Finding the best pint of Guinness in Brooklyn this St. Patrick’s Day

Person pulling pint of Guinness
Which Brooklyn establishment has the best Guinness in the borough?
Photo courtesy of Hartley’s Irish Pub

The pour, the temperature, the taste and even the glassware — finding the perfect pint of Guinness is no easy feat.

First brewed in Dublin in 1759, Guinness is now a beloved stout served in bars and restaurants in over 100 countries, but not all pours are equal.

Quality control has always been paramount when it comes to the black stuff. In the 1890s, Guinness sent teams of men around the world by steamship to report back on whether the stout was being shipped, stored and served in proper conditions. These days, such life-threatening voyages are not warranted.

The company’s quality control teams can now easily ensure standards are being held up around the world thanks to advancements in technology — and that has also resulted in a rise in amateur experts, Guinness gurus, who have social media pages dedicated to rating and ranking the pours in pubs serving a pint of plain. 

close up pint of guiness
No two pours of Guinness are the same. Photo courtesy of Morabito92/Wikimedia Commons

One such account has recently popped up to rank the Guinness scene in NYC, New York State of Pint.

The group of Irish working professionals behind the account told Brooklyn Paper that they set it up to find out where the best pints are in the city, and to act as a guide for people trying to find the best pubs in the localities of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx.

In an effort to keep their ratings unbiased, the admins keep their identities anonymous so as not to get preferential treatment when they enter an establishment on their ratings radar.

“Where to get a good Guinness and which is the best in the city has always been a hotly debated topic amongst expats and locals in New York, so we were eager to find the answer and document our journey to rank the quality of Guinness in the city and find one that would rival those in Ireland,” said one of the admins of the account whose follower count recently passed the 3,000 mark.

As the account continues to grow, so does New York State of Pint’s free interactive map which is updated with new locations and ratings as the group of Irish men continue the tough task of taste testing the city’s Guinness.

All of their ratings are marked out of ten, and take a number of variables into account: taste; creaminess; viscosity; temperature; pour; glassware; the ambience of the bar.

“We rate the pint we’re served on the day, and the final score is the average of our individual ratings to ensure no bias,” they said. “You’ll know a bad pint usually when you’re hit with a bitter and watery first sip.”

With a lot of ground to cover, the team of testers behind New York State of Pint broke the task down by borough and neighborhood to make it more manageable, adding more pubs as they progress.

The group say they have yet to have a truly bad experience: “If the pint isn’t great we’ll usually find something redeeming about it. Anything over a seven on our scale is a good indicator of a place you would have a few good Guinness, anything over an eight would be on a par with some pints in Ireland!”

A map of pints tested across New York City. Image courtesy of New York State of Pint/Instagram

Brooklyn’s best pint?

Clinton Hill’s Hartley’s Irish pub is currently top of the overall rankings at the moment, with a score of 8.5/10.

“Guinness was top drawer. Lovely head, temperature and pour, with a level of creaminess that made each sip more enjoyable than the last. The old school Guinness tap was a nice touch, and the wooden bar has the ideal acoustics for planting down a pint,” the review rejoices at the standard of Guinness in the cozy neighborhood bar.

Behind Hartley’s perfect pint are two Irish men, Mike O’Sullivan from Cork and Danny Grace of Limerick.

Keeping the decor simple and letting the pints speak for themselves helped them earn a loyal patronage since they opened in 2015. Nine years later, the crowds keep coming.

O’Sullivan said this is thanks to the recent positive rating, with more and more people referencing the Instagram account as they stop by to try the Guinness for themselves.

exterior of hartley's, home of the best guiness in Brooklyn
Located at 14 Putnam Ave. in Clinton Hill, Hartley’s offers an array of Irish food year round as well as serving local craft beers. Photo courtesy of Hartley’s Irish Pub

The Cork man said he was blown away by the number-one ranking but acknowledged that a lot of work goes into maintaining the quality of pours in Hartley’s, noting that he usually carries a food-grade thermometer to make sure temperatures are what they should be.

“The first pints we pulled in Hartley’s you would throw out the window,” O’Sullivan joked. “There’s a million things that can go wrong to create a bad pint. There are so many variables, so it’s about keeping them in check the whole time.”

After working out the initial kinks with new equipment, Hartley’s has gone on to maintain a decent quality that Guinness lovers keep returning for. Some of the secrets to their perfect pint, according to O’Sullivan, are keeping the distance the Guinness has to travel from keg to tap pretty short, using a pre-made blend of nitrogen and co2 and even choosing the correct dishwasher detergent as it can affect the lacing on the glass.

It also comes down to the care of the bartender pulling the pint, something that is in no short supply in Hartley’s.

hartley's interior guiness
Hartley’s owners tried to capture the old-world fell of their favorite pubs without the gimmicks. Photo courtesy of Hartley’s Irish Pub

For a lot of Irish expats in New York, they are often chasing the taste of home and rate Irish brewed and poured Guinness much higher. O’Sullivan tries to capture the atmosphere of his favorite haunts back home in Hartley’s but acknowledges that “the romanticism of being at home in a bar, you’ll never match 100%.”

“Some places are doing pints very close to home standard,” he said, adding that many bars and pubs in New York are upping their Guinness game due to the competition out there and the desire of patrons to have a quality pint.

Likewise, the guys behind New York State of Pint believe standard in New York is far better than people think, you just have to know where to look.

“New York Guinness, and Guinness abroad in general gets a bad rap,” they said. “There’s plenty of bad pints served in New York which probably clouds people’s perceptions, but we’ve found plenty that wouldn’t be out of place in a pub in Ireland.”

Think you know where to get a better Guinness in Brooklyn? Let us know! Email mmcgoldrick@schnepsmedia.com to tell us your favorite pour.