Raising a can to the wonder of widgets




Consider if you will those invented little items that have changed humanity: The wheel, the steam engine, the car, the electric light bulb, the phone, the television, the internet and — most importantly — the widget.

The what?

Clearly you are not familiar with dark matter, otherwise known as Guinness.

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the brewer’s icon of design and innovation. The widget marked a turning point — in every sense — for homespun imbibers and 2.75bn of them have been produced by Guinness since 1988.

The invention replicated the draught technology used in pubs and revolutionised the beer industry, enabling Guinness fans across the globe to enjoy a perfect pint in the comfort of their own home.

To mark the silver anniversary of the widget, Guinness master brewer Fergal Murray described the challenge facing the company 25 years ago, as more drinkers found their own homes more snug than the pub.

“The task was to put draught Guinness in cans and make it every bit as good as Guinness in pubs.

“The introduction of the widget meant that consumers could now enjoy the perfect pint both in the pub and at home. It was a long journey but every step was a masterful experiment and the end result is considered one of the major innovations in the evolution of the beer industry.”

Since its introduction in 1988, almost every major brewer has replicated this piece of technology.

Alan Forage, the widget’s inventor, was sedate and sober in describing his achievement in his book, A Widget’s Tale.

“It’s very satisfying to invent something that revitalised both Guinness and the UK beer industry. After trying their own modifications, they [competitors] have come back to ours, because ours is the best.”

The small plastic widget sits at the bottom of the can until it is opened. It then jets nitrogen through the beer, creating a longer–lasting creamy head on canned Guinness.

The liquid nitrogen evaporates during the canning process, pressurising the can and forcing some beer into the small plastic device and compressing the nitrogen inside.

The widget floats on the surface of the beer, with a hole just slightly below the surface of the beer. When the can is opened, the pressure inside is immediately reduced, but the sphere acts like a blown up balloon that is suddenly released, and the contents jet out through the tiny hole and into the beer.

As the beer and gas rush through the tiny hole, this agitation causes the N2/CO2 that is dissolved in the beer to form tiny bubbles that rise to the surface of the beer and form the head.

1988... and all that

*FG leader Alan Dukes adopts the Tallaght Strategy to support austerity measures by FF led government.

*Jack Charlton guides Ireland soccer team to the 1988 European Cup finals.

*Celine Dion wins the Eurovision song contest.

*Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega is indicted on drug charges.

*South African apartheid regime bans the United Democratic Front.

*Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love Tour begins.

*U2 wins Grammy award for Joshua Tree.

*Three IRA suspects are shot in Gibraltar by SAS.

*Al Qaeda is formed.

*US Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who is HIV positive, hits his head on a diving board at the Seoul Games.

*Mikhail Gorbachev becomes president of Soviet Union.

*George Bush beats Mike Dukakis for US presidency.


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