While touring Ireland in our rental car, we, of course, had to try Guinness, the beer that is the pride and joy of Ireland.
T is a beer connoisseur, but I was surprised that I liked it too.
One day, we stopped at a local pub for a Guinness. The stern bartender came over to take T’s order of a Guinness.
“What’ll yer ‘av?”
By the way, when in Ireland, just say “pint, please”. If he asks “a pint of what?” then scowl at him and snarl “Guinness, of course”. Most barmen won’t ask anyway, as Guinness is the ‘pint’ of choice.
T ordered the Guinness at the bar, sat down at our table for a few minutes, then stood at the bar waiting for his drink. It was a typical Irish bar with oak walls and a great old oak and brass bar, with all the trimmings for preparing a proper Guinness.
Now as the bartender carefully set the Guinness on a side bar, and walked away, my innocent T reached over to get it. Not only was he eager to have a cool refreshing drink, he also felt he was helping the bartender by serving himself (he is a kind and considerate man). He could almost taste the cool, distinguished Guinness…
Suddenly the bartender whipped around and slapped T`s hand on the knuckles with his wooden levelling stick (which looks a little like a paint stir-stick). Astonished, T quickly pulled his hand back with a look of utter bewilderment.
“Waaat de divil ter chucker yer tink you’re doin’?!” (Translation: “What the devil do you think you’re doing?!”)
“Tis not ready yet, yer eejit!” (“It’s not ready yet, you idiot!”)
“Sit yerself down!”
T understood. He obediently sat down, head bowed in humiliation. In fact, he completely understood, and felt the indignity of his actions. He had offended the pride of the careful – the art form – of preparing a Guinness!
I’ll gie it ter yer whaen ’tis ready! (I’ll give it to you when it’s ready!)
This interaction gave the locals standing at the bar a good laugh.
Sitting at a table on the other side of the room, I never knew a thing of what was happening at the time. When T told me, I thought he was joking at first. Then I had to chuckle – but I don’t believe the bartender would have been so hard on him if T didn’t look so Irish. If the customer had looked like a foreigner, perhaps he would have only hit him half as hard.
So if you can’t resist the delightful experience of having an Irish bartender pour you a pint, remember this cardinal Guinness-Drinking Rule: paws off! Don’t touch your Guinness before the bartender hands it to you. The perfect pour takes time.
People in Ireland take the preparation for pouring and serving of a Guinness extremely seriously. It is not an easy task. Pouring a Guinness requires a precise technique that results in a heavy black velvet beer at the bottom of the glass with a soft luscious white head that must sit barely above the lip of the pint. Beginning in 1759 with Arthur Guinness in Dublin, it is an art – if done the right way.
First the glass must be a 20 oz glass flared outward. The neck allows the nitrogen bubbles to move down the side of the glass and back up to the top.
Second, the glass must be tilted at a 45 degree angle so that the Guinness doesn`t froth, settles nicely, and does not taste bruised.
Third, you must pull the tap towards yourself filling the glass precisely to the bottom edge of the outward curve of the glass, which would be half way up the Guinness Harp if the glass has the gold harp icon.
Fourth, you must not touch it until you see a vivid distinction between the dark red bottom and creamy white head. This takes several minutes, so relax (as T promptly learned to do).
Fifth, once properly settled, you must take the glass back to the tap, this time holding it upright. You push the tap away from yourself this time, pouring the Guinness very slowly into the centre of the foam head until it settles a precise half-millimeter about the lip of the pint to create a dome effect.
Sixth, wait again. A second settling period is crucial!
Seventh, serve carefully without disturbing the dome.
Finally, you must even drink the Guinness correctly. The locals will be watching you. Hold it up. Marvel at the blooming rich and dark maroon colour. If you slurp off the white head, you will have the kiss of death on your head. There is a good chance the locals will hang you on a wall and use you for a dart board. Neither do you sip the pint like a nancy. Grab the Guinness firmly in your fist and gulp at least a quarter of it, like you just came out of the dessert and were dying of thirst. Swish the next gulp in your mouth. Swallow. Cheers and drink up!
To really impress the locals, wait until you have about two mouthfuls of Guinness left in your glass and raise one finger. This will signal the bartender to start preparation of your next Guinness, which should be ready by the time you finish your current glass.
Guess I should have told T about these rules for Guinness before we left for Ireland.
One thing we noticed in Ireland is that we hardly ever saw a police car, but we did see plenty of Guinness police. When we asked about the Guinness trucks we saw everywhere, bartenders explained that they are stringent Guinness Inspectors that travel around to all the pubs serving Guinness and check the cleanliness of establishment, flushing of the lines, the cleanliness of the taps, the temperature of Guinness and so forth. It must be perfect. The inspectors have intrusive and daunting powers. That`s why they`re called the Guinness Police. It`s considered a privilege to serve Guinness and it must be done with absolute precision or they will lose their licence to serve Guinness. Furthermore, any pub not serving Guinness would not be in business very long.
As you can tell from the bartender’s words above, the Irish dialect is amazingly musical. It has both a strong lilt and a breathlessness to it, like a young girl dancing home from school.
There’s a thing in Ireland that particularly males are fond of doing to each other. The closer a friendship, the more aggressively they insult each other. A stranger may be shocked by these insults but they are just jokes and not taken seriously. It is called slagging. If you are visiting Ireland, don’t take slagging as an offensive remark. In fact, think of it as a way of showing friendship. The more they like you, the more they will slag you, instead of giving you compliments. It’s sort of like teasing, and might include slags regarding your size, height, abilities or anything else they think might annoy you. How should you react? Slag them back and you will be rewarded with a hearty laugh and a slap on the back.
But be careful when you grab your pint of Guinness or you will be rewarded with a hearty…
…slap on the hand!
Here’s photos of some of the pubs we visited in Ireland..
Here`s an example of IRISH HUMOUR… decorating the bar with Chamber Pots.