How to Know the Difference Between Good and Bad Guinness

Written by on 28 Jan 2014

And now for something completely different.

Sort of…

The last few weeks I’ve written about people and moments and messages that are very near and dear to my heart.

That’s never going to change.

What is going to change is the delivery method to this week’s Tracy Timm Blog madness.

Today, I’m going to flip the self-discovery coin over to the lighter side.

Today, I’m going to show you how random, funny, questionable and coincidental instances can lead to pretty profound realizations.

Today, I’m going to tell you the story of how a rowdy birthday party which led to a stolen jacket which led to an awkward first date which led to a brief tutorial on drinking Guinness- was actually how I learned one of the meaningful lessons of my life.

Here goes nothin’!

A few years ago, I was working and living in Stamford, Connecticut. People live in Stamford because it’s just one train stop away from Manhattan with all the lights and sounds of New York City. But this Texas girl had a tough time making the transition to the Big Bad Big Apple.

New York was just so overwhelming to me, that the first six months of my career, I would only go in for work or a special occasion. One such occasion was the 25th birthday of one of my best friends and favorite coworkers, Melissa.

Melissa is bank, so her day of birth was definitely worth getting on the train in the cold.

Now, if you’ve ever been to a mid-twenty-something’s birthday party, you know that it will probably involve alcohol. If you’ve ever been to a mid-twenty-something’s birthday party in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, you know that it will probably involve champagne. But only a select few of you who’ve been to Normandy Court in the UES (affectionately called “Dorm-andy Court” for its larger-than-normal population of recent college graduates) will know that it will probably involve one caliber of champagne, in particular.




Not trying to hate on cheap alcohol (cough Two-Buck-Chuck cough), but Holy Hangover!

Nonetheless, we powered through our $2 bottles in the name of Celebration and Revelry. We toasted to the years gone by and the years to come. When you’re 25 in New York City drinking champagne, the world has never felt bigger.

So big, in fact, that it had to be filled with something.

That night, that something… was dancing!

As our inhibitions and speaking abilities decreased, the Lower East Side seemed like a poetically appropriate place to embrace our inner Dancing Queens.

In LES, there is a bar called The 13th Step. On their website, you can find their slogan:

Feel like being sober? Not a chance here.

Apparently, that’s all Manhattan’s youth needs to hear, because when we arrived the line for the bar was wrapped around the corner of 9th Street. As we stood there in the freezing cold, one of the girls heard the familiar sounds of subwoofers coming from across the street.

That’s when we saw the neon sign that drew us in like dancing moths to a flame…


All of you who have ever lived in New York are now either a) rolling your eyes or b) rolling on the floor laughing, because SOLAS is a trip. But that night, what SOLAS lacked in air conditioning and breathing room it more than made up for in one, major advantage:




Again, like moths to a flame…

Except this time all our tiny moth-brains could think was:






Hours later, what began as a champagne-infused ladies night had morphed into one of the most epic dance parties of all time—each girl with her own Mr. Blue Eyes, myself included. This delicate balance lasted about the length of one Ke$ha song before the enemy of all ladies nights descended on the party goers.

That enemy, my friends, is the enemy of all girl groups everywhere.

That enemy is drama.

In what seemed like seconds (probably because of strobe lights and champagne among other things), half of the group was demanding that we leave. The Outside Group was making a stand in the freezing cold while the Inside Group was complaining about not wanting to go. I’m pretty sure crying and other appropriate pageantries were involved.

I’m only pretty sure because I was fully engaged in experiencing this Ke$ha masterpiece with my own Mr. Blue Eyes.

Then suddenly I was ripped off the dance floor by the birthday girl herself.

I had just enough time to sneak back and give Mr. Blue Eyes (or O’Steamy if you’re a Grey’s fan) my number before the Outside Group won the argument and we were heading home.

As we marched dramatically to the subway, one of the girls broke the silence. She was from the Inside Group. She commented that an Outsider “looked bigger” than when we had left Dormandy Court.

