The Guinness Tasting Party World Tour

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Arthur Guinness was born on 1725 in County Kildare (it’s true, wiki it!).  At 27, he started a brewery in the outskirts of Dublin. After working it for a few years, he went into Dublin itself and took out an amazing 9,000 year lease, effective 31st, December 1759 (with rent control, I hope!) on a four acre brewery at the famous St. James’s Gate. He is, of course, famous for creating the popular Irish dry stout beer.

This evening, I had the pleasure of experiencing some of the Guinness brewery’s new products. Over at Terra Gallery in San Francisco’s South of the Market district, the Guinness company held a tasting that is worthy of the Guinness name. These events are usually quite fun: lots of drinks – all for free – get to mingle and chat with interesting people, and get to listen to some interesting tidbits about the company and their upcoming new product launch. Now, an important note. I am a fervent drinker of the “food in a glass” that is Guinness. I drink other beers, certainly, but my go-to at any respectable dining or drinking establishment is a wonderful glass of Guinness. I am not here to endorse this product in any way.

I arrived at the gallery slightly ahead of opening, so I stood in line along with about two hundred others. After a few minutes wait, the door opened and we proceeded to enter the event. This event was invitation only, so I had to produce my confirmation code, which I did. Then, for those with the boyish or girlish young looks, they got carded. We old fogies went directly to the hand-stamp station. We all were given a Guinness coin. That coin was for our one Guinness drink. “One glass?” I thought, “Where’s the tasting with just one glass?”

I sat at the center bar and got my glass of mother’s milk. I then cruised over to the snack table and whipped up a small boat-shaped plate full of popcorn. Popcorn and beer: a decent mix. I walked about and chatted with all the other invitees. You know, the usual mind-numbing chit-chat about nothing. The crowd skewed mainly to the younger end of the spectrum.

About 15 minutes in, our emcee came on stage to give up the run-down on the happenings at Guinness. He explained the history of Arthur Guinness and his 9,000 year-old lease at St. James’s Gate. One bit of trivia, courtesy of Mr. Emcee is the time to make the “perfect pour”: 119.5 seconds. Then came the perfect pour contest pitting two members of the audience. The two guests were given a chance to play bartender and pour the perfect glass of Guinness from the tap. Our side won and garnered the largest cheer (warmly benefitted from imbibing that glass of Guinness a few minutes before).

The two guests also played a few rounds of trivia. For example, Guinness also owns Smithwick’s and Harp Lager. A glass of Guinness poured on top of a half-glass of Smithwick’s is called a blacksmith. Guinness atop a Harp lager is a Half and Half. Well, our side’s contestant, Ken, won the pour and the trivia question (ably abetted by members of our side who are Guinness trivia connoisseurs.

Then came two additional tastings. The first was the Guinness black lager, a new product line. For me, it had some zip with a very refreshing mouth feel, but lacked any interesting taste. It felt like drinking carbonated water with a touch of coloring. Zippy but devoid of the expected bitterness that we expect from Guinness. The second tasting was of an existing product, the Foreign Extra. This one is a good one. It also had the zippiness of the Black Lager. And it also had a nice bite in the taste. I will seek this out in the markets, not so much for the former.

All in all, it was a great night and I got to learn a few things. Maybe I’ll win the Guinness World Record for knowing trivia about Guinness.