Recently my doctor prescribed a glass of Guinness stout before dinner to improve my appetite. It’s nearly black in colour and I love the distinctive taste. It’s an old remedy – I had an aunt many years ago who was told to drink a bottle of stout a day to improve her ability to nurse her new born. Scientists now corroborate that the signage that says ‘Guinness is good for you’ that is to be seen very prevalently all over Ireland especially, is actually true. It does contain healthful vitamins and minerals.
When we were in Ireland some years ago, we visited the old St. James’s Gate Brewery where Arthur Guinness started brewing beer in 1759. During the tour someone asked why the beer appeared so black and the answer of necessity, required a short lesson on how any beer is made. We were told that the cereal that is the basis of most beers is barley or wheat [rice is used sometimes in lighter varieties] and to change the starch in the grains of cereal to sugar, it is soaked in water and allowed to sprout. The sprouted grain is then heated to dry the seedlings and the resulting product is what they call ‘malt’. Water, hops [for flavour] and yeast are added to the malt and the yeast feeds on the sugar to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The result is beer, the third most popular drink in the world behind water and tea. With that basis we were then told the story about the first batch of the deep ruby red Guinness stout.
It turns out that the men who made the beer were allowed a certain amount of it to drink during their breaks in a day. One day, as the story goes, they were having such a jolly time, they allowed the sprouted barley to heat too long and the malt was roasted to a dark colour. It wasn’t burned and they decided to use it anyway. When the overseer saw the resulting almost black beer, to punish the men he insisted that to they would have that for their break and they would have to drink it until it was all used up. Actually it was really no penalty at all because the workers liked the dark beer so much and thus the start of production of Guinness stout that was perfected and has became renowned throughout many countries in the world.
Those who make their own beer know that when it is racked into bottles, a teaspoon of sugar is added to each one and then the cap put on to seal it. The yeast continues to work on the sugar and produce the carbon dioxide bubbles that give the beer its characteristic taste and ‘fizz’. Instead of using this method of producing effervescence, Guinness developed an altogether unique new method. It was a widget that is filled with nitrogen gas under pressure and sealed into any container of stout.
The "floating widget" found in cans and bottles of Guinness is a hollow plastic sphere, 3 cm [over an inch] in diameter, 7 cm [about 3 inches] in length with the small microscopic hole in the bottom. The video shows how it works to put that special ‘milky head’ on the beer.
It’s taken some serendipity and a long time for Guinness stout to develop but, Oh my, it’s been worth the wait! Best medicine I’ve ever had!