Guinness widget, or an introduction to tasting Draught

Anyone who was holding a can of Guinness Draught know that it contains something else besides beer; a hard, moving object. This is Guinness widget. But what it is, for what and how does it work? – let me explain.


Guinness has always cared about the quality of their products. However, not only the quality of beer is important for this Irish brewery. Equally important is the whole shell: advertising, marketing, community of Guinness fans – all this to fans of the legendary stout exceptional feel.

For decades, scientists of the famous brewery also worked on the design of beer.
Yes, the idea was that the image of the black stout with a creamy-white head was with us always – regardless of whether you drink Guinness in a pub, or buy a can in the supermarket and drink it in your own home.
Guinness has to be the same – anytime and for everyone.


Guinness beer


The main problem was to get at home sustained, white, velvety foam – exactly as we receive in a glass of Guinness in a pub.

About cask-ales I wrote some time ago. In short, the idea is that unpasteurized and unfiltered beer is poured in a pub using a pump. Pressed by pump air pushes the beer from cask and such aerated ale is poured into a glass. The result is a beautiful stable foam.
But how to get it in case of beer from bottles and cans?

In the case of lagers that are highly saturated with carbon dioxide, there is no such problem. After opening a can, gas contained in a beer is released causing intensive foaming effect.
Ales are inherently less saturated with CO2 and therefore it is not possible to achieve lasting, and even more fine-bubble, creamy foam.

However, since aerated by pouring ale gives the desired foam, decided to investigate why.

As we know, the air we breathe is 78% nitrogen (only 21% is oxygen) – so is it possible that nitrogen was responsible for the creation of this unique head?
It turned out that this is.
The nitrogen in addition gives a foam with smaller bubbles than carbon dioxide, and otherwise does not dissolve in water as well as CO2, whereby the beer remains medium saturated with carbon dioxide and the whole nitrogen being intended to form a creamy, velvety head.

Now it was necessary to figure out a way – as nitrogen would froth bottled or canned beer?

Already in 1969 two employees of the Guinness brewery has developed a system to release the gas inside bottles or cans. The system was patented, but works on implementing it for mass production still were ongoing.
Technical difficulties ordered temporarily to focus on ways to external foaming beer.

And so, in 1978 was developed, and in 1979 launched for sale, a special beer foamer.

For each six-pack of bottled Guinness Draught was attached a gadget resembling a syringe.
After filling a glass it had to take a portion of stout and such a mixture of air and beer vigorously inject back into a glass.
The result was rich, creamy foam; same as in the case of Guinness drunk in a pub.
By the way, this method can also be used for beers from other breweries – condition is, however, the low saturation of carbon dioxide, otherwise we will do a real beer fountain.


Guinness syringe initiator



This method, however, was a temporary solution, hardly convenient: still looking for a way to foamer placed inside a container.
The work continued, were taken into account over a hundred different projects and finally, after five years of research, that consumed budget of 5 million pounds, it was decided to current famous widget. It was the year 1989 and the first generation of widgets take the form of a plastic disc still attached to the bottom of a can.

Widget operate properly under the condition that the beer was well cooled. However, if the stout was slightly warmer released gas caused fountain.

Got rid of this problem with the introduction in 1997 the floating widget, which successfully fulfills its role to this day.
Floating Widget, takes the form of a plastic, hollow spheres with a diameter of approx. 3 cm with the pin hole with a diameter of 0.6 mm.


Guinness widget


This ball is placed in a can and then is added to beer portion of liquid nitrogen which, together with the CO2 creates a gas mixture.
The can is closed, the nitrogen at this point is evaporated from beer and increases the pressure in the package. At the same time the increase in pressure causes the penetration of the nitrogen with beer into the interior of widget-ball.

When the can is opened the pressure in the container falls, and the widget is released with high speed fine gas bubbles which foam the beer, giving a rich creamy head.


In 1999, Guinness introduced so called rocket widget for use in bottles.
This widget, of elongated shape and length 7cm, has a hole at the bottom and enables drinking beer straight from a bottle.
The principle of operation is similar, except that the release of nitrogen from the widget occurs only after tilting a bottle – by pouring into a glass or pulling up another sip.


Guinness rocket widget



Currently, floating widget is not only in packs of Guinness Draught. It is also in cans of other British beers, for example: Murphy’s, John Smith’s Extra Smooth, Kilkenny Draught Irish Beer, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and others.

And as history shows, Guinness will surprise us yet not one invention.


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