Arthur Guinness began brewing over 200 years ago at the St James Gate site in Dublin, still the firm's HQ and now the largest brewery in Europe. However the Draught Guinness sold in Britain emanates from the company's Park Royal brewery in London.
Draught Guinness is undoubtedly a classic stout, cremy and malty but with a genuine bitterness underlying the roasty hop character. In Ireland the fast turnover encourages the brewery not to pasteurize the beer, as a result of which it tastes much zingier than its British counterpart, which is a keg beer. Even in Ireland though it is dispensed under nitrogen gas pressure and so cannot be counted as a real ale.
The biggest disappointment with Guinness served in Ireland is that it's invariably too damned cold; chilling masks all the beer's complex flavours. Given that the pouring of a pint of Guinness in Ireland can take anything up to 10 minutes (compare with the current 119.5 seconds campaign here), to wait another eternity for it to warm up a bit is asking too much.
Until fairly recently bottled Guinness was a real ale: the beer wasn't filtered or pasteurized but allowed to condition in the bottle. This meant that virtually every pub in the country served at least one real ale, which was a particular boon in the days before CAMRA turned the tide. Sadly in 1993, just as the interest in bottle-conditioned beer was rising, Guinness took the decision to turn it into a brewery-conditioned beer, so it has lost its freshness and complexity.
The Park Royal Brewery is supposed to brew a real ale, Harwood's Porter (4.8%), launched in 1996. However has anyone actually sighted it?
The best place to drink Draught Guinness is at the Dublin Brewery's own museum (the Hop Store) where the sampling bar offers the beer as it should be. Virtually every bar in Ireland also sells the unpastuerized version, poured with loving care by the most professional bar staff in the world. It's a great beer but wouldn't it be lovely to have a truly cask-conditioned version of it?