Why Guinness tastes better in Ireland

According to the tour guide at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the belief that Guinness tastes better in Ireland is not just an urban myth. He offered two explanations for the phenomenon.

1. Freshness

Because Guinness is so much more popular in Ireland than elsewhere, kegs don’t last long. So your pint is more likely to be fresh.

2. Cleanliness

If you’re a pub owner in Ireland, you are affiliated with Guinness. One of the terms of that relationship is that every three weeks you’ll receive a visit from a Guinness representative who will flush the lines to your Guinness taps. Pub owners are supposed to do that on their own, but some are lazy about it and Guinness doesn’t want to take any chances. If the lines aren’t flushed, the brew will be compromised.

What a savvy business practice!

On the way home, in the airport, I got to see it in action. These taps have signs on them that say Line Cleaning In Progress.

And here’s the Guinness rep flushing the lines. I asked him how often he shows up to do this, and he confirmed the story. “Every twenty-one days.”

The only problem is, knowing this, how can I ever again order a Guinness at home?

51 thoughts on “Why Guinness tastes better in Ireland

  1. Simon Proctor

    I grew up in a Pub in southern England. Whilst once every three weeks is nice, I’d advise you find somewhere that cleans it’s lines every day.

    That really helps the taste of the beer.

    Reply
  2. jamesgalvin

    Once every 3 weeks is when the guy from the Guinness Quality Team cleans the lines. He’s like the inspector from Guinness, he doesn’t work for the pub. The pub has a lot more than Guinness behind the bar, so you can be sure that they clean their lines more often than that. This guy makes sure that even in the very dirtiest pub, at least you can count on the fact that Guinness is relatively OK.

    Reply
  3. Murray

    I heard a couple of other explanations as to why Guinness in Ireland tastes better:

    1) Keg Guinness in Ireland is not so aggressively pasteurized – because of how quickly it is turned over there is no need – thus preserving a lot of flavor (enzymes etc.) that would otherwise be destroyed.

    2) The qualities of the water they use at the Dublin brewery. Not sure what exactly – softer, less chemicals – something like that.

    The first reason sounds a bit iffy – maybe the reality is closer to what Jon says about freshness. But I can definitely vouch for the fact that canned Guinness in Ireland is no better than anywhere else.

    Reply
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  5. Mary Branscombe

    a lot of it is the water; Guinness for places other than Ireland is mostly made at Park Royal in London with different water. If you do the brewery tour in Dublin the pint you get is nothing like Guinness even down the road (far better) and that’s going to be the freshness and the handling; I don’t drink Guinness outside the brewery because other porters stand travel better.

    Reply
  6. daveshields

    jon,

    The most likely reason is pasteurization.

    The best Heineken’s I ever had was in Amsterdam, over thirty years ago.

    The best beer I have had in the last decade was in Prague, in a bar within a 1/2 mile of the “old town” side of the bridge. It had a yellow tent in a courtyard. They got a fresh delivery each day, and washed out the beer plumbing regularly. The beer was as good as it gets, just astounding.

    By the way, if you — or anyone else — ever visits Prague, be sure to look up before you pass up drinking the fine beer. Prague is one of the few — if not only — major Eurpoean cities never to be bombed or sacked, and there is an extraordinary variety of architecture to be found there. Every building is different, and well worth a look.

    The food, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired, unless you like pork and over-cooked meats. I don’t, so I found best cuisine was appetizers and *lots* of beer.

    Reply
  7. srq

    While Guinness does taste different at the brewery in Dublin, the difference in taste from an average Dublin pub and yours is not that great.

    Reply
  8. Mike Caulfield

    There’s actually some difference from bar to bar in town here. It would be a great “experiment” to get a Guinness from each and rank them, and then find out the particulars of how often they turn over kegs, etc.

    I’m sure there’s a ManyEyes project in here somewhere.

    Since there seem to be a whole bunch of beer experts here — can anyone tell me why a Sunday afternoon pint often tastes briny at a particular place I frequent? Is that a line cleaning gone wrong?

    Reply
  9. John Hall

    Another reason may be the gas it’s pressurized with.
    Gerard, Mine Host at The James Joyce authentic Irish Pub (& Joyce on Fourth) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, uses only nitrogen, rather than the more usual carbon dioxide – which is less expensive.
    Gerard was the Western Canada distributor for Guinness before opening his own pub, and knows a thing or two.

