Guinness drinkers have long insisted that a pint of the so-called ‘black stuff’ tastes better in Ireland than elsewhere. In 2011, their assertion was supported by a taste survey carried out by the Institute of Food Technologists across 33 cities in 14 countries, in which the majority of respondents preferred the taste of a pint of Guinness poured in Ireland, with tasting scores significantly higher there than other locations.
Some have argued that the preference for an Irish Guinness is mostly psychological, with factors like local ambience making a major contribution to the perceptions of better flavour. However, there are a number of other factors that lend credence to the idea that the beverage actually does taste better in Ireland.
For one, Irish pubs benefit from top-notch quality control provided by Guinness itself. According to a Guinness Storehouse tour guide, the company sends a representative to personally ‘flush the lines’ to affiliated pubs’ Guinness taps every three weeks – ensuring that pipes are clean and the pints customers receive are the best they can possibly be. (Other beer brands generally trust pub owners to flush their own taps.) According to Slate magazine, Guinness’s American quality assurance team is only made up of around 100 experts, with a lot of ground to cover between them.
Secondly, the six-step process that leads to the supposedly ‘perfect pour’ for a pint of Guinness is taken seriously in Ireland. The ‘surge and settle’ technique was invented during the 1950s by mathematician-turned-brewer Michael Ash, and has been refined into a precisely timed skill – the settling step that forms the head is said to take exactly 119.53 seconds. Today, the pour is taught at The Guinness Academy in Dublin.
Last but not least, pints of Guinness purchased in Ireland are likely to be considerably fresher than those in many other locations because the kegs will have only had to travel from the main Guinness brewery at St. James Gate’s in Dublin to the pub of purchase. And on account of Guinness being Ireland’s favourite alcoholic drink, kegs are also more regularly replaced.