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Guy's World: For Guinness Sake

Any Irish bar tender worth his salt has at least a bare minimum of 90-120 seconds of blarney up his sleeve. And there’s no sense getting impatient standing in the queue while the scoundrel behind the bar’s chatting up a young rose of Tralee as he serves her a pint of Guinness, he’s simply pouring the perfect pint.

The bar tender’s 90-120 second window for blarney, roguish charm and eye twinkling comes when a pint of Guinness is not quite full, and he places it on the bar for the head to separate from the body. When it’s settled, he fills the pint to the top, allows the thick, creamy head to set, and serves.

Keep an eye out for it on St Patrick’s Day (Saturday 17 March), when the bars will be bursting with Kiwi Celts and the Irish at heart, queueing up for a pint of Ireland’s favourite drop. Be patient, Paddy, your turn will come.

And when it does, don’t hurry the barman. Tell a 120 second tall tale as your pint surges, then settles. Then toast St Patrick knowing that if you only have a couple you will reap the same health benefits enjoyed by Irish blood donors, recovering stomach and intestinal post-operative patients and pregnant women.

Guinness was good to me today, a couple of pints washing down my Irish stew lunch at Molly Malones. But beware this St Patrick’s Day, Guinness can be a cruel mistress. My first taste of Guinness, in my late teens, was the knockout punch at the end of a hairy Christchurch drinking session.

The night began at a German inspired beer barn, drinking from steins on long tables, listening to a piano accordion player who boasted he knew 1000 tunes. There’s a place for this man in purgatory. My brother, a saxophone player suggested we hook up with some mates of his, a drummer and a digeridoo player, and go to jam night at the blues bar. After several pints, and almost as many renditions of Sweet Home Alabama from the regulars, we got to play. One bro praised the jam – featuring free form digeridoo and saxophone - as sounding like Santana, but we could sense murderous intent brewing amongst some of the less cosmic patrons. Time to split.

We wound up at an Irish bar, where I sampled my first Guinness. The strength of the Guinness was too much for me at the end of such a night, callow youth that I was. I stumbled out of the bar, got lost and decided the bank of the Avon River would be a safe, cosy spot to sleep. A concerned citizen woke me and insisted I caught a taxi home. Problem was, I couldn’t remember where that was. What was I supposed to tell the driver: it’s the straight, flat street?

My training for this year’s St Patrick’s day began the right way this afternoon, with Guinness NZ Manager Philip Doyle teaching me how to pour a pint of Guinness.

Phil shows me the one true path

The student becomes the master

Perhaps it’s the Irish ancestry I share with over 20 percent of New Zealanders (my grandmother is from Kilmihil, Eire), but pouring a pint of Guinness properly comes a whole lot easier than making a latte or a cappuccino. A year working in a café, with picky patrons disputing the legitimacy of my coffee machine creations had me running for the Nescafe.

The mysteries of frothing milk in the right way for all the forms of milky coffee, and the spectrum of people’s expectations of what their flat white or mochaccino should look like, are unfathomable. But there’s only one way to pour a Guinness – the right way.

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