The objective was simple. Observe and learn how to pour a proper Guinness Draught Stout. Best way to achieve this? Go to a local Irish pub, sweet talk the bartender and have them take the time to show you how to pour a pint of the black. Of course you can search for a YouTube video, but the actual experience is where the true magic happens. It's a visceral thing. It's a nostalgic feeling. It reminds you of why brewing is such an art form and why we take our time to enjoy their craftsmanship.
The local bar of choice was Fadó Irish Pub in Mary Brickell Village (900 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33130). My maiden on this adventure was a barkeep by the name of Melissa. Melissa admits she never experienced a properly poured Guinness Stout until she started working at Fadó three years ago. I can remember my first properly delivered Guinness Draught like one of those pivotal moments in my drinking life where all things in the world became clear and made no sense at the same time. How could this cloudy mess I was given become this perfectly settled pint of blackened bliss? How could something that appeared so lush and rich be so smooth and clean? I remembered pondering all these thoughts and now all the answers were going to become so evident.
Let’s take it from the top:
Three things need to be in place to start. First, you need to use the proper compression mix. You need a CO2 or CO2-Nitrogen mix for most beers on standard tap systems. With Guinness, the mix is reversed to a 75% Nitrogen and 25% CO2 gas mix to achieve that creamy, velvety smooth texture that a Guinness Draught Stout is known for. Next, you need the beer to be at the proper temperature to ensure you get the right settling of the end product and flavor profile. Lastly, it all comes down to the glassware. A tulip-shaped pint glass to be exact. It has to be clean and dry; not water rinsed. It’s all about where in the glass you pour. Glass needs to be at a 45° angle. The beer needs to hit the smooth side of the glass and not any rigged points that will cause the pour to become volatile.
A proper pour is a two-step process. With the glass set at a 45° angle under the faucet. You push down the handle all the way for an even pour. You fill the glass to about half way, then level the glass off and fill until about 80% full. Then you wait for the magic to happen. There is an exact time to this mythical moment. It needs 119 seconds to settle, but the visual experience is well worth the patience.
Once the beer has settled to a full black mat, and not the brown cloudy liquid of the initial pour, you then top off the last part of the glass. This process requires the back of a serving spoon to allow for a smooth, undisturbed top off. The pour is straight down the middle and it’s filled until you have about a ½ inch white cap head. By the time the pint of beer reaches its thirsty patron it should reach its final settle with a clear distinct line between the 1 inch fluffy white head and solid magenta black brew.
A proper Guinness pour is an ethereal moment. All that’s holy about the brew is on display- the tradition of past, the desire of present and optimism of future. The sight of cascading, unsettled bubbles slowly becoming a poured embodiment of beer’s glory is just as good as the moment the first drop hits your lips.