    Reply
  10. Eoghan

    Guinness give out a number in the brewery that you can call and report a bad pint from any bar in the world, at any time. They reward you with free Guinness stuff for it too :)

    Reply
  11. TheGZeus

    Oh, how I want to go to Ireland… The dive I go to might flush its lines…at all…
    I only get anything better than Blue Moon there when I’m like, kinda hungry, then I’ll splurge for a pissy Guinness.

    Reply
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  13. andypub

    Being an ex-publican in London/Ireland I can tell you guy a few things:
    1) Guinness made for export contains preservatives to cover the long shipping journey it will be exposed too. Guinness kegs made in Ireland have 3 months shelf-life – barely long enough to put on a ship for export which has 18 months shelf-life!
    2) We cleaned our pipes every Sunday morning. For lagers and bitters, that is fine but the Guinness (etc) lines were always particularly “dirty” within a week.
    3) For comment (10), YES. When we emptied our pipes, all the beer that comes out (ullage) we would store in an open bucket in the cellar. Clean all our pipes. We would then put a “selected” pipe into the open bucket after topping it up with more of that brew. Typically, Sunday drinkers are not your regulars and you would also not serve that brew to your regulars.

    Reply
  14. ken kostolecki

    I find it dastardly & repulsive that some bastard blogger, hacker is denigrating the good name of Guninness beer by representing “5 lucky winners” as the recipients of 2.5 million British pounds in an internet “raffle”, odds being over 62 million to 5! I hope Guinness lawyers track down the reprensible hacker pronto. Could it be the very same blogger who was called on the legal British carpet for expropriating at the turn of the century various of its trademarks?, i.e., “Guinness sucks?”
    This is occurring in the United States now via the web.

    Reply
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  16. dwaned

    What wasn’t mentioned is that Guinness is made from the liffey (River that runs along side Guinness in Dublin) water :-) Well, it’s not really true but as mentioned the home market brew is completely different to the export brew. It used to be the same for cans of Guinness but now they are using export Brew for the home Market, shame really isn’t very nice. And if you want to taste true Guinness you must visit the factory and go on the tour (Another special Brew of Guinness)
    For the comment above (a lot of it is the water; Guinness for places other than Ireland is mostly made at Park Royal in London with different water) this is not true. Park Royal brews for the UK only!!! And I know there are a large number of pubs in the UK that import their Guinness from Dublin, worth finding one if you live in the UK. All Export comes from Dublin to every country except those who have their own Guinness Brewery (There are 5 Guinness Breweries world wide). Sorry not being a know it all….used to work in Export in Guinness’s Dublin:-)

    Reply
  17. el_weirdo

    A couple of points.

    I think you’ll find that the brewery in Park Royal closed several years ago(see here:http://www.workinglives.org/guinness%20site/index.htm). AFAIK, Guinness sold in UK is brewed in Dublin and is the same stuff as is served in Ireland.

    The reason it is so difficult to get a decent pint of plain in the UK is that staff behind the jumps simply do not know how to pour a pint of Guinness (including those in all of those “authentic” oirish pubs).

    Also many pubs in Ireland and the rest of the world now serve food as part of their trade and in many establishments, this includes greasy foods such as chips etc which means that there is greasy fatty fumes emminating from the kitchen which deposits itself on the glasses on the shelves and really does not help with the quality any of the beers served. Not to mention all the grease deposited by customers eating these foods whilst handling their glasses with greasy hands. I don’t care how good your dish/glasswasher is, nothing will substitute for good, old-fashioned handwashing (which, of course, is not allowed due to health and safety regulations).

    Finally, I believe Guinness regularly change the recipe for their brew according to customer “focus-groups” and surveys resulting in a brew blanded and dulled to appeal more to the “average drinker” (see Guinness Brewhouse Series and Guinness Extra Cold). This is why we now drink a pint that is far removed from the pint that we would have been drinking years ago.

    Reply
  18. Heidi

    Hi Im just wondering how do I flush guiness taps? My friend has a bar at home and wants to clean the pipes. How is this done?

    Reply
  19. Arman

    Good day!
    Im looking for real Ireland beer brewing machine for our restaurants in Astana, Kazakhstan. We want to produce 500-700 liters per day of real Ireland beer (Guiness, Stout or any famous Ireland beer). We want also buy the rights of beer recipe. I will be very glad if you can help me, please contact to my email adress armaaando@yahoo.com
    Best regards Arman

    Reply
    1. Brendan Murphy

      Good luck with getting Guinness to sell you rights to their recipe! You must have very deep pockets. Mind you if I ever get to Astana, I would love to drop by for a pint.

