Our trip started in Ireland, where my goals were twofold. I wanted to drink Guinness as close to the source as possible, and I wanted to learn more about the burgeoning Irish craft beer industry. In this post I'll be focusing on Guinness, and we'll get to the craft beer in a later post.
While Guinness is the world's most popular stout, I have always had a hard time understanding the hype. Guinness is smooth, and goes down easy, but it isn't very complex. Maybe a trip to the source would change my mind and help me see the light.
We bellied up to a side bar within range of the music and I ordered my first Irish pint. "I'll have a Guinness please." Three minutes later, with tan head neatly separated from black body, it arrived. With great anticipation, I took my first sip. Creamy. Smooth. Sweet. I taste milk and coffee, but they are distinct flavors. The complexity is sensual, and the lingering finish never seems to end. Okay Guinness, you win. I'm a fan.
Over the next few days we sampled Guinness at pubs all over the south of Ireland. In Killarney, a friendly couple who spends every weeknight enjoying the craic (fun) at the Grand Hotel Pub taught us something very important. Guinness must be consumed within thirty minutes of the pour or it goes flat. In fact, they swore that a good Irishman can down four pints in an hour without missing a beat. After watching one banjo player in particular, I'm convinced they are right.
The pubs in Ireland are more communal than they are in the U.S. Besides our new friends in Killarney, we met a salesman from Munich, a UPS pilot from Jacksonville, and a retired schoolteacher turned musician. We were invited to sing, dance, and of course, to "come back tomorrow." Maybe it's the small town charm and the warm atmosphere, or maybe it's the beer itself. But drinking Guinness in Ireland is a wonderful experience.
-Guinness is brewed in 50 countries around the world, but the largest and most famous brewery is in Dublin.
-Although it is a stout and looks heavy, Guinness has only 125 calories (Bud Light has 110). This is due to its low alcoholic content (4.0%).
-It takes approximately 119.5 seconds to pour a perfect Guinness. Try grabbing a pint off the bar before the head is fully formed, and you're guaranteed to get chastised by the bartender.
-Guinness patented the original plastic "widget" for its canned beer. Nitrogen is inserted into Guinness cans to remove oxygen and prevent oxygen-caused flavor deterioration. As the can is pressurized, beer and nitrogen are forced into the hollow plastic widget. When the can is opened, the rapid decrease in pressure releases the trapped nitrogen throughout the beer, ultimately creating the creamy, foamy head (nitrogen creates smaller bubbles than the carbon dioxide).
And in case you need any tips on how NOT to be a good tourist, here's Conan O'Brian: