Bar Tending & Beerspectives
by Matt Martinkovic
Brewsearch & Development -
We've past yet another St. Partick's Day and many of us hoisted a pint or two or three of the
world's mos popular  Irish dry stout Guinness, to celebrate the occasion.  Yet, sorry to say
many folks still drink this iconic beer incorrectly.  Even more the folks at Guinness agree with
me.  So I'm taking it as my civic duty to give everyone a tip on just how to do it so you can
practice for a full year and be ready to roll next March 17.

The rule is simple - don't slurp the foamy head off their beer.  Why? Well, it's essentially a
nitrogen cap, that's protecting the flavors underneath from being oxidized.

Nitrogen bubbles have two properties that are really important: First of all, they're lighter
than CO2 bubbles. And the second thing is that because they're so small, they bond
together. So what you'll notice on a Guinness is that all the nitrogen settles to the top. But
unlike a carbonated head, it doesn't dissipate into the air, it doesn't disappear as you go.

Because they're all so small and they've bonded together, they'll remain firmly on the top.
And that's what gives you that pillowy effect when you first have that sip of a Guinness draft
stout. And that's also what has created that phenomenon of the Guinness mustache – you'll
often see when somebody has that first lovely gulp of a Guinness draft beer, they're left with
some nitrogen residue on their upper lip.

So, the bottom line is that the nitrogen is acting as a guard for the beer, it's blocking off
the elements, it's not allowing the oxygen in the air to get down to the beer and to eat up
the little carbonation (it's a low carbonated style) that's in there.

Aside from preventing oxidation that cap of nitrogen should be left in place for
another reason: it has a bitter taste that would dominate the beer's flavor if the whole
foamy head is simply slurped off the top of a fresh pint.

The use of nitrogen dates back to 1954, when a Guinness team led by a scientist named
Michael Ash developed a beer dispensing system that uses a mix of gases — about 75
percent nitrogen, along with 25 percent of the more standard carbon dioxide.  By the way, If
you want to thank Ash for his contributions to the world's beer enjoyment, you still can:
He's currently 89 years old and lives in Wales.

Well I've given you my tip on how to drink Guinness now for some stern words for the
bartenders who are pouring it.  Many  of you do it incorrectly.  This is how it should be
done - The glass is held at a right angle under a beer faucet, and then gently filled
about two-thirds full. Care should be taken not to let the spout touch the beer or the glass.

The beer is then "parked" while nitrogen bubbles bloom in a frothy, mocha-colored swirl
that slowly cascades down the inside of the glass, bringing the beer's flavors and aroma
to life. Called the "surge and settle," it's an essential step in building a thick, creamy head that
will retain the beer's unique character straight through to the last sip.

Once the beer settles, it's topped with a dome-shaped head that should crest slightly
higher than the rim of the glass. Cute shamrock flourishes are strictly optional.


Please continue to support my friends at
The  Northside Lounge
Nik's Wunderbar - Whitehouse Station NJ
Matt Martinkovic is not only a recognized beer authority but a well known ecological writer whose
work has appeared in the The American Midland Naturalist (University of Notre Dame) among other
industry publications.  He also has been an agricultural consultant on, of course, the growing of hops.
Right and Wrong of Guinness
To all my readers and friends, I want to thank you for all your support during my time at Nik's
Wunderbar and at the Northside Lounge.  I'm moving back to the enviromental/ecological field so
the next time you see me at a pub it will likely be on a stool next to you.  I'll continue to write my
column here on BeerNexus giving you my take on what's happening in the beer world with my
insights derived from many years in the industry.  Cheers!