I can’t make this stuff up.

An unbelievably ridiculous argument ensued until we got to the subway. With better lighting and less frigid temperatures, we realized that she “looked bigger” because she was wearing not one, not two, but three jackets.

None of which she owned.

All of which had been stolen from the bar.

I can only guess she had been preparing to make a much longer stand in the cold for the Outsiders.

Either way, not much could be done as we were almost home. So we all went to bed with the intention of returning the coats to the following morning. No harm. No foul.

The next day, I woke up to a very unhappy group of girls and one slightly happier text message from Mr. Blue Eyes.

Turns out, yes, he had fun and yes, he was (get this) happy to have met me, but one major bummer kept him from waking up completely pleased with his night.

Someone had stolen his coat.

Who could that be, you wonder?

You guessed it… The Outsider.

Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

Fate had handed me the best excuse for a first date ever. So, clearly, I volunteered to return the coat.

One week later, I handed O’Steamy his black Columbia fleece on an evening that was just as cold as the night we had met. He was definitely happy to have it back. In return for my time and my trip to New York, Mr. Blue Eyes wanted to take me to “the best Irish pub in New York.”

Not surprising.

O’Steamy believed that Connolly’s in Midtown East was, in fact, the best Irish pub in New York, not for its food and not for its music, but for its Guinness.

So, without asking, he promptly ordered two.

Friends… the Guinness was the highlight of this date.

Unfortunately, we found out very quickly that we had less than nothing to talk about. Not to beat a dead horse, but I guess strobe lights and champagne obscure more than vision and dramatic girl fights. But despite all that, in a moment of awkward mating porcupine silence, he took a sip of his Guinness and asked me:

So, do you know how to tell the difference between good and bad Guinness?

While Guinness is not usually my drink of choice, I actually know a little bit more than the average bear about pouring and serving it. I guessed it had something to do with the distributor or the bar tap or the glasses or something else incredibly anal that only an Irishman would brag about.

I was totally wrong.

And his answer—his straightforward, basic, if-it-was-a-snake-it-would-have-bitten-me answer—opened my eyes to a lesson I had been conveniently missing for a long time.

He stopped me in the middle of my rambling answer and just said:

Look around you.

What’s everyone drinking?


That’s how you know this is a good Guinness.

Think about it.

This isn’t going to be news to anyone, but it really struck me in the moment.

How often do we use the same sort of myopic, detail-oriented, over-thought logic that leads us to miss completely obvious conclusions? How often do we forget the big picture and ‘lose the forest for the trees’? How often do we forget to take in the sights and sounds and signs around us to better equip our decisions?

How often do we live with our eyes closed?

How often do we settle for bad Guinness?

Of course, this is easy to remember when you’re traveling or in a foreign place or doing something unfamiliar. In those moments, we almost always look to social cues so we don’t stand out and make a fool of ourselves.

But the dangerous moments, the moments where we cling to comfortable choices or fallback methods, those are the moments when we miss out on learning something new or having a new experience.

Those are the moments we settle for bad Guinness.

Don’t settle for bad Guinness.

Live with your eyes open.

Maybe even your Mr. Blue Eyes.


Where in your life are you missing out on something new and settling for bad Guinness? Who in your life has taught you this valuable lesson about observation and appreciation of others?

I believe that every greatness we enjoy right now can be traced back to one person, conversation, or observation that provided a turning point in our lives. I’d love to hear if you believe this, too.

Did this story resonate with you? Or did it make you think of a story of your own? Share your story or your reaction in the comments below.

Because sharing stories an instinctual, powerful way to touch the hearts of others and change the world around us.

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  1. Marc   On   30 Jan 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Wow, never thought about that aspect of drinking great beers! As much as I love trying new and different beers this has brought a different perspective in a way on drinking some beers that many bars don’t serve that often. I am a beer snob and will always be that way, maybe need to think about rethinking about what I get at different bars to find better and fresher beers.

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