Guinness: This is not your great great great grandfather’s beer.
In college, I first discovered Guinness when I decided to veer away from the Buds and the Coronas. I traveled to Dublin’s Guinness brewery, and in many a pub, I too declared that their stout was more food than beer. I drank it because it was good, and also it was lighter in calories than the other beers I liked. There was only one flavor of Guinness, but that was enough for me.
But not for Guinness’s Brewer’s Project, which has been creating new beers for more than a hundred years, most recentnly based on recipes dating back to its roots.
A toast to your health
When you think about bending that elbow this Thursday with a pint of Guinness, be sure to also say “Sláinte,” a toast to health. But remember: it’s not only the most popular Irish beer brand in the world, but there’s a reason their old ad campaign declared “Guinness is good for you.”
- It contains less alcohol by volume than a typical draught.
- A 12-ounce serving of Guinness sets you back 125 calories—just 15 more than the same serving of Bud Light.
- It staves off heart attacks, say studies (one drink a day for women, two for men, anyway.)
- It contains a little iron, which is why English doctors once prescribed a pint for post-operative patients, blood donors, and pregnant and nursing mothers.
Beer on tour
Guinness US went on tour recently, traveling to 16 cities to showcase its history, have some locals taste classic and new recipes, and just do a pre-St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
A sip of history
In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for a property at St. James Gate in Dublin that would become Guinness Brewery, said Eibhlin Colgan, Guinness’ archivist, who was on hand during a recent Guinness press tour. They began with amber ales, but then in the 1770s, he and other Dublin brewers were brewing stouts; he was was the first Dublin brewer to decide that it would be all that he’d brew, at least for a while. By the 1880s, Guinness was the largest brewery in the world, annually producing 1.2 million barrels.
The first Guinness ad was released in 1929, drawn by artist John Gilroy. He was responsible for the campaigns “Guinness is Good for You” and “My Goodness, My Guinness.”
The slow pour
Guinness did not actually debut its famous Guinness Draught until 1959; they discovered that their beer was too “lively” to be dispensed with standard CO2, and so it took 10 years of research to create a draught beer using nitrogen, which gives the beer its legendary head, creamy mouth feel, balanced flavor and the surge-and-settle effect.
Guinness released its delightful Limited Edition Toucan draught aluminum beer can in time for the holidays. It took years to figure out how to can that creamy draught head. They invented the “widget” — a ping pong ball of plastic that, when you open a can of Guinness, releases nitrogen gas into the beer.
A couple of years ago, Guinness introduced the Blonde American pale lager, their “Irish American” beer, brewed in Latrobe, PA using Pacific Northwest hops, for a very drinkable offering.
The Brewers Project at Open Gate
There has been an experimental brewery at St. James’s Gate for over a hundred years. Now, for the first time in history, the Open Gate Brewery gates are open to the public. There’s a tasting bar, offering one-batch brews and experiments. “It’s a great atmosphere,” said Keith Dunne, Guinness beer ambassador. “We serve 120 people on Thursday and Friday nights, and we’re booked solid each night. We offer up to 2 new beers tapped every month or so.” Dunne’s recent faves included an Imperial Dunkelweiss, a toasted oatmeal and vanilla brown ale, and a marriage of Vienna lager with a California Common, which is a lager beer you ferment at ale temperature. “It’s such a cool place. We’ve been experimenting for a while but never gave people a chance to taste it.” For more local access, the Brewers Project beers are available in a special 18-pack in stores.
The brewers spent about a year with Colgan, their archivist, to pick out two beers from its earliest cookbook, dated 1796, to bring back to life — the Dublin Porter and the West Indies Porter.
West Indies Porter
In an interpretation from a 1801 export recipe, this porter has more hops and higher gravity in a full-bodied, richly flavored beer with notes of toffee, chocolate caramel. “There’s more intense flavors, more roast, more coffee and chocolate and a hint of toffee,” said Dunne. “There’s a little more increase in bitterness.” The West India Porter — a precursor to the modern Guinness Foreign Extra Stout — was the first beer created to travel overseas. The beer was hoppier, allowing it to keep during long voyages. Guinness traveled to the US by 1817, Africa by 1827, and Australia by 1858.
The Dublin Porter
The Dublin Porter, an interpretation of a 1770s recipe with barley malts and Goldings hops for a sweet, rich and light earthy drink that’s “as close as you can get to tasting the beer that might have been enjoyed by the likes of Charles Dickens,” says the brewery literature. Said Keith Dunne, “It’s a malt-forward beer, a little hint of caramel and chocolate, quite light in the bitterness. It could have been one of (Arthur Guinness’s) first Porter beers; he didn’t really come up with the idea of this beer style, but he certainly perfected it.”
1798 Double Extra Stout
My favorite beer of the night was a rare brew, conditioned using wood from their original vat house, to create an intensely rich brew with a roasted barley sweetness, peppered with raisin and burnt caramel notes. It’s limited edition, only at events like this, and it’s a whopping 9% ABV. Slainte!