I love food, photography, and a good drink. When these three meet and form a beautiful collaboration, my eyes go wide and my smile wider. I spent some time in Cleveland recently and collaborated with social artist, plant nerd, and beer aficionado, Derek, to make some cool work and talk about dive bars and good beer. Take it away homie!
You don’t have to go to swanky restaurants and/or bars to find a bartender who knows how to mix a proper manhattan, shake a undiluted dirty, or pour a proper pint with correct head. These attributes are nothing more than a creative blend of art, science, history, and a hint of passion. Each drink has a story attached to it, a reason why it was created, with ingredients that reflect the time in which it was created. Take the IPA for example: India Pale Ale, was created for sailors during the time of the East India Trading Company. The sailors making the voyage back and forth had a difficult time storing potable water, and beer became a favored drink; however, keeping lighter ales in a barrel on an unrefrigerated ship, led to the growth of bacteria, so English brewers made the beer stronger to be more resistant to bacteria growth, and lengthened the barrel life. This is why IPAs have such strong distinctive bitter flavors from the increased amount of hops. Now they are sought out for the flavor, and brewed for taste not for function, but its roots lie in history.
Working at an Irish pub, there’s one thing that every bartender should know, and that’s how to correctly pour a pint of Guinness.
The process of pouring a Guinness takes a few steps, and it has a lot to do with the history of the drink, but the proper pour allows for enhanced flavor and pleasant drinkability. Unless you are in a crowded bar where the bartender is running around like crazy, there’s no excuse to watch a bartender stick a 16oz standard glass under the tap, and pull till the brim. No Excuse. Send it back and order a different beer, unless the bartender is young and wants to learn how to pour. Don’t waste your time on someone who has been pouring this way and never had a complaint before! Just order a different beer, because who’s got the time to bicker when there’s drinking to be done. Guinness is just one of many different choices available to you!
Now Lets get down to the pour. The first thing is to look for the official Guinness glass, a standard at bars that serve Guinness. Now there are two exceptions to this–one is in fine dining establishments where the glassware matches all the other glassware for uniformity within the design of the restaurant, which in this case, let’s be honest, you probably have more important things going on than concentrating on your drink. The exception to this rule is when in a dirty dive, where the owners and patrons could care less about glassware, and this is where you’re not being overcharged out the ass for your brew. The pint glass is a slight tulip glass, similar to but not a Nonic or European glass with a harp 1/4 from the brim.
Getting to the pour of the beer, start off by tilting the glass away from you and dropping the glass as far down as possible, letting the steady stream of Guinness hit the edge of the glass close to the bottom. This allows for proper circulation and agitation of that liquid gold within the glass, creating vertical movement throughout the glass, giving an even body through every sip. As it has been told to me, we fill to the harp on our Guinness glass and stop, not only because of the nitrogen system, but because of the history of refrigeration in Ireland. Lacking the modern convenience of cooling systems in today’s society, bar owners back in the late 1700s found a way of making their product last a bit longer. They would fill the pint with the new day’s keg to the top of the harp, let the beer settle, then pour to the brim with the previous days barrel, making for a more uniformed tasting beer, everyday. We continue this 3/4 pour and hold today for both historical tradition and to let the nitrogen gas that and settle.
After the nitrogen gas has settled, we finish pouring from the tap, the glass flat, and the pour hitting the center of pint. As the Guinness fills to the brim, we slow down the pour so that the head can come over the top of the pint just forming a slight arc, or the “dome.” If done correctly, there should be no inconsistencies on the head, just a smooth uniform mini nitro bubble dome waiting to be sipped. Some bartenders like to make a shamrock in the top of the head with a swirling motion.
Even though I am an artist, when it comes to Guinness, I am a purist, and do not believe the dome should be altered. Leave the designs to the baristas in the coffee shops.
Sit back, Sip, and Enjoy!