Guinness is a thick dark-coloured beer that is unique in being one of the few alcoholic drinks to be drunk with near religious fervour. It is technically called 'extra stout porter', although there is no longer any other sort of porter available. Guinness is well known for the length in which it takes the head to settle, about 15 minutes. Attributes of the 'Perfect Pint' are vague and disputed by many of its adherents, but the main requirements appear to be: a healthy quantity of white foam, the 'head', on top of the pint; a smooth taste (although the definition of smooth varies between followers); and an ideal temperature, although opinion varies on this according to personal taste.
Guinness originated in Ireland and that is the central place of Guinness worship even today, although the peculiarly evangelical nature of this sect means that a serious Guinness following has spread all over the world.
Guinness is good for you. At least that's what they say. It is thought to increase one's proficiency in dart throwing, Gaelic dancing and all types of sports commentary, as well as being good nutritionally for pregnant women. It has also been said that there is nothing like a pint of Guinness, except perhaps a second.
Guinness is a great Irish institution which is often patriotically coloured green on St Patrick's Day1. It is a beverage of a taste that is hard to describe but easy to love. Two or three pints make one very amicable and the world begins to look like a much nicer place, seven or eight is a happy medium, whilst entering into double figures can lead to encounters with local law enforcement agents and charges of breach of the peace.
A Researcher from Dublin, who has extensive knowledge of the pubs around the city, stresses that it's important to always try the Guinness when visiting. And make it a pint, never a glass: glasses are for wussies2.
Mixing Your Drinks
The mixture of Kilkenny (Smithwicks to an Irishman) and Guinness is known as a black and tan, and is a recipe for some very interesting Sunday nights.
While we are on about Guinness cocktails, how about a Dog's Nose? Mentioned in Dickens' Pickwick Papers, it is usually a simple matter of a gin topped up with a bottle of traditional porter. Cedric Dickens (Charles' grandson), in his book Drinking with Dickens, heats the Guinness before adding gin, sugar and nutmeg. Kingsley Amis had a variation of the drink for the long summer days; in a pint silver tankard, add a double gin (London dry for preference) then a bottle of traditional Guinness, and top up with ice-cold ginger beer.