Wow! An actor who DOESN'T want to drink!
September 10, 2010 7:27 AM   Subscribe

How can I make fake bottles of (non-alcoholic -- or low-alcohol) Guinness? This is for a play. The audience will be very close to the stage. The beer will be poured from Guinness bottles to glasses.

The play (Conor McPhereson's "The Weir") is set in a pub in rural Northern Ireland. In the play, the tap is broken, so the characters all drink Guinness from bottles. One character has three over the course of this 90-minute play.

NOTE: they don't drink directly from the bottles. The bartender pours the Guinness from the bottles into glasses, so we can't fake it by somehow making using opaque bottles. I guess we could use opaque glasses, but that would be odd.

The actor playing him doesn't want to drink three bottles, because he has a long speech at the end of the play, and he thinks he'll forget his lines if he's tipsy.

The problem is that Guinness has such a distinctive look. Black with foam. I don't know if there's a way to fake it.

And even if I CAN fake it, how do I put the fake Guinness inside real Guinness bottles and re-cap them so that they don't lose all their carbonation, so that there's still foam when they're poured into glasses?

I've contacted other directors who worked on the play in the past. They all just used real bottles of Guinness.
posted by grumblebee to Media & Arts (50 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Check out your local homebrew shop - you want to buy crown caps and a bottle capper. Should be fairly trivial to recap the bottles.

Not so sure about recreating the look of the beer itself - maybe root beer dyed with some blue food coloring? I don't know how the foam will stack up.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:31 AM on September 10, 2010


Root beer with red, green and blue food colouring added as needed?
posted by maudlin at 7:31 AM on September 10, 2010


A creamy nonalcoholic beer with espresso shots added? They could be decaf if you don't want overcaffeinated actors.
posted by John Cohen at 7:34 AM on September 10, 2010


Some microbrew root beers are pretty dark, and have the thick foam you'd expect to see on Guinness. I'd be concerned about the foam coming out the wrong color if you actually added food coloring to try to achieve a darker "brew".

You might try steaming off the labels and just affixing the Guinness labels to the root beer bottles, although Guinness bottles do have a somewhat distinctive shape. Guinness bottles are also dark brown, but some root beer bottles are, too.
posted by padraigin at 7:36 AM on September 10, 2010


Questions: is there a specific reason that one character has to have three? I'm assuming there's some dialog tied to the number of beers he's had?

No option for the actor to surreptitiously dump the contents of his pint glass?

If all else fails, hire me and I will be glad to drink the Guinness for you.
posted by komara at 7:36 AM on September 10, 2010


About the look of bottled Guinness -- my recollection is that unless you're buying the special cans with a widget, which results in a thick head when you pour the beer in a glass, that actually regular bottled Guinness doesn't result in much of a head at all. So unless you want the head anyway for aesthetic reasons, I think some regular dark-colored liquid would actually approximate the look of bottled Guinness. I saw that play a number of years ago in the West End, but I can't remember what the beer looked like - sorry!
posted by chinston at 7:37 AM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Guinness from a bottle doesn't have that creamy head from your picture - it's added by the tap. Cola poured in a certain way would look exactly right.
posted by tsh at 7:41 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Beaten to it! chinston is right - cans give a creamy head too because of the widget, but bottles come out fairly flat-ish (like a stout is supposed to!).
posted by tsh at 7:42 AM on September 10, 2010


Questions: is there a specific reason that one character has to have three? I'm assuming there's some dialog tied to the number of beers he's had?

The script is very specific. I don't just mean stage directions, I mean specific lines where characters buy drinks. It's established at the beginning that they're drinking Guinness, with all sorts of derisive remarks about Harp drinkers, and usually, there's a lot of politics involved with who is going to buy the next round. So it's not just a matter of a line or two we could easily cut.

