Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

I know it's been a while, but between work, travel, writing about my travels, spending every spare moment getting my ass handed to my by Ulysses and general end-of-summer shenanigans, my poor beer blog got lost in the shuffle. But I'm back with a vengeance, coming at you with a beer that's not available in the USA and was a little gift to myself during our tour of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

Brewery –Guinness Ltd. In Dublin, Ireland
Style – Foreign Extra Stout
ABV – 7.5%
Serving Type – 330 ml bottle

I know what you're thinking, "Doesn’t Guinness just brew stouts?" Well, mostly yes but sort of no. Let's do a quick roll call:

Guinness Draught - Introduced in 1959, this is the most popular stout in the world. This is what you get when you walk into a bar and get a Guinness out of the tap. Interestingly, all the Draught sold in the US is brewed at the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin.

Guinness Draught Extra Cold - Only 1 degree colder than the regular Guinness Draught (and in fact comes from the same barrel), this is mostly a marketing gimmick aimed at those who fear "warm beer".

Guinness Draught in Bottles - Once again this is the exact same beer as Guinness Draught, but thanks to the invention of the "rocket widget", you can get the same creamy head from the bottle as you do from the keg. By the way; this is the only bottled beer in the world to use a widget.

Guinness Draught in Cans - Same as above, only this is in cans and uses a regular widget.

Guinness Extra Stout - Sometimes this beer goes by "Guinness Original" since it is the closest thing to the original porter that Arthur Guinness brewed.

Guinness Extra Smooth - The people of Ghana thought that Guinness Draught just wasn't as creamy as it could be, and in 2003 got this.

Guinness Brewhouse Series - I don't think this is even available outside of Ireland. It is mostly the same thing as Guinness Draught, just flavored slightly differently. This campaign started in October of 2005 and is a collection of limited edition stouts released every six months. I got to try the second in the series called Toucan Brew. It seemed like a watered down version of the regular Guinness Draught that I had been drinking over there. This gave me a chance to show people over there what Guinness is like over here.

Malta Guinness (Feel Good Every Day) - Now for something completely different; this is one of Africa’s most popular soft drinks. See not all stouts, not even all beer.
This leaves us with our beer du jure, where Nigeria has the largest market and the 3rd largest market for Guinness worldwide. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (GFES) was first brewed and exported from Dublin in 1802. Satellite breweries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean have been brewing it since the 1960s. Guinness Draft makes up 55% of all beer Guinness sells and this makes up 40%, so apparently it's popular throughout the world and yet it still isn't sold in the US.

According to Fergal Murray (one of the company’s head brewmasters), the large distributors used in the US are not use to marketing specialty brands. They would probably not put any effort in to marketing the beer and my even bury it to prevent cutting into Guinness Draught sales. Just one more excuses to travel the world.

Glass – 20 oz Imperial (Nonic) glass

Aroma – Strong sweet smell of molasses and/or dark chocolate. In the back there is a hint of coffee. That’s about it, but it has such a big aroma it seems like there should be more to it.

Appearance – This beer is not quite as black as the Guinness Draft. It seems to have a bit of a brown tint to it. It pours with a big fluffy brown crown. Since this has been carbonated in the standard way, with CO2 instead of Nitrogen, the bubbles are not as tight as what I’m use to from Guinness. It leaves big sticky laces.

Flavor – As the beer hits the front of my tongue it tastes sweet, like dark molasses. However as it moves back it changes completely. On the sides and top it’s rather bitter, but it’s more like a dark chocolate rather than a hop bitters. The bitterness seems to be so pervasive that I can taste it with my cheeks. I can also get tastes some light caramel and an earthy flavor that reminds me of something like cobwebs. Finishes with lingering bitterness.

Mouthfeel – This beer has a medium body, slightly fuller than a normal Guinness. It has a silky mouth feel but with some light carbonation. I think there is a little alcohol warming on the top of my tongue. It finishes wet at first, but then somehow quickly dries out.

Final Thoughts – Overall I have to say that it’s not a bad beer. It’s definetly more complex and fun to drink then a regular Guinness draft. On the other hand, I couldn’t drink nearly as much as much of it.


Blogger Jay said...

Hey, welcome back - this is one of the most informative beer blogs going. Thanks for the Guiness rundown.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see someone giving the real scoop on Guinness. I've lost count of the number of people who have tried to convince me that Guinness is soooo much better in Ireland because the stuff over there is brewed over there, while the stuff over here is brewed over here. When I tell them that all draught and widget Guinness is actually brewed in Ireland, they usually tell me I'm full of crap.

A bit more Guinness trivia:

The non-widget bottled Extra Stout version sold in North America is all contract brewed by Labatt in Canada. This causes an interesting situation in Canada where Guinness is basically competing with itself, since the imported draught/widget versions are marketed up here by Sleeman. So you'll see a lot of ads that show the draught, can & widget bottles together, and a smaller number of ads with just the Extra Stout version. In Toronto, these latter ads tend to be aimed towards the black & Caribbean communities, probably trying to convince them that it's similar to the Extra Stout or Foreign Extra Stout that they can get back in their home countries.

And speaking of the ES/FES, there are actually several different versions available around the world. In addition to the standard 7.5% version that is available throughout much of Africa and the Caribbean & the crappy 5% Labatt version we get in North America, there is a 5.6% version in El Salvador; a 5% version for Europe which replaces the flaked barley will all malt to stay in conformance with the German Purity Law; a different 5% version for China & other Asian countries; a 6.5% version for Jamaica; an 8% version for Malaysia & Singapore; a 7.5% version for Nigeria that includes sorghum in the recipe; and an 8% "Special Export" version for Belgium, France & The Netherlands. I've had a couple, and it's my goal to eventually try all of them. :)

7:52 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Holy crap! People read these ramblings?!?!? That's awesome! Thanks for the feedback guys, and thanks Greg for extra Guinness trivia.

3:06 PM  

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