When I was 13, my mom and I traveled to Ireland along with my best friend and her mother. One of the first things my mom did after we found a suitable pub was to order a pint of Guinness. She’d been talking about it for weeks. Ever since her first sip, I’ve always associated a proper Guinness with its home country, and I know I’m not alone.
And so, it may come as no great surprise that Joe and I had to hunt down the perfect pint upon our arrival in Dublin as well. We’ve sampled the beer in several different locales, from pubs to the holy grail of breweries itself, and each pour has had a slightly different flavor and character. I’ve since learned that everything from the location to the company you keep can affect your Guinness-drinking experience. We had unknowingly begun the quest for the “silkiest” pint, and it went a little something like this.
Beer and BBQ
In between sips of my rum-based Old Fashioned, I eyed my husband’s tall, dark pint of Guinness. We had decided to sample some of the abundant local bar-b-que at Bison Bar on one of our first nights in Dublin, and I opted for a cocktail. I didn’t regret it, but I watched as Joe took that first, satisfying sip of his beer, his upper lip emerging covered in a small mustache of perfect, creamy foam.
When I asked him how it was, he smiled his quiet Joe smile and simply replied, “it’s good!” Sometimes something so simple as beer and BBQ can just hit the spot. I think the toasty notes of the beer went nicely with the giant rack of smoky ribs he was working through as well.
The Guinness Storehouse
Let me put it this way: the Guinness Storehouse is like Disneyland for adults. The entire structure containing the museum, shop, tasting room, and multiple bars and restaurants is shaped like a giant pint glass. It’s the largest pint glass in the world, and can hold something like 3 million pints of Guinness.
As you work your way up, clutching your ticket that guarantees you one freshly-poured pint of Guinness at the top, you learn about the history, brewing process, animal mascots and advertising, and correct way to pour the beer. Finally, your efforts and time are rewarded in the rooftop, 360-degree view bar. The bartender takes your tickets and tells you it’ll be a couple minutes – after all, it takes 120 seconds to pour the perfect pint.
Once you take your brimming glass over to a table so you can gaze out over the sprawling vastness of Dublin, you’re ready to take that first sip. You can almost tell it’s been brewed that very day, as the lightness and pure zestiness of the brew percolate in your mouth. The whole experience culminates with the largest imaginable bowl of rich Guinness stew – and perhaps another beer – in the Brewer’s Dining Hall one level down.
A Proper Pub
Until meeting up with an old friend of mine from high school, along with his girlfriend and an Irish buddy he met while working in Palestine, we hadn’t actually had a pint of Guinness in a real, honest-to-goodness Irish pub. Oh, the humanity! And so, when Tony – the Irishman – suggested an after-dinner pint at Grogan’s the other evening, we all happily agreed.
Tony proceeded to explain that not all pours of his favorite beer are created equal. The lines must be clean, the beer must be relatively fresh, and it matters where you drink it. He has traveled all over the world (sampling Guinness all the while) and finally decided that he would only drink Guinness in Ireland. It’s just not the same anywhere else.
So he took us to one of his favorite pubs for a proper pint – the “silkiest” Guinness around, he said. As the bartender brought five perfectly poured beers over to our little table, the anticipation was palpable. We waited until every tiny bubble had filtered its way up into the perfect disk of foam on each glass. Tony was a bit jealous that Joe got the only Guinness-branded pint glass. But then we toasted with a resounding “Slainte!” I don’t think Guinness has ever tasted so good. The lines were probably sparkling. The beer was likely very fresh. But the quiet gaiety and cozy closeness of that pub – and of being with wonderful friends – really set the experience apart.
And so, dear readers, when you’re in Ireland searching out your perfect pint, be sure to bring a buddy or two along. But if you’re alone, never fear – you’ll make friends in no time over a pint of that beautiful, dark, silky beer.