Bud Light drinkers and craft beer purists reach a fragile détente for a week or so around mid-March. If it’s St. Patrick’s Day, they agree: it’s time for a Guinness Draught. According to WalletHub, more than 13 million pints will be drunk worldwide on March 17, an increase of about 819 % over other days.
Guinness fans know there is a very specific method to pouring the perfect pint. The Guinness website outlines the two-part pull, which requires a two-minute pause after filling the glass three quarters full. It’s worth the wait: allowing the beer to settle before filling up creates the right balance of dark ruby stout and creamy head. (FYI, the perfect head is right about three-quarters of an inch high. Any higher and purists will call it dessert.)
In fairness, St. Patrick’s Day might not be the best time to hold out for the perfect pour. The harried bartenders, in sore need of their own pint, may not have that two minutes to spare, but it still beats green beer.
No matter if it’s days before or after this March madness, these five local bars will do it right.
Atria’s, Mt. Lebanon
The original Atria’s, where McFarland and Beverly roads converge, is not Irish-themed. But when Beckie Harding is behind the bar, it might as well be.
Beckie is there most days, from opening through happy hour. Back in the 1990s, when she worked at the Gandy Dancer at the Grand Concourse, a Guinness rep taught the staff how to pour a pint, she says.
She tilts the glass at a 45-degree angle under the tap, sets it down for about two minutes, then places the glass directly under the tap to top it off.
“I can draw a shamrock, a peace sign” and slightly racier designs in the foam, she adds.
The Bulldog Pub, Morningside
Bulldog Pub owner Jesse DiRenzo has done business in Morningside long enough to know: “It’s a half-Irish and half-Italian neighborhood, and the Irish like to tell you when you’re doing something wrong with booze.”
So bartenders Nicole Pietropaolo and Meghan McManus do the Guinness right.
Nicole likes that the pouring pause gives her a chance to take a breath.
Monterey Pub, North Side
It’s a positive sign when you see the bartender pause while pouring a Guinness, set the glass down and grab the nearly filled pint next to it to top it off. If you see several backed up, it’s even better: the pub cycles through its Guinness, and they know how to pour.
That’s the setup at Monterey Pub in the heart of the Mexican War Streets. It’s a warm neighborhood spot, with Irish comfort food like Bangers and Mash on the menu.
“When I first had Guinness, it was on St. Patrick’s Day when I was 21, and I thought it was disgusting,” says bartender Sam Amity. But he’s a convert: “There’s just something about a Guinness draft poured right.”
Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, Strip District
Sad but true: not all Irish pubs are Guinness-compliant. It could be that they’re too busy selling Guinness to pour it right, or they were visited on an off night. But the Harp & Fiddle, past winner of the Delish magazine title of Best Irish Pub in Pennsylvania, keeps it legit.
Ann Lamb, one of the bartenders, hails from Crossmaglen in the north of Ireland, and she takes her pours seriously. David Regan, longtime owner of Mullaney’s, says they’ll go through about 40 barrels (or 80 kegs) of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day.
He adds that Guinness has awarded him the Best Pour in Pittsburgh in the past, so between Ann and David, Mullaney’s has you covered.
Sieb’s Pub & Restaurant, Ross Township
With a closing time of 8 p.m. (9:30 on weekends), Sieb’s might be considered more restaurant than pub. But it has a separate bar, and Kipp presides over it most days.
Kipp, too, is a competitive pourer, and came in second (after David Regan of Harp & Fiddle) in the 2017 regional Guinness Perfect Pour Challenge at Rivers Casino. He notes that Guinness recommends a pause of 119 seconds, not two minutes. (Or 119.53 seconds, to be exact.)
Sieb’s also offers an Irish flight: samples of Guinness along with Irish beers Harp and Smithwick’s, and a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey.
If you’d like to see what really constitutes a bad Guinness pour, follow this Instagram account. The Irish still suffer in England.
Looking for more ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Pittsburgh? Check out Luck of the Irish: A guide to all things Ireland in Pittsburgh.