(Note: this will be the last play I ever direct that set in a contemporary bar. In addition to the beer, there are also three sections of the script in which the characters smoke and have lengthy discussions about the fact that they're smoking. NYC law prohibits smoking indoors. It's possible to get a dispensation for a play, but that can take up to four months and you can get turned down. And we open in a month, so that ship has sailed. Herbals stink, so audience members hate them. We're using these expensive e-cigarrettes. But you can't light them and they don't burn down, so we're having to use all kinds of indirection and trickery to hide that fact. Ugh.)
posted by grumblebee at 7:44 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


See if you can find bottle of this (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/209/650) kind of Guinness. That doesn't have the ultra-creamy head. (And it tastes better than the widget-cans), too. The bottle looks kind of cool, too.
posted by goethean at 7:47 AM on September 10, 2010


Rather than finding a Guinness alternative, have you thought about purchasing an illusion glass? Or if you cannot find one (as I couldn't in my five minutes of googlefuing), simply purchase a double walled tumbler and open one (hidden) portion of the lip of the glass so the actor can pour the beer into the double wall, which takes significantly less volume but still appears to be "full" and can be sipped slowly without the fear of tipsy lines.

Also, you could reseal the beer bottles with significantly less beer in them, so the illusion is really carried through if he tips the bottle all the way over.
posted by banannafish at 7:48 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Coke + icecream (sugar could work but icecream makes the foam last longer and more solid.)
posted by Memo at 7:52 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rural Northern Ireland? Would a pewter mug of some sort fit the scene, maybe?
posted by Grither at 7:52 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing to think about - you could use fake glasses and real Guinness? I.e. speak to your local magic shop about a glass which basically has a false glass wall such that you're not pouring a bottle. E.g. see here.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2010


Yeah, I would cap an empty bottle and use an opaque mug or illusion glass. Mime pouring or do it behind the bar. Same with smoking. Start with an unlit cigarette, pretend to light it, and then surreptitiously switch it out for a half-burned (but extinguished) one.

The audience knows they're at a play. There's some suspension of disbelief there already. I know you want to make it as realistic as possible, but give your audience a little credit. No one's going to stand up and yell, "Hey! He's not really drinking/smoking that!" any more than someone is going to stand up and yell, "Hey! We're not really at a bar in Ireland, are we?!"
posted by supercres at 8:01 AM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ive actually done this, not for guiness, but for 'prop beer"

put a container of frozen iced tea into a blender with water as directed, run for a few moments. the "head" will be nice and solid due to the temperature and the colour is pretty darn close.

depends on how long it has to last / prep time, but mine worked out fine for a 20-30 minute scene.
posted by bobby_newmark at 8:02 AM on September 10, 2010


Here's an off-beam suggestion. Visit a magic store. There are gimmicked glasses you can buy which basically contain a transparent raised base. This means that when you pour liquid into them they fill with far less volume than the size of the glass would indicate. I forget the name of the things but a similar effect is involved in something known as the "Lota glass".

If you can't find such a glass it might be possible to create one of your own, possibly by fixing an upturned half pint glass inside a pint.

What this means is that you could use real Guinness and your guy would actually be drinking substantially less than three pints.

On preview: I see bananafish has beaten me to it!
posted by Decani at 8:04 AM on September 10, 2010


Dyed or dark kvas, maybe? (it's a basically non-alcoholic fermented drink made from bread)
posted by en forme de poire at 8:17 AM on September 10, 2010




Yeah, kvass is where it's at, and easily obtainable in NYC. Get thee to Brighton Beach!
posted by litnerd at 8:22 AM on September 10, 2010


Can you get kvass that's as dark as Guinness?
posted by grumblebee at 8:25 AM on September 10, 2010


1. capper as mentioned.
2. rootbeer, and put a small (drops) amount of milk in bottom of glasses
3. rely on the "willing suspension of disbelief" present in all theatre audiences if its not 100% perfect.


-c
posted by chasles at 8:27 AM on September 10, 2010


I think so. This looks pretty dark to me.
posted by litnerd at 8:29 AM on September 10, 2010


Thanks so much, guys. These are great suggestions.

