Pour a Proper Guinness

4 Steps to Pull (and Sip) the Perfect Pint

Guiness glasses on a bar

Richard I'Anson / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

People in Ireland will tell you: It’s not as easy as it looks. Sure, most people know that pouring Guinness calls for a 2-part pour (the first to settle, the second to top it off). But in reality, it’s so much more than that. Pouring a Guinness involves a precise process to achieve a settled heavy mass of velvet black beer under a smooth, creamy white head that sits just above the lip of the pint glass. In other words, pouring Guinness — the right way — is an art.

That art goes way back. In 1759, Arthur Guinness leased property for the Guinness Storehouse (Guinness headquarters) at St. James’s Gate in Dublin for the following 9,000 years — at an annual fee of just $65. Guinness has been made the same ever since: from roasted barley, hops, yeast and water. More than 150 countries brew it, and over 10 million glasses are poured daily. Plus, you can also cook with it; the Guinness Storehouse has a comprehensive list of signature recipes.

But the best part remains the pour. You don’t have to have your own bar to try pouring; you can actually pull your own at the Guinness Storehouse or at home. After chatting with dozens of Irish bartenders — and pouring our own — here are our 4 perfect-pour steps, whittled down to perfection.

Step 1: Choose the Right Glass and Proper Angle.
Choose a clean, dry, 20-ounce, tulip-shaped pint glass. The bump in the wider neck allows nitrogen bubbles to move down the side of the glass and back up into the neck of the beer. Tilt the glass away from you at a 45-degree angle; if you don’t, the Guinness will froth, will take forever to settle and may taste bruised.

Step 2: Pull the Tap Toward You.
That way, you release the Guinness until it fills the glass to the bottom edge of the tulip’s bump. On many Irish tulip pint glasses, there’s a gold harp icon (aka the Guinness harp); for the truly perfect pour, fill it halfway up this harp. Then, don’t touch it until you see a vivid distinction between the dark ruby-red body and creamy white head. This may take a few minutes, so sit back and relax.

Step 3: Hold It Level.
Once it’s settled, put your Guinness up to the tap and hold it level. (You want a dome effect when you top it off, so skip the 45-degree angle this time.) Push the tap away from you, pouring the Guinness slower. Aim directly into the middle of the foam head until it settles half a millimeter above the lip of your pint glass. Wait. A smaller, second settling period is crucial.

Step 4: Sip It Right.
The last and perhaps the most important step is sipping your Guinness. Hold it up to the light to marvel at the ruby-red color. Then, bring it to your lips, and sip the foam until you hit the body of the beer. Swish. Swallow. Bottom’s up.

But if you can’t resist 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.

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