CRANFORD — Few things are as important in an Irish pub as the ability to properly pour a pint of Guinness. In fact, if you ask Barry O'Donovan, a native Irishman, mastering the technique is like learning an art form.

O'Donovan, who owns Kilkenny House Irish Pub and Restaurant in Cranford, said he won't put someone behind the bar unless they can properly pour a Guinness — a process which takes six steps. Those steps were demonstrated by Tommy, a very knowledgeable bartender at Kilkenny House, who O'Donovan says has mastered the skill.

Step 1 involves using a glass branded with the Guinness logo, since the harp on the glass - the symbol of Ireland - serves as a guide when pouring. Step 2, is to hold the glass at a 45-degree angle and pull the tap forward, which helps those awesome little bubbles to form. In Step 3, the glass is gradually turned upright and filled to the aforementioned harp symbol.

Next comes Step 4 - this is the part that O'Donovan says requires a lot of patience. It's also known as "the settle." For Tommy, this part is almost mesmerizing. He describes the settling of the Guinness and the release of the nitrogen bubbles as a "cascading" effect, which is beautiful in it's own right. It's also one of the reasons he leaves the glass in view of the customer while it settles, so that they can appreciate the time that goes into pouring the stout and allowing the flavor to develop, just as Arthur Guinness intended when he started his brewery in St. James Gate, Dublin, centuries ago.

In Step 5, the glass is placed upright below the tap to "top up" the pint, filling it until the "head" forms a gentle, creamy dome on the glass. According to O'Donovan, the level of the head can be categorized as a priest, cardinal or pope. What you want is a priest head, which rests just atop the picture of the harp over the word "Guinness" on the glass. Less desirable is a cardinal and a pope...well, let's just say that could get you booted from behind the bar at Kilkenny House.

"The ultimate sin is pouring a pope," O'Donovan said, adding that in many ways, Guinness is "like a woman" in that "it's very temperamental and has to be handled right." Consider that your official dose of St. Patrick's Day wisdom, and not a bad life lesson.

On to Step 6 — this where your patience is rewarded. It's the moment when you finally take a sip of the deep red stout (no, Guinness isn't really black) and raise your glass in a toast to St. Patrick's Day. Sláinte!

Toniann Antonelli is digital managing editor for programming at NJ 101.5. She can be reached at toniann.antonelli@townsquaremedia.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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