Since It’s St. Patrick’s Day, Let’s Get To Know Guinness A Little Better

Senior Contributor
03.17.14 8 Comments

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and we will celebrate the long and storied history of Ireland by evoking terrible stereotypes. It’s also a great day for Guinness, the stout largely associated with Ireland, which will sell beer by the tanker truck today. But how much do you know about the beer you’re probably ordering after work, or possibly right now?

Guinness Is Only Smooth Because Of The Nitrogen

Guinness has a reputation for being smooth, but that’s got nothing to do with the beer, and everything to do with the nitrogen gas that Guinness introduces. Nitrogen has, as any drinker can tell you, much smaller bubbles that carbon dioxide, which gives the stout the trademark “creamy” flavor. It’s introduced through the widget or through a special plate in the tap.

If you want to taste Guinness without the nitrogen, try the Foreign Extra Stout, which lacks the nitrogen and is more alcoholic at 7.5% ABV. It’s a more acidic flavor, and it’ll be a surprise if all you know is the stuff on draught.

Guinness Varies In Strength From Country To Country

None of the Guinness on the market compares to the Guinness you could get in the early 19th century, which ran at about 8% or even higher according to apocrypha. But nonetheless, today Guinness varies from country to country in how strong it is. Ireland, for example, gets Guinness at an ABV of 4.2% or so. America gets 5% ABV, and the UK and Australia get it at 6%.

American Guinness Comes From The Magical Green Land Of, Er, Canada

Anybody who researches alcohol knows that most great stories tied to booze are a crock, and Guinness is no different. Diageo swears, up and down, that all the Guinness you drink is brewed in Dublin, possibly by wizened old men with adorable accents and equally adorable caps.

But check the label: It’s actually brewed in Canada, by either Moosehead or Labatt’s. In reality, Guinness is brewed, usually under contract, across dozens of breweries; keep in mind that Guinness itself admits that seven million pints of their product go down the hatch daily. No brewery in Dublin could keep that up.

One thing that is true, though, is that the recipe is basically unchanged, although there are local variants: African Guinness, for example, is generally brewed with sorghum. Oh, and on that note…

Guinness Actually Isn’t A Meal In A Glass, Either

As beer goes, Guinness isn’t a meal in a glass, as it’s claimed. It’s actually slightly better for you than a lot of beer, calorie-wise. Gram for gram, it’s got fewer calories than Budweiser, Coors, Natural Ice… you name the cheap, terrible beer, Guinness is slightly better for you. It’s still 200 empty calories, so drinking five of them in a row is probably a bad idea. No, vomiting will not help. It will just make you annoying.

And, No, There Aren’t Dead Rats In Guinness. But There Are Fish Bladders!

An urban legend has claimed for years that Guinness uses rat bones to flavor the stout, which is a complete crock, no matter what terrible punk bands from the Boston suburbs try to tell you. But it might have some fish pee in it!

Guinness uses isinglass, and has since the 1800s, to remove particulate matter and other crud from the beer as it’s brewed. This means the tiresome vegan who tries to ruin everything will complain they can’t enjoy Guinness. Which oddly just makes it more tasty.

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