No one really likes the taste of Guinness.
Researching the facts behind the Theory
Many years ago, before I even started drinking beer, a friend named Phil up in the Bay Area told me about Guinness, an Irish beer that was so thick, so dark, so black, that you couldn’t even see light through it! I remember he also told me another “fact” about Guinness: The Guinness available over here in the USA is “nothing like” the Guinness over in Ireland, and you’ve never really tasted Guinness until you’ve been to Ireland to drink it.
This Guinness has obviously just been “pulled” but is waiting the 5 minutes on the bar for it to completely “settle” before it is served
Jumping ahead in time to the Hotel Del Coronado: I’d recently moved here to San Diego, and now sat in the old dark, wood-paneled bar (now modernized and illuminated and basically ruined as the new “Babcock & Story Bar”) with a few friends visiting from my old stomping grounds up north. By this time in history, basically every bar and lounge in San Diego offered Guinness, and so I knew it was pretty much “the” cool beer (or “stout”, rather) to be seen drinking. My roommate’s friend Jeff and another brother ordered a Guinness, and in my desire to also be “cool”, I ordered one myself. It looked pretty good, I thought, black liquid topped by a quickly diminishing tan colored head of foam. Then I tasted it. “This tastes like crap”, I thought. Of course I didn’t say anything… I wanted to remain “cool”.
Why did it taste so bad? Probably because it wasn’t really genuine Irish Guinness, I supposed.
A few years later while back up in the Bay Area to visit, I saw my brother Paul order a Guinness, so I thought I’d give it another try. Tasted like crap. However, I was starting to get used to it. Despite this fact, however, for my second beer I chose to order something else.
Over the years since then I’ve ordered Guinness now and again (probably once a year), hoping it I’d like it. Tasted like crap each time.
Then came my big chance to taste some real Guinness! On a trip to the U.K. to visit my wife’s relatives, we began by hopping over to Dublin for a few days. High on our list of priorities was to tour the “Guinness Storehouse”, an old factory building basically converted to a Guinness museum. After paying to enter, we were given a weird transparent plastic thing with a bubble of brown “Guinness” visible inside. This was to be traded for a pint of freshly pulled Guinness at the conclusion of our visit. Real, genuine Irish Guinness!
Touring the museum was fascinating, it’s really worth the time and money, and I learned a couple of important things: (1) Guinness absolutely denies the rumor that “Guinness in Ireland is somehow different from Guinness to be found elsewhere on the globe”. St. James Gate Brewery insists that Guinness taste the same all over the world. (2) Guinness has a long and varied history of creating intensive, clever, funny, and prolific advertising for their product.
Up in the Gravity Bar, the circular glass-walled bar above the Guinness Storehouse museum, we found a table and sat down, enjoying the 360-degree panoramic view of the slums that comprise the city of Dublin, Ireland. All around us sat members of Ireland’s young, educated elite. Looking cool, engaged in quiet conversation, and sipping their Guinness pints without smiles. Finally it was time. Time for me to rise and take our chits over to the bar to get our Guinness on! Real Guinness! We had a choice… traditional unchilled Guinness from the cask, or the new “Cold Guinness” from special pulls. I obtained one of each for us, knowing I’d be drinking most of both, since my lovely wife is pretty honest about her dislike of Guinness, although she does enjoy beer.
The traditional Guinness tasted like crap. The chilled Guinness tasted like crap.
The Assertion of the Theory
No one likes the taste of Guinness. However, thanks to an advertising campaign that stretches back into known history, everyone is convinced that Guinness is “so good” and “so cool” that no one wants to admit this. It’s bitter!
One thing I will admit that I learned at the museum, which made me respect Guinness somewhat and understand why it’s so bitter: Originally, the extra amount of Hops added (the reason for the bitterness), was included so as preserve Guinness on long ocean voyages. One of my favorite authors, Robert Lewis Stevenson, was quoted in the museum as writing how he enjoyed and looked forward to a bit of Guinness while on the high seas. Well, of course, if there’s nothing else going! I’ll bet it tasted great, bitter or not, compared to “nothing else going”!
Questions and Answers, including Views in Opposition to the Theory
QUESTION: Beers and Ales from the British Isles are supposed to taste bitter.
ANSWER: No they’re not. True, there are “bitters” (most English breweries will offer their own “bitter”) but a good bitter is far from tasting actually bitter.
QUESTION: Hey, I actually LIKE Guinness!
ANSWER: No, you don’t. You just think that all the “cool” people drink Guinness, and you want to be cool, too. You don’t really like the taste.
QUESTION: Yes, I do.
ANSWER: Well, you haven’t tried many other beers, then, have you, other than the ones forced down your throat by incessant advertising. You probably also like Newcastle Brown Ale. Well, actually I like that one too, but there are far better beers and ales than even that one.
QUESTION: About your theory… you’re wrong!
ANSWER: No, you are. You’re wrong.
QUESTION: You just don’t like stout!
ANSWER: Au contraire… stouts and porters are my very favorite types of beers!
QUESTION: Oh yeah? Like what?
ANSWER: Absolute tops: Theakston’s Old Peculiar, a dark ale. Anchor Steam Porter, a longtime San Francisco microbrewed rarity. Black’s Beach Extra Dark by our local Karl Strauss, but best wishes finding it actually available when you visit one of their San Diego locations.
QUESTION: Ahhh… you’re full of it. Guinness is the only true Irish stout!
ANSWER: False. You want an excellent Irish Stout? Try a Murphy’s… widely available throughout San Diego, thanks to the growing number of honest-tongued beer drinkers who have discovered the truth of my theory all on their own.
Black’s Beach Extra Dark
(image unavailable -- it's that rare!)
Anchor Steam Porter
Scene of the Finalisation of the Theory: