The next time you find yourself behind a bar, try this experiment. Take three pint glasses and fill each of them with Guinness. Use the conventional two-part pour for one of them, and fill the remaining two in one go. Let them settle.
Next, find a stout purist, someone you’d consider a “real Guinness man” – you might locate him somewhere in Offaly. Plonk him in front of the three pints, ask him to take a sip from each, and tell you which one was poured the “proper” way.
He won’t answer correctly. And if he does it was a lucky guess because he won’t have noticed any difference.
The two-part pour is a cod. It doesn’t matter how you put stout into a glass – one-part, two-part or 12½-part pour – the result is the same, which, in fairness, is decent enough.
The origin of the two-part pour is too long to get into here, suffice to say, thanks to modern technology, it is no longer required. It has persisted, however, as a sort of marketing ploy. Guinness even recommends a waiting time of 119.5 seconds –.5! – between parts.
The uniquely annoying wait for ¾ of your pint to “settle” makes Guinness feel like a special drink, and it makes you, the drinker, feel special for enduring it. It speaks to something of the true Gael in us.
“If a barman poured my pint in one go, I’d hand it back,” you’ve probably heard a friend say in a moment of delirious jingoism. No doubt they imagine the incorrectly poured pint being the shoddy work of an English barman.
So say what you want about fancy coffee and €15 G&Ts, but what could be more pretentious than pouring some of a drink into a glass and then waiting ages, for no good reason, to pour the rest of it?
And that’s assuming the bartender doesn’t forget about it entirely in the meantime.
Dan Griffin is an Irish Times journalist
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