The perfect pint of Guinness is an alchemy of many elements. I don’t claim to be an expert, but there was plenty of discussion in each of the pubs I visited and after 30 pints over a thirty day period, I feel a bit better qualified to make some judgments.
Temperature: To me, this has the greatest effect on the overall taste of the pint, and I like my pints as close to room temperature as I can get. The overall perfect pint was the only pint I found served at room temperature. Guinness Extra Cold failed for a reason.
Flow: Simply put, the more Guinness that is flowing, the better. It’s better to grab a pint in a busy pub later in the night. You really don’t want to have the first pint of the evening, and this is probably the reason why pints at restaurants and hotels generally didn’t fare as well. I could discuss “freshness” separately, but the better the flow, the fresher the Guinness is. This might not stop someone from selling Guinness that is out of date and I had one pint that I can say bordered on “spoiled.”
Clean lines: It would make sense that the lines leading to the tap should be cleaned often. You may have heard of the Guinness Quality Team that travels to all the pubs in Ireland and perform checks and routine maintenance. Some claim the length of the lines to the tap is also a consideration, the shorter being better.
Clean glasses: Many swear that a good pint leaves a nice film the whole way down the glass. This may have more to do with whether the glass is clean and what it has been cleaned with. I will say the better pints of Guinness left rings down the glass. Also, serve Guinness in a real pint glass. I was turned off at Cromleach lodge and their goofy shaped glass.
The pour: Guinness mentions a six-part pouring process and I posted about the time it takes. We already talked about the right, clean glass. Next you keep the glass on an angle and when making the first pour. You’re not supposed to let the tap touch the beer at any time. Then the glass is set to settle. Once settled, you top up the pint and present it. Guinness has in its guidelines a two-pour process, but I love the old-style, three pours and the head cut off with a bread knife.
Atmosphere: No, it has nothing to do with the pint, but a great pint of Guinness is a state of mind. A great looking pub, in a fantastic locale can’t make up for a lousy pint, but I do believe it can tip the scales between good and great, or great and perfect. However, I’ve had some excellent pints in what would be considered pretty lousy pub settings.
For me, the overall perfect pint was Conlon’s in Geevagh. Not much of a pub, but a great glass of Guinness.