fizz. This is the reason why Original Stout has a much more bitter taste than Draught as some carbon dioxide dissolves to give carbonic acid. The Draught tastes creamier because there is less carbon dioxide and so less acid (nitrogen doesn't react with anything in beer)

Interestingly enough, Guinness is not suitable for strict vegetarians because the fining agent (for getting all the crap out of the brew mix before they bottle it) they use is isinglass, a form of gelatin obtained from fish.

The rumour that Guinness turns your poo black is true, after heavy consumption (usually the morning after Saint Patrick's Day) Guinness poo is a common occurence. Why this is is not known for sure, it is usually hypothesised to be staining by the colour from the roasted barley or reaction between iron and bile products in the digestive system. I haven't seen any proof for either.

On a related note, Guinness is not black. Next time you have a pint hold it up to the light and the deep ruby red colour will become obvious.

Finally, it possible to create multiple layer drinks, usually called a Black and Tan or Half and Half. This is usually done with an ale on the bottom and Guinness on top, poured over a spoon to avoid disturbing the ale.

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