Shite Guinness Berlin – “As John B. Keane said,” I love to see the cream on a pint” and I don’t see any cream on a Pilsner”

Did the blog come about simply from a decent Guinness being hard to come by in the city? 

Initially, the idea of the page was to shame the pints of Guinness on offer in Berlin. I had a number of bad experiences in a few places and I thought I could have a laugh posting about them, hence the name of the page! But after visiting Home Bar and a few others, I quickly realised that there are in fact some decent pints on offer, so the page evolved into a blog. A place where the Guinness thirsty Berlin public can see where the good pints can be found, a place to bring awareness of bars like The Lir in general, while also having a laugh!

Is Guinness your go to pint too back in Ireland? Or is there an element of nostalgia at play? 

Guinness has always been my go to. In Berlin we are blessed with an exceptional selection of beers – whether they are German regulars, European options or local craft beers, we are spoiled for choice in quality. But back home, although Irish craft beer is becoming more mainstream, there is still a lack of choice for beer in the majority of traditional bars. It’s a funny one, once I see Guinness available in Berlin I order it, but I’m still happy if not, while back home I’m almost exclusively ordering Guinness.

Tell us about your own first Guinness experience.

Hard to remember my very first experience, but I remember I started drinking Guinness around the age of 19/20. A friend and I both have fathers who are drinkers of the Black Stuff, so it was only natural we’d follow in their footsteps. I remember being at a family wedding around that time and standing at the bar with my father, who said he’d get the first round. He turned to me and asked what I wanted, and to his surprise I replied “Guinness”. He couldn’t get over that I’d started drinking it, assuming that, in his words “all the young lads wouldn’t like it” and that I would be drinking Heineken or Budweiser. I, of course, explained that I started drinking the stuff and had a taste for it. To be fair, it was the last time he needed to ask me what I wanted to drink at a family occasion!

What’s more horrifying to you – hearing that Guinness is shipped out to bars here in syrup form or seeing bartenders pull the pint in one full go?

I can almost forgive a bar for importing the syrup, but I can’t forgive them for pouring a pint incorrectly. The pint of Guinness is an art form, from the pour to the presentation. But unfortunately, unlike conventional art, there is a right and wrong way to do it! 

0,2l glasses and pitchers? How can this be stopped?

The stuff of nightmares! Those glasses do make for a laughable experience but something needs to be done. I believe that there should be a Guinness rep who comes to Berlin (and other European cities) at least once a year, to visit the bars who have Guinness on their menu. Firstly, a taste and experience test could be done anonymously, with the rep revealing himself with the test results and most importantly, recommendations for improvement – how to pour correctly, new glasses to be provided (by the rep himself) and other best practices. This is not a requirement in Ireland for example, because the bars know a reputation for a good pint of Guinness is priceless, and they all have a strong supply chain for glasses, beer mats, posters etc. I think it should fall on Guinness to maintain their own reputation on European soil.

What it is so that makes a good pint here as opposed to home?

Firstly, letting the tap run for a couple of seconds before filling the glass is so important. It’s something that some bars in Berlin don’t realise they need to do – this probably goes for all beers – the pipes usually have some residue from the last pour, which could have been hours/days ago and you simply don’t want customers drinking that. Also, I’ve had some super cold pints in Berlin poured incorrectly, but still are very drinkable, then pints which are luke warm – these are the ones with no head and have a dreadful aftertaste. So I would say, temperature is a basic need – that is before we get to the pour (another story!).

Favourite synonym for Guinness? 

I use “Guin or Guinny” for standard pints, but hold “Creamer” for the deserved ones.

Top three bars in Berlin so for a good Guinness?

The top three so far are; The Lír, ShamRock’s and Home Bar. I have a real soft spot for Home Bar, I love going there – a fantastic overall experience.

Finnegan’s in Steglitz is definitely going to break into that. I went there to watch an All-Ireland Final a while back and it was like a pint you’d get back in Ireland. Of course, a notable mention for Badfish. So all going well in 2021, I’ll be reviewing these spots, along with others I have on my long list!

For those of us stuck here in lockdown – what’s the best Guinness we can get in the Berlin supermarket? Bottles, or cans? Isn’t there a special imported one in some places too?

To my knowledge, all that is available in stores in Berlin is the Extra Stout edition and the 440ml Draught Cans. I recently reviewed the Extra Stout. All I can say is that it didn’t go down well, check that out if you haven’t already seen it! My recommendation is to head to Penny, Hoffi (Hoffman) or Real for the Guinness Draught Cans, for the best lockdown Guinness experience. They didn’t exactly score high, but as I said in my review of them, they do the job.

Badfish import the barrels – have you noticed a difference in taste there? 

Before I started the page, I went to both Badfish bars this year and thoroughly enjoyed both experiences – particularly the one in Friedrichshain. Definitely, I did notice the pint being colder and creamier than the average pint in the city. The Guinness tap stands out and glows on the dark bar, and the barman knows what he’s doing when it comes to the pour. But, I have yet to review it outright. I got the chance to review the one in Prenzlauerberg as part of the Lockdownlite Series. Their takeaway pint was as good as it could get.

And are you affiliated with Guinness in any shape or form?

Nope, unfortunately not! @Guinness any jobs going let me know! 

There’s been great debate this year as to your identity – it’s been the cause of great discussion and second guessing. Why remain anonymous? 

I find the anonymity allows me to fully express myself. But to be fair, my significant other, some family members and close friends know of my true identity. In general, I would rather not have my face associated with my SGB profile. Particularly, when it comes to visiting bars, I want to receive the same treatment as every other person, to maintain the integrity of the blog. 

Will we get a big reveal at some stage? Or a prize for guessing correctly? 

No reveal at all, unfortunately. But, I do have plans for a couple of competitions for Berlin Guinness drinkers to win some prizes during Lockdown, to help with the pint drinking experience at home.

Any exciting plans for the New Year for the blog?

First off, I hope to get my hands on some of the alternative Guinness craft beer/bottles and write a review on those. I’m a keen cook, and so have a plan to do a Guinness based recipe series. I’ve started an “On Tour Series” while I’m visiting home, but I am happy to extend this to other destinations I hopefully get to travel to in the upcoming year. Most importantly, once Covid and Lockdowns are over with, I can get back to discovering the shite (and decent) Guinness pints in Berlin. 

What do you say to those who may advise you to give up the search and switch to just drinking local beers such as the many quality Pilsner that you can find in abundance? 

I’m sorry, but no – my love is for Guinness. As John B. Keane said,” I love to see the cream on a pint”. I don’t see cream on any Pilsner, do you? 

What’s your advice so to bar owners across Berlin with regards to the perfect pint o’ plain? 

Patience. Take your time. First, let the tap run for a second. 

Enjoy the pour at 45°, let it rest and watch the surge. Top it up and serve with a smirk, knowing you’ve played a blinder – you’ve just poured an absolute beauty. 

As long as you’ve done this into a Guinness pint glass, you’re good. Then, sit back, relax and watch your Guinness reputation grow and your staff’s tip jars overflow.

Keep up to date with where to get a decent Guinness over on ShiteGuinnessBerlin’s Instagram.

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