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Puzzling over Pint-size Pleasures 

In Tucson it is possible to find the perfectly poured Guinness.

Is there a perfect Guinness? Or is trying to find a Guinness like trying to find the perfect hair style, vacation or mate? I have traveled all across the United States and have enjoyed a Guinness or two in many places. I have talked to friends who own taverns and restaurants, and asked them if they can pour the perfect Guinness. They always reply "Yes we can," but they never do.

Last October, I was talking to a friend who loves a good Guinness as much as I do. We talked about how we've had good Guinnesses and bad ones (is there ever a bad Guinness?). We drank and discussed what makes one pint better than another. Is it the type of glass, the temperature, time of pour, double pour, size of head, the time the head lasts? Does the head hold a design (like a dimple or shamrock)?

After much debate and a few more stouts, we decided to put our taste buds to the test. We were going to find the Tucson establishment that pours the perfect Guinness.

We took our measuring devices (thermometer, ruler, stopwatch and taste buds) and went out to research. Some people want to find a supernova or harmonic convergence or be on Survivor, but we needed to find the perfect Guinness.

We felt we were as important as any researcher as we tasted our first Guinness and discussed how it was poured. We commented on the head size and how long it lasted. We discussed the temperature, body and flavor of the beer. We put a design and made dimples in the head. After judging our first beer, we thought we were on to something big. Real big! Our enthusiasm was like that of two botanists looking through a magnifying glass at a new specimen.

We had been to places that served Guinness to the sounds of sports, Zeppelin covers, U2 doing Patti Smith, intimate jazz, ass kickin' country, and the sounds of silence. Three months and 40 Guinnesses later we finally found the best Guinness.

We rated the places on the same scale and went back to the top three to find a winner. The four runners-up are The Shelter, 4155 E. Grant Road; Maloney's, 213 N. Fourth Ave.; Bison Witches, 326 N. Fourth Ave.; and City Grill (which also has a great view), 6464 E. Tanque Verde Road.

We do not know if we have discovered the perfect Guinness, because we will continue our research, but we have found the best Guinness in Tucson for 2001. The winner is: The Harp and Shamrock, 7002 E. Golf Links Road. Here, the Guinness was the creamiest, with a full body at the right temperature (between 48 and 52 degrees). The pint was double-poured, meaning waiting a while for the first half to settle before the second half was poured, and so the length of the total pour was always four to five minutes, which is about what you'd expect in Ireland.

So when you want a great Guinness this St. Patrick's Day or any day, stop by the Harp and Shamrock and ask if they can pour a perfect one.

We will continue to search for the perfect Guinness as true scientists of the pint. So, if you would like your venue to be in our next St. Patrick's Day judging, please let us know. Also, if any true Guinness lover has a comment to make, contact us at P.O. Box 18606, Tucson, AZ 85710.

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More by Charles Gallagher

  • Perfect Guinness

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More by Russell Kahn

  • Search for the Best Guinness

    • Mar 13, 2003
  • Perfect Guinness

    The second annual quest for the Tucson bar that pours the best of the world's best. It's a mission of love.
    • Mar 14, 2002
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