In addition, I am going to suggest to this actor -- and the other actors who drink in the play -- that they eat before the performance. Does anyone have any info about the timing re eating to dampen the effect of alcohol? In other words, how soon before you drink do you need to eat? And are there particular kinds of foods you should eat if you want the alcohol to get absorbed (or whatever happens)?
posted by grumblebee at 8:37 AM on September 10, 2010


(Of course, if we go with root beer or coke or whatever, the eating issue isn't important for this particular actor. But the rest of the cast is going to really drink Guinnness.)
posted by grumblebee at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2010


The kvass looks great, but I'm not sure, based on this account, that your actor would tolerate drinking 3 pints of it.
posted by maudlin at 8:41 AM on September 10, 2010


I wonder if the not-Guinness will be more obviously fake if it is sitting next to a pint of actual Guinness? Maybe they should all drink your substitute? I guess that might not go over all that well.
posted by teragram at 8:46 AM on September 10, 2010


Oh, if you can tell the difference when they're next to each other, that will be a problem. Then we'll probably all switch to the fake stuff.
posted by grumblebee at 8:52 AM on September 10, 2010


Note that rootbeer is not ideal because it leads to gas and belching - in fact, it was used in a play I worked on specifically to induce a required belch.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:53 AM on September 10, 2010


Do you have a bathroom/toilet in this pretend bar of yours?

btw - you can actually get low-alcohol Guinness - no acting required.
posted by Xhris at 8:57 AM on September 10, 2010


Are you sure you really want to be pouring from a bottle? The kind of Guinness drinker that would mock a Harp drinker wouldn't be seen dead drinking anything but a pint poured from a tap.

A bottle or can of Guinness is an absolute travesty.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:58 AM on September 10, 2010


I just want to say that Guinness is already pretty low alcohol. In the US it's at about 4.1% per beer.

Can you have him try drinking 3 in a rehearsal so he can see how he responds to it instead of all these other methods?
posted by zephyr_words at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2010


Do you have a bathroom/toilet in this pretend bar of yours?

We have an offstage bathroom, and there are moments in the play where characters say they are going to pee and leave the stage.

Are you sure you really want to be pouring from a bottle? The kind of Guinness drinker that would mock a Harp drinker wouldn't be seen dead drinking anything but a pint poured from a tap.

Oh, I know. I addressed this in my question. In the play, the tap is broken. The characters are pissed off that they have to drink from bottles. It's a re-occurring joke in the play.
posted by grumblebee at 9:03 AM on September 10, 2010


Civil_Disobedient: "Are you sure you really want to be pouring from a bottle? The kind of Guinness drinker that would mock a Harp drinker wouldn't be seen dead drinking anything but a pint poured from a tap.

A bottle or can of Guinness is an absolute travesty.
"

From the OP: "In the play, the tap is broken, so the characters all drink Guinness from bottles."
posted by Perplexity at 9:04 AM on September 10, 2010


Are you sure you really want to be pouring from a bottle? The kind of Guinness drinker that would mock a Harp drinker wouldn't be seen dead drinking anything but a pint poured from a tap.

A bottle or can of Guinness is an absolute travesty.


Re-read the question:

The play (Conor McPhereson's "The Weir") is set in a pub in rural Northern Ireland. In the play, the tap is broken, so the characters all drink Guinness from bottles. One character has three over the course of this 90-minute play.

posted by oneirodynia at 9:04 AM on September 10, 2010


you can actually get low-alcohol Guinness - no acting required.

Anyone know if you can easily get this in NYC?
posted by grumblebee at 9:04 AM on September 10, 2010


Malta looks almost exactly like Guinness, is slightly carbonated, and is non-alcoholic. It's a bit of an acquired taste, though. You can get Malta Goya in a lot of bodegas around NYC. Other brands' bottles might be similar to Guinness' bottles, but you might have to look around a bit for that.
posted by Fuego at 9:10 AM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


L'Estrange Fruit: "Note that rootbeer is not ideal because it leads to gas and belching - in fact, it was used in a play I worked on specifically to induce a required belch."

Is this really such a bad thing? Who hasn't belched in the course of downing a few pints? If anything, I think it'd add authenticity.
posted by xedrik at 9:11 AM on September 10, 2010


xedrik, I'll leave that to the director's discretion. :D
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:17 AM on September 10, 2010


Just a thought here, but have you contacted Guinness directly? If the play is high profile enough (and if the script places their brand in a positive light) maybe they'd be amenable to providing the no/low-alcohol version?

Of course, the method actor in me would say that drinking something other than the real deal is doing a disservice to the performance . . . I say be a man and drink the 3 beers!
posted by eggman at 9:19 AM on September 10, 2010


I say be a man and drink the 3 beers!

