Guinness has long maintained that “good things come to those who wait” – with their elaborate two-part pour essential for achieving the perfect head and flavor profile, not to mention the dome synonymous with a proper pint of the black stuff doesn’t.
But an Irish barman has worked Guinness lovers into a lather by insisting there is no such thing as the perfect pour, and that there is “little craft involved in pulling the beer lever”.
Nate Brown, owner of Paloma Café, Soda & Friends and Nebula cocktail bars in London says FT Weekend Magazine that Guinness is poured in two stages “not done for the sake of the beer; it was [done] to accelerate the masses at home – the brand has always had the most skilled marketing departments,” said Brown.
Still, scientists say there may be some benefits to waiting for the bubbles to settle before refilling the pint.
Based on his laboratory experiments, Dr Tomoaki Watamura at the University of Tokyo said he believed pints of Guinness could even benefit from being refilled repeatedly, rather than just twice, to bring the liquid-foam ratio to the desired ratio. to fit “Even with considerable technique, it is difficult to control the multiscale [bubble dynamics]therefore it is better to repeat the pour many times,” he said.
The elaborate ritual of downing a pint of Guinness could further enhance the drinking experience, regardless of whether people could tell the difference in a blind taste test, said Prof Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford. “Making it more difficult to purchase something, or having to wait, can also add value to an experience,” he said.
Even Brown admitted that it was important for them to watch the “sacred dance [of] frothy white microbubbles that faint and collapse into darkness”.
Guinness recommends pouring its stout into a pint glass at a 45° angle until it is three-quarters full; allow the bubbles to rise or fall for exactly 1 minute and 32.5 seconds and finally fill the pint by pushing the tap handle forward, limiting the force of the flow.
This method stems from the addition of nitrogen to Guinness during the late 1950s. Before that, bartenders filled a glass three-quarters full with relatively flat Guinness, before topping it up with a more frothy stout from a high-conditioned cask. The addition of nitrogen, which produces smaller bubbles than the carbon dioxide in standard beer, simplified the process.
Even so, small bubbles rise more slowly and are more affected by currents in the pint glass than larger bubbles, so they need time to meet and merge to produce a more compact and even head.
“The pause not only allows the bubbles more time to do this, it allows the tractor to size the head for the second step. If the pub is not too busy, it also gives the tractor a chance to form a clover in the head in part two,” said Dr Andrew Alexander, a reader in chemical physics at the University of Edinburgh. “If you tackle everything with dedication, you will end up with a head that is too thick, furry and bulging. Nobody wants that!”
Alexander, who previously investigated whether the bubbles in Guinness actually travel downward rather than being an optical illusion (spoiler alert: they do), said the two-part pour can also affect a pint’s flavor.
He said: “In drinks such as champagne, it is well known that the interaction of the bubbles with the tongue will affect the experience: both flavor and how it feels.
“I would say a compact and even head on a pint of Guinness, with small bubbles of a similar size, would taste and feel better. When taking a drink from a pint of Guinness, one naturally ingests some of the foam with the dark liquid underneath. So, I think the double pour will enhance the experience.”
Prof William Lee, a mathematician at the University of Huddersfield, who has also studied the dynamics of Guinness bubbles, agreed that there could be good scientific reasons supporting the double pouring.
“I can easily believe that to get the head of a pint just right, you will have to wait for all the bubbles to settle in the head before you finish the pint. It will take much longer in a pint of Guinness than in a pint of carbonated beer as the small bubbles will rise slowly and be dragged around in the glass by the currents. I wouldn’t like to try to put an exact time on this, but a minute or so doesn’t sound unreasonable,” Lee said.
Clever marketing it may be, but the saying that “good things come to those who wait” has never been more true.