Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Reflection on Guinness

Yes, I've been away from the blog. The holidays took their toll.

But fresh on my mind since I was trying to drink it today is Guinness. I went to a local sports bar, The Westside Stadium, to watch the 49ers play the Falcons, of course hoping to see the reemergence of the good-old days of Montana or Young. It's pretty obvious the whole structure of the game has changed since the 80s and 90s, so I won't dwell on that. But I started with a pint of Guinness since it was the afternoon.

It sucked. Overcarbonated. It ended up tasting like Coke ... no, Pepsi.

The last couple of times I was around Dublin (Ireland) I drank some stout with a much older cousin of mine in his 70s. He told me both times that the pub we were in had good Guinness, and you'd never go wrong with it. Allegedly they sent their people out to clean the pipes and so no mold ever grew in the Guinness taps. Fair enough. But they also get their Guinness from the St. James's Gate Brewery itself, not from afar.

Since some time in the last decade or more, all the North American Guinness is brewed in Canada. It was first Labatt's in Montreal, I believe, and now since the whole thing was bought out by Diageo, it just says "Product of Canada" on the label. And of course it's okay, but not all that great. Very carbonated.

When I lived in Santa Cruz, CA, in the 90s, I often went to The Poet and Patriot pub. They were so Irish they had a separate tap of Room Temperature Guinness. All the people in the know drank that. It took longer to pour since the keg was kept at room temperature, whatever that happened to be, from January to August and back again. Wanting to be authentic I always asked for that, even in the summer.

I was in Dublin (Ireland) in the summer of '98 drinking away at my favorite bar there, The Quays -- which is now more cleaned up and corporate, like everything in Temple Bar and Grafton Street and the rest of the fucking town -- and asked the proprietor about this "Room Temperature" Guinness, does he serve it, did they used to in the rare auld times, etc.?

"Room temperature? No. It's undrinkable like that." And he went on dealing with other stupid foreigners. When he came back I explained the Poet and Patriot to him and he still just wrinkled his brow and shook his head. Then he said:

"Back in the days, there was no carbonation. Everything was pulled from the casks and they were down in the basement. So they stayed more or less cool year-round." Then he diverged into stories about when he was a teenager  he had to wrestle the casks off the wagon and down the stone steps and into the cellar in the rare auld times. The final analysis was that "Room Temperature" probably meant cellar temperature, not the heat in the room where you're drinking. And so room temperature Guinness in August in California is not only nasty, but inauthentic.

Which of the two crimes you consider to be the greater will tell you something about yourself, it seems.   


  1. I will add that North American plain-old bottled Guinness is disturbingly carbonated and has a fermented bean aroma. Tell me if I'm wrong, but if I'm right: Whack MCs get off my tip.

  2. I don't drink at all, but I have seen imported Irish mustard with I think, Guinness. I haven't tried it because I don't fancy the taste of alcohol. But maybe if I can find a coupon for it, I'll give it a go.