Good in theory, but you're (probably) not in your 60s. And you don't have to deliver a word-perfect four-page-long monologue at the end of the play.
posted by grumblebee at 9:22 AM on September 10, 2010


Just concurring with the point that pouring Guinness from a bottle doesn't produce the cascade that a tap or a widget will. I think some variant of Root Beer in Guinness bottles could totally work, and just fake the bottle un-capping using a re-applied cap and "acting."
posted by chococat at 9:23 AM on September 10, 2010


Beaten on preview, but...

Malta Guinness is a non-alcoholic Guinness-branded malt drink, tastes nothing like Guinness, but poured into a glass will look spot on - opaque, black/brown, thick and slightly frothy. No idea of availability in NYC, I think it's originally from the Nigerian branch of Guinness.

Alternatively, there are a few similar looking malt drinks, such as Supermalt, Vitamalt, and D&G Malta, etc. They're Scandinavian in origin, but popular in the Caribbean, so you might have more luck finding them.
posted by iivix at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2010


grumblebee, to answer your question:

Does anyone have any info about the timing re eating to dampen the effect of alcohol? In other words, how soon before you drink do you need to eat?

It's a pretty easy answer: most intoxication happens when alcoholic liquids hit the small intestine, the first stop after the stomach. When food hits the stomach the pyloric valve closes, preventing the food from reaching the small intestine until it's ready. When the pyloric valve is closed then liquid also doesn't reach the small intestine.

No food can actually 'absorb' alcohol. All eating does is prevent your booze from going straight from your mouth to the part of your body that puts the alcohol into your bloodstream. So, one answer would be, "Have them eat immediately before the performance to ensure that their stomachs are full."

This is an extremely fast and loose answer. It is not based on Perfect Science.
posted by komara at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


For research purposes I just opened up a bottle of Guinness and poured it into a see-through cup. Looking at it now, I believe the best approximation would be a Coke float, with some food dyes added to the Coke to darken it down a bit. FWIW there is a small head on it, but only a centimeter or so, so you might need to adjust the ice cream amounts to suit this.
posted by Meagan at 11:04 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nthing Malta Guiness, goya, malt and the like. Any African store or Caribbean store, or mexican food store will carry them Sometimes you can find the goya brand in the international food aisles of your local grocery store (safeway/fred meyer/QFC etc)
posted by ramix at 1:03 PM on September 10, 2010


From the OP: "In the play, the tap is broken, so the characters all drink Guinness from bottles."

Completely missed that, my apologies.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:17 PM on September 10, 2010


How about Kaliber , the non-alcoholic (well, 0.5%) beer made by Guinness?
posted by Hutch at 5:20 PM on September 10, 2010


supercres: "The audience knows they're at a play. There's some suspension of disbelief there already. I know you want to make it as realistic as possible, but give your audience a little credit. No one's going to stand up and yell, "Hey! He's not really drinking/smoking that!" any more than someone is going to stand up and yell, "Hey! We're not really at a bar in Ireland, are we?!""

Yes, but the level of reality has to be consistent throughout the play, which is presumably what Grumblebee is grappling with. It's fine to mime the drinking and smoking if you're doing it on a total black-box set, but if you've got any level of realistic set dressing, it's going to jar horribly.

I think if you can have Brendan pour an obviously real Guinness in full view, place it on the ledge behind the bar briefly (ostensibly while he disposes of the empty bottle) then hand over a Guinness-looking coke float, it will work better than just hiding the whole process behind the bar. It's all about the misdirection, right?

And if you want to find Malta Guinness at short notice, I'd hit up the Chowhound forums, who are very good with stuff like that.

The rule for pre-drink eating as I always understood it was to eat just before you start drinking and to have it be something like pasta that's heavy on the carbs.

Finally you can always console yourself that while staging The Weir is a pain, at least you're not doing The Lieutenant of Inishmore :-)
posted by the latin mouse at 1:00 AM on September 11, 2010


You might ask the actors if they want to be drinking sugary root beer all night. Lots of performers are pretty picky about what goes in their mouths on stage. I wouldn't stress about the head and foam--if the audience is looking at the beer in the glass, the play has bigger problems.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:37 AM on September 12, 2010


« Older Backpacking with a dog   |   Help finding old JF*E tracks! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.