How to Spot a Bad Pint of Guinness: 7 Signs It Ain’t Good

Guinness is a staple in Ireland. Packed with character and woven into the tapestry of our community and history, Guinness is almost a cornerstone of Irish life.

Regardless of age, gender or sexuality, it is popular among all. It is affordable and served everywhere, and almost a meal in a glass (as it is so filling).

So, what’s not to love about the stout which has defined the Irish nation? Nothing!

Be aware though, pouring a good pint of Guinness is an art form and a tough one at that. Here are our top tips on how to spot a bad pint of the “Black Stuff” (Guinness) when you’re out and about.

7. If no one is drinking it

One sure fire way to know if there’s something “off” with the Guinness is if there is no one drinking it.

Odds are, a good 50% (if not more) of patrons will be drinking Guinness in any pub across the Emerald Isle, so, if you can’t spot a steady stream of locals with a cold pint of the “Black Stuff”, something’s up!

On a more extreme note, if you so happen to end up in a pub or bar which doesn’t even have a Guinness tap (to pour pints), then something is truly off-base. Our tip: get out of there.

If Guinness is sold by the bottle in any Irish drinking establishment, that place has serious issues.

6. If it has a very bitter taste 

Guinness should have a very balanced, aromatic taste. It should dance between a rich milky and dark, roasted taste (similar to coffee) and also offer fantastic wheat-stout aromas.

If you take your first sip and are confronted with a pint that is bitter, RUN! This is a serious offence and a sure fire way for a pub or bar to lose serious Guinness-respect from its patrons.

5. If it is thin and watery

Guinness is a rich and smooth drink. The ideal pint should be poured with precision, adhering to a two-step process, which we will we discuss later in #2.

One thing we will say, however, is that the end product should result in a creamy, almost-dense beverage.

If your pint could in any way be described as thin and/or watery, you’ve got a bad one. Should bartenders follow this two-step system with accuracy, you’ve got nothing to worry about, but should it be on the bad-side, finish up and head on over to the next watering hole.

4. If it does not have a creamy head

A creamy head on top of a pint of Guinness is almost a calling card. If you’re unlucky enough to get pour without a 3/4 inch – 1-inch “head” of creaminess, you’re in trouble.

Not only will this throw off the entire balance, flavour and texture of the drink, but you won’t end up with that charming “Guinness moustache” we all know and love. It’s similar to the “got milk?” 90s advertisement campaign, but better. 

3. If it is not poured correctly

Pouring the Perfect Guinness is an art form developed and mastered over generations.

Firstly, start by selecting a clean, dry (and most-likely branded Guinness) glass.

Then hold the glass at a 45-degree angle and start pouring the Guinness until the glass is 3/4 full.

Leave the glass to sit for about 60 seconds and then “top up” the Guinness until the glass is full.

By pouring Guinness as per this method, you allow all the flavours and aromas to fully mature, whilst allowing for the perfect creamy head to form on top.

If you spot a sneaky bartender taking a shortcut and skipping the two-step process or not letting the stout settle between pours, you’re likely to experience the unfavourable qualities outlined in pretty much every single other point on this list.

2.If it doesn’t leave a white residue

When drinking a well-poured glass of Guinness, a white creamy residue should coat the glass as it is emptied. If you end up with a clear glass, with no Guinness residue, this is sure to be a textbook “bad Guinness”.

Also to note: to end up with a glass of Guinness which is perfectly and completely coated in white creamy residue when once finished is potentially one of the most satisfying experiences to be had in all of Ireland.

1.When the glass is empty

Your glass is empty? Now that’s a bad Guinness. Get yourself another!

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Paris Donnatella is an avid writer and traveller. From a young age, nomadic parents placed a strong emphasis on education in real experience and the outdoors - a trait which has carried through her life and into her career. She has travelled Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Australia and still claims that wanderlust tempts her daily. Saying that she believes Ireland - her homeland - is the most enchanting place she has ever been and is passionate about documenting the Emerald Isle. Chances are, you can find her drinking coffee in some hidden gem cafe in Dublin, planning her next big trip.