Style: Dry Stout
Guinness is kind of a funny topic. It’s famous, of course, and for many people, it’s their introduction to “dark” beer and often their point of reference for anything that isn’t “regular” fizzy piss-water. You know you’ve heard people say, “I don’t like that dark beer,” or “Is it like Guinness?” when exposed to anything you might be drinking.
Of course, as one of the world’s most successful brands, Arthur Guinness’ little company, founded in 1759, is now huge. Now part of Diageo, the brand rakes in nearly $3 billion per year in sales worldwide, and the company plays pied piper to many an Irish “pub-in-a-box” around the States.
What people may or may not know, is that there’s more than one version of Guinness. In fact, I’ve been told by people that I trust there are currently at least 19 recipes for various markets around the world, although I have yet to find that anywhere in print. As a multinational, their famous stout has been brewed at various places globally, sometimes on a contract basis, and there have been several versions in and out of favor over the years, including a recent somewhat lighter “250 Anniversary” version and rumors of a planned “dark lager” coming soon to market. Their London brewery, until it closed in 2005, also produced Anheuser-Busch products for the continent when I was living abroad. Since then, continental production has moved back to St. James Gate in Dublin.
Historically, they actually brewed porters, the style upon which stout was based, up until 1974 along with several versions of their dark beer. The term “stout” did not appear on their label until the 1840s, and despite what many people think, Arthur Guinness did not “invent” the style. A stout, by definition, contains non-malted roasted barley, which lent a portion of the distinctive black color and coffee-like roasted aroma. This, was of course, forbidden in pre-1992 Germany, which means that German Guinness—which is delicious, by the way—is still technically a porter as it adheres to Reihenheitsgebot standards, which means the non-malted grains are not allowed.
Guinness Draught, the standard North American pour, is actually a little lighter, with a thinner body than many varieties. Many people are surprised to find out that it has fewer calories and less alcohol than a standard Budweiser. Also readily available in the States is Original/Extra and Foreign Extra, which I tasted today.
The Foreign Extra was developed for global export from Ireland and is the “IPA” of their product line, in that it has a little more alcohol (7.5 percent) and a little more hops to “preserve” the flavor for the long export to foreign lands—not unlike the tale of India Pale Ales.
As expected, my bottle of mud pours deep and black, with a thin chocolate head that held steady throughout the serving. Without the nitrogen pour, the bubbles were a little bigger, of course, but the lacing was still generous. A little fuller in body, the hoppy bite was noticeable, relative to the standard Draught version. There’s a little alcohol heat and a nice lingering sweetness, balanced by the hoppy bitterness.
While I like this better than the typical draft, Guinness is still a far cry from any number of the HUGE assortments of stouts and porters readily available in nearly any local brewpub or brewery. All in all, while this is a very serviceable quaff, I’d prefer to drink local and fresh.