What it is: After shamrocks and leprechauns, the most distinctive icon of Ireland in the world may be a glass of Guinness stout, a rich, dark beer made with roasted, malted barley and hops, topped with a creamy white head.
Where it comes from: Guinness dates to 1759, when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on a brewery at St. James’s Gate, Dublin, for £100 down and annual rent of £45 (about $67 at current conversion rates). That brewery is still the hub of Guinness operations, and all the Guinness sold in the U.K., Ireland and North America is brewed there.
What to do with it: “Get your lip under the head and give it a good taste,” expert Ken O’Callaghan advises. Pouring the brew correctly to maintain its thick, foamy head is something of an art — a six-step tapping process that takes 119.5 seconds. Bartenders fill the glass three-quarters full, allow the beer to settle, and then top it off.
For home drinkers, Guinness puts patented “widgets” into its canned and bottled products to maintain draft-style mouthfeel. The best serving method therefore depends on the variety. With bottled Guinness Extra Stout or Foreign Extra Stout you may either pour the drink into glass or quaff directly from bottle. Draught Guinness in cans, the brewery says, should be poured into a large glass in one smooth action, while bottled Draught Guinness should be drunk straight from the bottle.
Guinness is served chilled in Ireland; bottles bear the legend, “Serve extra cold.” The brewery suggests chilling for at least three hours.
Guinness’ distinctive bitter-edged flavor also lends itself to all kinds of recipes. At Timothy O’Toole’s Pub in Streeterville and Gurnee, Chef Sean O’Brien uses it in everything from french toast to beef stew.
Timothy O’Toole’s Guinness french toast
Chef Sean O’Brien
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons Guinness
4 to 6 slices Texas toast (thick-sliced bread)
Clarified butter as needed
Powdered sugar as needed
Beat the egg and whisk in the milk and Guinness. Dip the bread in the egg mixture to coat and soak, but do not oversoak. Coat a griddle or frying pan with clarified butter and fry the soaked toast until brown on both sides. 2 servings.
Timothy O’Toole’s Guinness beef stew
Chef Sean O’Brien
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper taste
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 pounds beef stew meat
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup water
1-1/4 cups Guinness stout
2 cups large-diced carrots
1-3/4 cups large-diced russet potatoes
1-1/4 cups frozen green peas, thawed
1 sprig fresh thyme
Season the flour with salt, pepper and red pepper. Toss the meat in 1 tablespoon oil to coat, and then toss in the seasoned flour.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the meat on all sides. Reduce the heat and add the onion, garlic, tomatoes and water. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in the Guinness, scraping all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the carrots, potatoes and thyme. Simmer covered for 2 to 3 hours, until meat is tender.
Stir in the peas until heated through. 4 to 6 servings.