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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Guinness Anyone?

Guinness is celebrating an anniversary this year--the 250th since Arthur signed the lease at St. James Gate. It's not a bad year to have something to promote, and Guinnie's going all out, including the rumored release of a new beer. Yet not everyone is pleased. Some chafe under the fame of what they describe as an inferior beer. Those in the know will, head tilted forward didactically, argue for Beamish.

I am a snob, and I do find the draft product thin and uninteresting. The pedants are right--Beamish is better. But hey, it's a force of nature, and perhaps the most widely-available beer on earth. So what do you think, Does Guinnie live up to the hype? Let's hear what the verdict in Beervana is.


  1. Eh, picking on Guiness is silly. It seems like truly snobbery for snobbery's sake, like thrashing OPB for not being progressive enough or something.

    It's not a great northwest beer, maybe not even a great world beer, but it is a classic. I mean that in the same way that you can look at a movie or TV show, for instance, considered a classic, and may find that it falls flat or short by some modern standards; but I don't think that means it's not a classic.

    I think of it as comfort food, like macaroni and cheese, out of the blue box...

    I always have some in the fridge in the widget cans. It's the only macro brew I buy. It's an easy drinker without being utterly water. In fact I think I'll go have one right now.


  2. Haggis is also a classic, but I sure as shootin' ain't digging into it anytime soon.

  3. Is Bud a 'good' beer, is Wonderbread 'good' bread, is Velveeta 'good' cheese. Most would say no but the market appears to say yes.

    Do crowds have wisdom or collective stupidity?

    Does quality mean only appealing to the few enlightened consumers or does it mean appealing to as many as possible.

    Questions, questions...

  4. I don't hate Guinness, but it doesn't taste like much, it's so watery and bland. If you can find it try Double Mountain's Dry Irish Stout, fantastic.

  5. I don't partake in having a morning beer very often and when I do it's almost always for a sporting event. My point is, a Guiness in the AM is pretty delicious and at 3.something abv, a nice way to ease into a drinking day. But that's the only time I'd order one. (You can't tell me that a Guiness at Kells to watch some AM soccer isn't a good time). :)a

  6. I think Guinness is an undeniable classic. Yes, I'm one of the snobs who prefers Beamish, but I can't fault Guinness. It's interesting to me that a few people have said that it's thin and watery. It's almost like people have forgotten that a beer doesn't need to be 7% alcohol and 70 IBU's to be interesting and flavorful. In this age of triple imperial barrel-aged everything, I think many drinkers have forgotten about the importance of subtlety and balance.

  7. Guinness tasted better in Ireland than US. the Guinness in Galway was better than the Guinness at the factory. (natch!) this may no longer be the case -- my last visit to Ireland was in 2004.

    Guinness foreign extract bottles from Hong Kong tasted different than bottles from the US (brewed in Canada?)

    the best stout I had in Ireland was at the Franciscan Well in Cork, but the Beamish was pretty good too.

  8. I must say that sometimes a Guinness is exactly what I feel like.

    I second Average Bill about the tendency to make gigantic beers these days. I'd love to see our local brews drop back down to a 5% ABV average. Just means more drinkin' before we're stinkin'

  9. I'm not claiming that it needs to be big in ABV, just a touch of flavor wouldn't hurt. Double Mountains Dry Irish Stout is only 4.5%, Moylans Dry Irish Stout is only 4.8%, but are really excellent beers. I'm not arguing for imperial flavors here, just can't see rationalizing the price of Guinness for the bland flavor.

  10. I can't believe Beamish is being trotted out as an alternative to Guinness. But then that's because in a blind tasting I couldn't tell the difference. Of Ireland's three industrial macrostouts I think Murphy's is better because of the higher chocolate malt profile. But Wrassler's XXXX by the Porterhouse, Carlow's O'Hara's (especially bottled) and Messrs Maguire Plain are streets ahead of the foreign-owned brands (Guinness, Beamish and Murphy's) in flavour terms.

    I'd definitely suggest that anyone who believes Beamish to be superior to Guinness try them blind.

  11. When Guinness was first marketed over here... it was marketed towards the mixing crowd... to mix with milk, soft drinks, wine... and even other beer. It was a stoutie addition.

    I would guess that way back in the 50's etc.. it was a much stronger plain pint in Ireland.

    I have an old original full bottle with pictures I am going to post at my blog right now.

  12. Only slightly stronger in the '50s: hovering around the 5% ABV mark. Figures from the redoubtable Ron.

  13. I'd definitely suggest that anyone who believes Beamish to be superior to Guinness try them blind.

    Might be different palates. I have tasted them side-by-side (not blind), and my reaction is the opposite: Beamish is clearly the most flavorful, Murphy's the most insipid. I really don't like Murphy's.

  14. But did you already think that? Prejudice has a much greater effect on our tastebuds than probably any of us would care to admit.

    In our experiment, several people went in knowing they preferred Beamish and guessed the stout they liked most was Beamish, and were incorrect.

  15. But did you already think that?

    No. It was the moment the genius of Beamish revealed itself. I would say that your assumptions that people don't know the difference may be a function of different preferences. At least in this case, and among this readership. People with amazing palates and experience read this blog, keeping me forever on my toes.

  16. Au contraire (not about your readership, I'm sure that's true) I'm not making an assumption about people not knowing the difference -- I'm pointing out it's a proven fact, at least in my case and several others who did that test with me.

    But until you've done a blind tasting, asserting the contrary is (wait for it) an assumption.

    Go on -- try 'em blind. It's edumacational.

    I get a mild shiver of horror when I hear someone describe a pasteurised nitrokegged beer made by Heineken as "genius". I think I might be a beer snob...

  17. I've never tried Beamish (or even heard of it), but otherwise I agree with the 3rd poll item - the extra stout is indeed good. Plain Guinness is as weak a beer as I would ever possibly want to drink - and I'm not talking about the ABV (I actually thought it was stronger - closer to 5%).

    Widmer's Snow Plow takes my penultimate vote for best relatively-weak stout (5.1% if memory serves) - relatively strong in flavor yet effortlessly smooth - smoother than Guinness, even. I realize that's not exactly apples (dry Irish vs milk stout), and if I had to recommend a dry Irish stout, Cascade's (Raccoon Lodge's? I don't even know if it carries the Cascade brand) is a fine example IMO, but then not being entirely fond of the style (stronger, fuller bodied American stouts are my bread and butter - and imperial stouts are my cake), I can't make a terribly informed decision (I might as well be rating IPA's, as much as I loathe hop bitterness).


  18. Yes it depends where you are, Anonymous. I believe Guinness may be in or around 5% ABV in North America. It's 4.2% here. Oh the joy of brewing under licence and the high-gravity method.