Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Does it really taste different in Ireland?

Yes, I am referring to iconic Guinness stout.  A common assertion is that it tastes better in Ireland.  Is it true?

In my own experience with Guinness in the U.S, I can say that Guinness on tap is superior to Guinness in the bottles or cans with the magic widget.  That should really surprise no one.  Comparing Guinness on tap here vs. on tap in Ireland is a much more difficult proposition to those with limited means.  So I can only rely on my quite subjective memory.

I do believe there is a difference, though I think it is a subtle one.  I am skeptical of those that say they like Guinness in Ireland but do not like it on tap in the U.S.  For me there is not a huge difference, but a just noticeable one.  I like to drink the renowned beverage both here in the colonies and back in the mother country.  So what is it exactly that could be different?

It's in the water.  You know, I have experienced a difference in taste with American beers made in different locations.  The water does make a difference in the final taste. 

A good pour makes a good pint.  It is definitely a point of pride in a real Irish pub to pour the dark elixir properly.  Enough said.

The ambiance makes it so.  Does it taste better in a crowded Irish pub with the sounds of The Rose of Tralee sung unaccompanied by instruments by a local tenor?  Does it taste better matched with the hearty comfort food that fills your belly after a long wet day in the Irish chill?  With the smell of drying wool sweaters around a turf fire?  Yes. Yes. Yes.

I cannot put my finger on it for certain, but I do know there is a difference.  What I have observed is the lack of residue rings up the glass here in the States.  In Ireland the head leaves a noticeable ring around every at rest point after a tasty swallow.  What causes that and what does it mean?  I am without a clue, but it is some evidence that there is, in fact, some difference.  Post away if you can explain it.

Either way, I will enjoy it.  I had a glass tonight, and unfortunately it was only from a widget bearing bottle.  It was still good.  And echoes of The Rose of Tralee rise pleasantly from my memories of the pubs of Ireland.



  1. ::raises my bottle of Smithwick's::

    Don't have any Guinness on stock, but since I prefer Smithwick's, c'est la vie.

    Some day I need to make it across the pond and have a pint.

  2. I had two glasses from the can with the widget. It was very good, but I can say from experience that on the tap, in Ireland, is better.

  3. I'd always heard that the difference was due to the pasteurization here in the States (Colonies he says! Grr!), but never having been to Eire, I don't know if it's true. Still, all my ex-ex-patriot Irish friends drank U.S. Guinness out of the widget cans without complaint. As for myself, I prefer a Tetley's or better yet, a Fuller's anyday. Yes, I know, Apples and Oranges... :)

  4. @Badelaire: I have some Smithwick's here too, and like it as well. I didn't find Smithwick's in Kilkenny (where it is brewed) substantially better than elsewhere. However, it was very enjoyable sipping it where it is brewed. As a side note the cemetery in Kilkenny has a large section for the Smithwick family and goes back several generations.

    @ze bullete: Colonies was teh joke. :) I agree, there are a number of good stouts to be had, and not limited to the UK and Ireland. If you want some top shelf stuff see here, earlier blog post.

  5. more on the topic from folks much more well researched than I. Google-fu is a wonderful thing.


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