Science Has Decided Where Guinness Tastes Best

“Taste has no system and no proofs.” —Susan Sontag, “Notes on Camp”

In A Nutshell

It’s long been said that a pint of Guinness tastes better in Ireland than anywhere else in the world. Propaganda it might be, but according to a study published in the Journal of Food Science, it’s true. According to the study, in which a team sampled pints in 103 different locations, the average rating of pint-drinking experiences while in Ireland were significantly higher than anywhere else in the world.

The Whole Bushel

It sounds more like a travel advertisement than an actual fact, but it’s long been said that Guinness tastes better in Ireland. American President Barack Obama even said as much after trying his first pint at Shannon Airport during a layover.

But how true is it? Science says that it just might be on the level.

The study was published in the Journal of Food Science, and it was the result of a year-long study that measured enjoyability of Guinness pints inside and outside of Ireland. Done by a four-man team that went to 103 different places, the study is obviously a somewhat limited one, but it raises some intriguing points—and questions.

The men started out by heading to the Guinness brewery to learn all the ins and outs of proper Guinness care, including going through their course on how to pour the “Perfect Pint.” Then, armed with their knowledge, they set out on what was actually a pretty interesting study.

For each pub that they went to, they made a number of measurements like the air temperature of the pub (or bar), and they timed how long it took the bartender to pour the pint, to see if they really did follow the guidelines as established by the Guinness brewery. They let the pints sit for the required amount of time and measured some more, recording the temperature of the beer and what kind of head it had.

They also made note of whether or not the shamrock had been properly drawn on the top.

Then, flavor, mouth feel, and aftertaste were all measured on a scale of 1 to 100, and averaged for a “Guinness Overall Enjoyment Score” (GOES).

The average score for pints poured in Ireland was 74.1, while those outside of Ireland scored a rather sad 57.1.

There are actually a couple of different ideas about why the results came back so obviously in favor of Guinness tasting better in Ireland and about how the story has managed to hold on for so long. It’s thought that it might have something to do with bartenders in Ireland just being better at pouring a Guinness using the official method, and it really has that much to do with the taste.

It also might have something to do with the water; since Guinness has breweries in 50 different countries, the different water used in the brewing process might have something to do with the taste as well.

There’s also a bit of conspiracy theory that goes along with the idea, too. There’s a story that circulates that claims Guinness actually brews three distinctly different groups of beer. One, the very best, goes to their employees. The next best, which is also pretty top-of-the-line, stays in all the pubs of Ireland. The third, which is still good but certainly not as good as it could be, gets shipped everywhere else.

While that’s debatable, there’s also the idea that atmosphere has a lot to do with how you truly taste what it is you’re drinking and how the entire experience feels at the end of the night. There’s a big difference between drinking a Guinness while listening to some traditional music and drinking one in the middle of a nightclub, so that might also have something to do with Guinness tasting best where it was born.

Show Me The Proof

LiveScience: Scientific Evidence: Guinness Tastes Better in Ireland
The Guardian: Barack Obama was right: Guinness really does taste better in Ireland
Discover: Does Guinness really taste better in Ireland? Science weighs in.