The glass must be tipped just so, the timing is telltale, and creativity counts.
There is an art to pouring a beer, and when it comes to mastering it, Charlie Harrington would make Arthur Guinness proud.
A bartender at Tommy Nevin’s Pub in Frankfort, Harrington apparently takes as much pride in pouring Guinness’ famous stout beer as Guinness did in brewing it. The Plainfield resident easily demonstrated as much Tuesday, practicing her craft for pub customers eager to drink the results.
Harrington did not disappoint. Topping off a brew, she poured a perfect shamrock shape into the creamy head as Guinness fans captured the moment on their cell phone cameras.
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. With a lot of pride — and a lot of practice — Harrington exemplified the perfect pour earlier this month, topping the competition at the first Guinness Bartender Challenge at the Kerry Piper in Willowbrook.
Her first-place honors netted her a 3-foot Guinness beer statue, which graces the bar at the Frankfort pub where Harrington — who is a “little bit” Irish — has worked for the past year.
She also won a ticket package for Opening Day for the White Sox.
The contest was the first she’s won in 10 years of bartending, but it was more than the luck of the Irish that put her over the top against 20 Chicago-area bartenders. It was the shamrock shape floating in the foam.
“It was a solid three months of practice to get that down perfectly,” said Harrington, whose mother, Barb Harrington, is a creative director at the SouthtownStar. “I was very determined.”
A few other contestants tried it, but none was quite the same as hers. That gave Harrington bonus points for style and creativity, as she edged out an award-winning bartender who first taught her the proper way to pour a Guinness.
There are several standards for judging a properly poured Guinness, known for its two-part pour, she said.
“The key is practice — and a little bit of magic,” she said with a bright smile. There are tips and tricks to pouring many craft beers, and much depends on the glass, she said.
According to Mike Brown, quality specialist for Diageo Guinness USA, the pour starts with a clean pint glass tipped at the right angle — 45 degrees. The spout cannot touch the liquid, which must be poured directly into the glass, not down the side.
After pouring about three-fourths of the Guinness, there is a 119-second waiting period to allow the beer to surge and settle. Then it is topped off — holding the glass upright.
The head of the brew — the dome of the foam — must be just the right height.
“It should look like it’s about to spill, but won’t,” Brown said.
No spillage, drips or bubbles are allowed. When the full pint of Guinness is presented, it is with the label facing the customer.
The goal of the contest was to “drum up excitement about Guinness and the importance of quality,” Brown said.
Harrington concedes she was nervous but happy to be part of the contest.
“It’s not harder to pour than other beers, it’s just that you take more pride in your (Guinness) pour,” Harrington said of her favorite beer.
“Guinness has been brewed since 1759. It’s a tradition,” she said. “It would never last this long without quality control and pride.”