Saturday, January 31, 2009


"riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."

- Finnegans Wake, because after a week of bussing, I'm back in Dublin. 

On the bus from Galway, I was wondering whether it was worthwhile coming just for a Guinness tour. It's a heck of a detour. But then I remembered the American guy from Cork, who said it wasn't much different from any other brewery tour, but still.... it's the Guinness factory.

There's something arresting about a pint of Guinness. They pull about 3/4 of the glass, and let it settle. At first the colour's a light brown, but as you watch, little waves of beer start streaming down the sides of the glass and build a solid black layer and gets thicker and thicker as the waves stream down. After a couple of minutes, the pint's all black, and the bartender fills the glass to the rim. 

I never understood why they did that until one day, quite unexpectedly, I did. 

Once a pint is pulled, the nitrogen molecules decompress and float to the surface. But because nitrogen gas is too small to break the surface tension of the liquid beer, the molecules bounce off the surface and get pushed back down to the bottom of the glass. This results in the quite hypnotic reverse cascade effect you see in a resting pint of Guinness.

It's quite a sight. And it's quite scientific. And it's like poetry in motion, or like a Jane Austen novel with zombies in it. Which, according to the Guardian, is coming out in April. It's something I'm going to have to read when it comes out. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a fine book in possession of a good reputation must be in want of a horde of flesh-eating zombies.  


Anonymous said...

You seem to be making more literary references in Ireland.

Your brother

Connolly's agent said...