      Reply
  20. bernard

    The Guinness Quality telephone line was in operation since 2000 (I think). More here:

    Newspaper story.

    You can telephone the quality phone number, more information on 1890 250000 (NB: this may only work inside Ireland) :

    here.

    hope that helps.

    Enjoying the blog Jon.

    thanks

    Reply
  21. Sudip

    What is the shelf life of guiness stout, i mean the haze values after say 4 months? Does the beer appear hazy? What should be the haze of dark coloured beers?

    Reply
  22. boline

    I have developed a line cleaning system for all beers and stouts which is operated electrically behind the bar .It can be used to clean the lines after each days drinking.It purges the line of all its beer flushing it out with water leaving it ready for next day’s consumption. It is the beer left in the line which gives that sour taste to a pint.

    Reply
    1. Johnnieboy

      Boline.. nice to see you have developed a nightly system but fresh water alone will not remove ‘hard’ deposits left in the line which over time will suffocate the flow and sour the taste. lines for Guinness should be cleaned once a week with proper line cleaning detergent and flushed with fresh water. the shorter the line the better the draw also and BOC gases in dublin fit all pubs with the correct C02/Nitrogen mix at the correct pressure to make a creamy Guinness. Temp is vital as well. It is this mixture of rules enforced by Guinness reps that ensures a better pint in Irish bars.. particulary ons close to James Gate.. The Keg serves the most delicious pint (a lot of Guinness staff drink there )

      Reply
  23. stu

    Just came back from Dublin (first time there) and I am from England.

    Wow, the Dublin Guinness is awesome, I reckon I could drink 10 pints in 30 minutes its that nice. Creamy, tasty, and doesnt make you bloated like lager.

    100000% better than UK guinness….

    Reply
  24. Steve

    Just got back from Ireland last night and drank a Guinness Draught poured from a can at O’Hare Airport to compare to the taste of true draught Guinness poured in an Irish pub. The can version is vapid, gutted, and lacking in body and flavor. The Irish pub version is flavorful and creamy. No comparison!

    Reply
    1. Charlie Conaghan

      While my drinking days were In Dublin I didn’t drink Guinness as the scrape off/overflow was caught in the container under the nozzle. After it got some in it this was poured into a glass and served to the unsuspecting customer. I do hope this no longer is the practice. 35 years later I’m in Canada and drinking a draught Guinness from a can is a treat.3 or 4 cans cost close to $12 here in Canada. 1 hours drive south in the states in a membership club a large case (28 ?) of Guinness costs app. $30. My doctors visit today cost $0. Stay healthy.

      Reply
  25. Mike

    A fresh pint, served at proper temperature, tastes the same everywhere. Thers is no best place to drink it. It’s all about the real conditions. If you create psychological conditions, you imagine a difference. That is where most differences come from, the head.

    Mike

    Reply
    1. michael

      i agree. in the past month i have had several guinnesses in dublin, london, and variouse u.s. locations. as long as the temp was proper, there did not seem to be a difference. i did have one that was very different in london, but i realized that they pull me a pint of extra cold (not a fan, although i think it would make it in the u.s.)

      Reply
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  27. Brent Hood

    I made my first trip to Ireland about two weeks ago, and had my first ever Guinness at a bar in Omagh from the tap. I haven’t tried a Guinness since I’ve been home, but its good to see that some of you have gotten just as good a pint in the states as you have had in other places, including Ireland.

    I was expecting it to be a bit bitter to harsh in flavor, since it is so dark. Don’t get me wrong, I love dark beers on occassion, but some just don’t do it for me.

    My Guinness was very smooth and flavorful. I’m a new fan of Guinness and will be giving more pints a go in the future.

    Reply
  28. Brendan Murphy

    Mulligans of Poolbeg Street in Dublin serves ( served???) the best Guinness in the world. I left Ireland some thirty years ago and have sampled Guinness from Shanghai to Vancouver to Mexico and a lot of places in between. Maybe it’s the freshness or the way it’s handled but the last time, a few years ago, that I was in Dublin, Mulligans still served the ultimate pint.

    Reply
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  33. Charlie Conaghan

    I hope pulling a pint in Dublin has changed from my drinking days in the 1970′s I didn’t drink Guinness because the practice in getting a good head was to scrape some off and keep filling until the head was perfect. After so may times off doing this there was some in the under tray. That was put into a glass and topped up and given out to the unsuspecting patron. Cheers

    Reply

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