The Missing Widget“No sound, no head, looked flat, tasted awful. I assumed it was a dud.”

As heard on liveline

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As the litany of woes to befall the Irish nation in 2020 continues to impact all our lives, one more can be added to the list, thanks to Liveline listeners, and it may well be the unkindest woe of all. Seán told Joe Duffy that, during steak night in his house last weekend, his second can of Guinness behaved differently than his first: 

“Poured it. No widget, no sound, no head, looked flat, tasted awful. I assumed it was a dud.” 

It was not a dud. Or if it was, it wasn’t confined to Seán’s stash of stout. It was also not 500ml, but 470. Peter told Joe that the same thing happened to him last weekend (although he didn’t clarify if it was also steak night in his house): 

“I actually had a mixture of cans. I was after purchasing one can from one shop and another can from another shop and they were kind of mixed and I noticed the difference in size then and no widget.” 

Peter reckoned it tasted like the old, pre-draught Guinness cans. None of the smoothness of modern draught stout, apparently. If it sounds like the sort of blow to the nation’s psyche that we could really do without, that’s because it is. Peter got his slab of Guinness for a good price, he told Joe, but the value he got can’t compensate him for the experience he had when he got it home: 

“Had I known there was no widget in it, no matter what price the Guinness was, I wouldn’t have bought it.” 

Dave joined the conversation with his own story of smaller cans, flatter stout and general disappointment: 

“I didn’t realise till I opened them they were the small cans. And they poured very, very badly, like Guinness with a kind of a small Ian Paisley collar, a tiny collar, you know?” 

As someone said to Dave, “it wasn’t dancing in the glass at all, it just came out black”. When he went to get a second slab – for purely scientific purposes, of course – Dave got talking to the guy who was delivering the Guinness and that’s when he started to get to the bottom of this long, dark national nightmare: 

“He said, ‘No, there’s no widget in it anymore, it’s a fixed widget. That’s why you’re getting 470 instead of 500mls.’ 

Which also means Dave’s missing a mouthful, he told Joe. But if it doesn’t taste as good as it used to, is that entirely a bad thing? Dave went all the way to the top and called St James’s Gate. They told him the changes – the cans are from Belfast, not Dublin – were down to Covid-related difficulties: 

“I says, ‘The cans are so small, why are they smaller anymore now?’ and she says, ‘Oh because of the widget and everything.’ And I says, ‘They’re canned up in Belfast. Why aren’t they done in Dublin?’ ‘Ah, because of the Covid and the whole lot, we have to get all the cans done…’” 

Dave’s detective work paid off handsomely – the woman from Diageo sent him a voucher for… a slab of Guinness. Will the free stout taste better? We’ll have to wait to see what Dave’s opinion is. 

You can read Diageo’s statement about the missing widget on Joe’s Twitter feed here. And you can hear the full details of the latest calamity to befall the nation, as discussed on Wednesday’s Liveline, by going here. 

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2020

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