Guinness Surger: The Review

posted on May 3rd, 2006 by Anthony

Lovely Day for a Guinness

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this or not, but I like Guinness.

When it’s served right, at the right temperature, by a bar person who has half a clue what they’re doing, there are very few drinks that come close.

If it’s done badly it can be like slogging through a pint of lukewarm gravy.

A lot of people will have you believe you can only get a proper pint of Guinness in Dublin. That if a person doesn’t like the Black Stuff all they need to do is sample some in the drinks home town and they’ll be a convert.

That is only part true.

In Dublin you have 95% chance of going into a bar and having a Perfect Pint delivered to your hand. In mainland Britain you can pretty much halve that percentage – if you’re lucky.

The Perfect Pint is attainable in the UK – it’s just not par for the course.

So that’s the pub sorted – the Sangreal for Guinness has always been transplanting the Perfect Pint from the bar and into your living room.

Bubbles and Widgets

The Guinness Surger perfect pint

The Perfect Pint you get in a pub is technically Draught Guinness, and was only introduced in the late 1950’s. The original Guinness Extra Stout is actually quite a lot different.

The Draught bit is what gives the beer it’s creamy head and smooth texture. The drink is stored under high pressure in the keg to allow a free flow to the tap at the bar. In Guinness mostly nitrogen is used create this pressure, with a mixture of carbon dioxide – as opposed to purely carbon dioxide on it’s own.

Carbon dioxide actually dissolves in water, which produces much bigger bubbles. Nitrogen, however, doesn’t dissolve and therefore the bubbles it releases are much finer, as well as being far less acidic tasting – this is what gives Draught Guinness it’s distinctive look, feel and taste.

So Guinness had a problem. They had an insanely popular beverage that people enjoyed down the pub, but they had no way of taking it home with them.

The patent drawing of the original patent

So during the mid 1980’s they commissioned a team of inventors to come up with a way to reproduce Draught Guinness in the home – the result was the famous widget.

Basically the widget is a piece of plastic that is inserted into a can before it is sealed, which has a tiny hole in it. Before being sealed a glob of liquid nitrogen is added to the beer, which once sealed, evaporates into its gas form and holds the liquid under pressure.

When you open the can at home the change in pressures causes the beer to be forced through the tiny hole in the widget, and thus recreating the ffect of the beer being delivered through the tap at the bar.

As they said themselves – Genius!

Originally introduced in 1989 the widget caused a revolution in home beer appreciation. For the first time you could get a real taste of the pub in your living room while you watched the footy.

The Point of the History Lesson

The fact is, however, as undeniable genius as the widget is – it comes nowhere near replicating that Perfect Pint.

That tiny little piece of plastic doesn’t quite have the punch of a steal keg pumped full of nitrogen. Although very tasty, the Draught Guinness In A Can is more of a homage to the pub variety than an out-and-out recreation.

So after over 15 years venerable service the boffins have been sent back into the old research lab to come up with a system that can replicate the Perfect Pint at home.

Their answer is the Guinness Surger.

The Review – Remember That?

The Surger base unit

The Surger is a small unit that is used externally to send a shockwave of ultra-sound through a specially brewed can of Guinness.

I can only assume that the ultra-sonic waves somehow release nitrogen bubbles that are ‘asleep’ in the beer mixture until awakened by the vibrations. But I’m totally guessing!

The claims are that this system produces the Perfect Pint – do those claims stack up?

The Starter Kit

To enjoy the Surger drink you first have to buy the Starter Kit for £16.99. Admittedly this isn’t the cheapest way to a pint, but they do try to sweeten the deal. For your money you get:

It comes nicely packaged in a clear plastic case, and overall you get a reasonable feeling of not being totally fleeced.

Using the Surger

Using the Surger is fairly straight forward, though you do get the feeling things can go wrong if the simple steps aren’t followed fully.

The steps are:

  1. Use cold cans only – 5°C is the optimum temp
  2. Get a clean Guinness pint glass
  3. Open the Surger Guinness and slowly pour the beer into the pint glass at 45° angle
  4. Pour one or two teaspoons of water on to the plate of the Surger unit so that it is approx half covered
  5. Place the pint onto the plate of the Surger unit, then press the Surger button
  6. Watch in wonder as the pint explodes into life, before slowly settling into a Perfect Pint

In fact you could just watch my handy video of the whole process! (Finally I have a chance to jump on the YouTube bandwagon! Thank You to Claire for the exceptional filming using the video function of the digi camera!)

When you press the button the unit activates for less than a second, making a high pitched buzzing sound that triggers the creamy explosion. The settling process then apparently takes 119.5 seconds to be ready – which is also the official time it takes to pour the Perfect Pint.

The Looks

As you can just make out in the highly compressed video, the action of the Surger is quite spectacular. I left the sound off the video, but on the original I do let out a “wow!” as the Surge takes place.

The cans are perfectly measured so that once it’s all settled a perfect soft and creamy head has formed to protrude just above the rim of the glass.

It certainly looks Perfect.

How Does it Taste

So a Surger pint looks like it was drawn out of a Dublin pub tap, but how does it taste…

Absolutely fantastic actually.

It’s easily up there with most of the good-to-reallygood pints I’ve had, and considerably better than a lot of nasty pub poured efforts that I’ve had the misfortune to sample in the past.

It really does produce a really, really nice pint of Guinness.

Is it a Perfect Pint?

Well it looks the part, the head is certainly perfect, the temperature is great (obviously that depends on your fridge…) and the taste is there.

If I had one criticism it might be that it’s almost too smooth. It might be me imagining it, but if I was being picky I would say that the bubbles perhaps don’t seem to stay in the pint and that it almost seems totally flat once the surge has taken place.

But I am being extremely picky – it tastes fantastic – so yes it is essentially it does recreate a Perfect Pint.

Certainly I’m not going to get anything better in our flat short of knocking through the floor into downstairs and changing it into a cellar…

Conclusion

So you’ve laid out £17 for the Surger Starter kit.

The cans of the special Surger brew cost £4.99 for four – though Tesco are currently doing two packs for £8 (when they’re not sold out – bastards!)

The Surger is seemingly not cheap.

However if you consider a lot of pubs charge £3+ for a pint these days maybe it starts to seem not so bad.

Basically if you have any appreciation for a good pint of Guinness you are going to want to at least try this out.

If, like me, you really like your Guinness you simply have to buy it – simple as that.

If you know someone who likes Guinness, the Starter Kit would be a cracking present. Hmmm Fathers Day…

NB. The Guinness Surger is currently only available form Tesco Extras and some other larger Tesco stores. I’m assuming this is a quiet launch to test the water. I still haven’t seen an advert anywhere and the only reason I discovered it at all was by practically walking into a pile of them in our local Tesco before Easter. There wasn’t even a sign of them at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin itself, which I had visited the day before!

References

As much as I’d like to say I knew all this Guinness Geekery off the top of my head, I’m afraid I did have some help: