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Guinness 250: Can you taste the difference?

Guinness 250Am I so out if it a missed the previous announcement and perhaps considerable discussion?

Last week Guinness launched its 250th Anniversary Stout in the United States. It’s a “new” stout and certainly is being poured in a new manner. The press release states, “This marks the first new stout offering in the U.S. from Guinness since 1966 – more than 40 years ago – when Guinness draught was first introduced to Americans.”

In fact, the press release talks about dispense before what might have changed in the beer itself.

The commemorative stout is carbonated, not nitrogenated like the traditional Guinness Draught. As a result, it has a near-white frothy stout beer head of larger bubble size than that of Guinness Draught, and is poured on draught in a one-part pour or gently from a bottle (as opposed to the two-part pour unique to Guinness draught).

Just so you know, in the press release GUINNESS always appears in capital letters. Yell it from the rooftops.

The press release also states the new stout “uses a unique brewhouse process. This process blends two malt types in a double ‘brew stream’ along with water from the Wicklow Hills, and of course as in all Guinness Stouts, roasted barley to create the deep rich color and enigmatic flavor.”

I will also give you this verbatim because it would seem to indicate the beer undergoes longer fermentation than the non-anniversary stout: “The fermentation process for the Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout uses Guinness’ own yeast which has been extended to allow for more conversion of the natural sugars. The result is a more malty flavor profile.”

“The Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout has a different look and taste than anything our fans have ever experienced,” Guinness brewer Fergal Murray says, “but still retains the familiar character for which Guinness is so well known.”

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of some side-by-side blind tastings.


37 Responses to Guinness 250: Can you taste the difference?

  1. Adeptus April 28, 2009 at 7:23 am #

    I’m trying to figure out, through all the marketing drivel, whether this is actually any different from the regular bottled Guinness Extra Stout, which, to my mouth at least, gives a better taste experience than the blandified nitro draught. Not that it’d be difficult. It’s a shame this isn’t available in Ireland or even Europe. For scientific comparison purposes of course. 🙂

  2. Porter Lover April 28, 2009 at 8:22 am #

    There is a very distinct difference. The traditional Guinness is much creamier than the carbonated version. The carbonation makes the 250th taste slightly colder and (in my opinion) makes it easier to drink. While both taste very similar in terms of malty-ness, there is a distinct difference when drinking them side-by-side. The 250 drinks much more like a porter would and is lighter feeling than the nitrous poured stout. Personally, I like the 250 better than the original stout. Definitely worth a try and if you can, worth tasting side-by-side.

  3. Stan Hieronymus April 28, 2009 at 8:30 am #

    Porter Lover – Thanks. I’m gonna start looking for the 250 . . . even if it isn’t the “local” beer.

  4. Tim April 28, 2009 at 8:31 am #

    I had a couple of these on draft this past weekend and it was certainly nice not to wait for that silly two part pour. I would describe it as a weak version of the Foreign Extra Stout. It is definitely different and maybe even preferable to the Extra Stout. Why don’t they sell FES in the USA?

  5. Adeptus April 28, 2009 at 8:57 am #

    Porter Lover, my question was what the difference is between this 250th Anniversary one and the original bottled Guinness Extra Stout, which is also carbonated (no nitro widget) and comes in pint and 33cl bottles. The one you get off the shelf in decent Irish pubs 🙂 There’s a world of a difference between the bottled Extra Stout and the draught nitro Guinness, as I am sure there is between this 250th Anniv. one and draught nitro Guinness. But whats the difference between these two CO2 Guinnesses? Double “Brew Steam”? 🙂

  6. Chris April 28, 2009 at 8:59 am #

    Adeptus… For your scientific comparison purposes, I’ll bring you over a 250 along with the Pliny and Blind Pig.

  7. Kristen England April 28, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    I have a theory for the steam part. There was a steaming gelatinization process that guinness (can’t get more lower case) used to use. It was patented I believe. Mixed the non-malt adjunts along with steam which gelatinzed them and then they were added to the main mash.

    As for the beers, I had them sidebyside this weekend. The 250 taste more like a traditional dry stout. I compared it to O’Hanlons. I then opened a the nitro wigeted version, put it in a vacuum aparatus and removed all the nitrogen and CO2. I then transfered it into a plastic bottle and carbonated it and tasted it next to the 250 at cellar temps. I did vice verse with the 250 but use beer gas to carbonate it.

    The regular Guinness was a lot less flavorful that the 250 when regularly carbonated. The 250 lost an awful lot of its flavor when poured like a widget based Guinness. Story short, they are actually quite different and using nitro completely kills nearly all flavor.

  8. Adeptus April 28, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    Chris, that’s mighty kind of you. Best tell me if there’s anything you’re on the lookout for here that I can help get, or I’ll start feeling guilty (a little!). :o) And at least I can get the (carbonated) Extra Stout in bottles here in Germany.

    Kristen, interesting experiment. :oD Nitro certainly dampens flavours. O’Hara’s from Carlow is a good example to try as it’s the same beer on nitro on draught or carbonated in bottles. I much prefer the bottled version.

    I’m not sure though if my original question is answered though. I am asking what the differences are between the 250th Anniversary Stout and the carbonated, bottled Guinness Original/Extra Stout is, not Guinness Draught. Unless of course bottles of Guinness Extra Stout and Guinness Draught are the same beer just gassed differently, but I don’t think so. I could be completely wrong of course.

  9. The Beer Nut April 28, 2009 at 11:17 am #

    Err, it’s “stream”, not “steam”, isn’t it?

    Comparisons would be an awful lot easier if they’d give us the ingredients, instead of the mumbo-jumbo made up by their marketing department.

    But then, as Stan’s recent bit on Pilsner Urquell shows, multinational macrobrewers and the truth tend not to get along very well.

  10. Adeptus April 28, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    Ok, I might be able to answer part of my own question. My researcher (Thanks TBN) tells me that in Ireland at least, Guinness Extra Stout and Guinness Draught are probably the same beer. It seems that in the US you get a different version of the Guinness Extra Stout, which is stronger and brewed by Labatt’s or someone 🙂

    So I guess my original question cannot be easily answered there. So, are they rebadging the one you get in Ireland, and is that why they are not making it available in Ireland and Europe? No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist! :o) What’s the ABV on it, btw?

  11. The Beer Nut April 28, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    It’s 5%, so it’s definitely a different beer. Whether it’s more different than the ordinary high-gravity-brewed Guinness watered to a different strength is a different question.

  12. Mario (Brewed For Thought) April 28, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    Porter, what you’re saying is you can really taste the cold, which increases the drinkability? This beer needs a dog as a spokesperson!

  13. SteveH April 28, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    The Miller distributor is also the Guinness distributor in my county — they haven’t said word one about this brew to any of the stores where I’ve asked. A couple have never even heard it was available. Back to the Beer Wars thread?

  14. Kristen England April 28, 2009 at 4:00 pm #

    I picked up both the extra and 250 just a few minutes ago. Ill see if I can glean a little more info from them.

  15. Jimm April 29, 2009 at 12:10 am #

    The 250 is surprising, somewhere between the Extra Stout and the Draught. I had some Extra Stout earlier this evening, and just bought a 6-pack of the 250 (which I had not heard of), and the 250 doesn’t have as strong a flavor profile as the Extra Stout, but definitely has a refreshing carbonation with a similar flavor profile, with less richness. I haven’t had Draught for a while, mainly because I tend to quaff it way too fast, but the 250 is fuller and better than that beer, though I can’t comment yet on whether it will stand up to sessions as well as the Draught.

    I love this 250 though, my tastes do tend towards carbonation, and carbonation done with the right maltiness is heaven. This beer could easily put Fat Tire out of business, if mass produced and distributed, because it highlights all the subtlety that Fat Tire misses (not that I mean to elevated Fat Tire to the stellar beer category, but it does sell remarkably well here in California and has a foothold).

  16. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 1:20 am #

    Kristen, Jimm: can you give us a bit more information on what you mean by “Extra Stout”? Is it this one — 6% ABV?

    If so, can you tell us any more about it, like where it’s brewed? We don’t get anything like it in Ireland and it’s not what Adeptus and I mean when we refer to Guinness Extra Stout.

  17. SteveH April 29, 2009 at 5:49 am #

    ““Extra Stout”? Is it this one — 6% ABV?”

    Nut, I can’t speak for Kristen because I don’t know where she lives, but Jimm says he’s in California so I’m probably pretty safe about his choices. Here in the US we’ve only had 2 Guinness labels available until now (at least in the last 50 years): Guinness Draught in its 3 incarnations; Pub Draught Can, Pub Draught Bottle & the Nitro Pour from kegs, and the Guinness Extra Stout — the same that you linked to from BA.

    While in England some years back, I was able to sample Guinness from the bottle (no special labels, IIRC, just “Guinness”), it was a different beer from the Draught and Extra we have here — I seem to remember thinking it tasted like the Draught, just without the nitrogen carbonation. I sort of wonder if the 250 isn’t similar.

  18. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 5:56 am #

    We all do, Steve 🙂 Do you know for sure where the US Extra is brewed? I know it says St James’s Gate on the front, but it lacks the crucial “Brewed at”. Is there a provenance somewhere else on the label, in the small print?

  19. SteveH April 29, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    “Do you know for sure where the US Extra is brewed?”

    (Lucky this is happening so soon after St. Patrick’s day, ’cause I looked at the labels then)

    The Extra label reads, “Product of Canada.” No specific brewery, and there are tales out there of the “Guinness Essence” being used.

    All of the Draught labels advertise “Brewed in Ireland.”

  20. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 8:59 am #

    Ah-ha. Right: so it is is the licence-brewed Labbatt’s one then. Thanks. I’d imagine that the “essence” (hopped, unfermented extract made at the old Cherry’s plant in Waterford) is most likely in there.

    My guess is that the 250 is very similar to Irish-brewed Guinness Extra Stout.

  21. Kristen England April 29, 2009 at 9:02 am #

    Here are is my data from last nights experiment. All the details I could test and muster. I did the BU and EBC with a UV spec and they correlate pretty much directly with what I’ve found published. The thing I find most interesting is the finishing gravity is nearly the same for all of them. As the alcohol goes us the hops go down. Pretty neat.

    Here you go:

    Foreign Extra Stout (Jamaica)
    OG 1.070
    FG 1.015

    Extra Stout
    OG 1.056
    FG 1.010

    250 anniversary (Dublin)
    OG 1.047
    FG 1.010

    Guinness draught stout (UK)
    OG 1.041
    FG 1.010

  22. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    Cheers Kristen — though there hasn’t been any Guinness brewed in the UK since Park Royal brewery closed in 2005.

    Am I right in thinking that with the high-gravity method your finishing gravity is determined by how much you dilute the beer at the end?

  23. Kristen England April 29, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    ITs not a dilution. Its more of how much the yeast can ferment. Meaning the more sugars left in the beer the higher the finishing gravity. Its seems with Guinness they use about the same amount of specialty ingredients which leaves nearly the same finishing gravity in everything but the Foreign Extra Stout. They probably just change the quantities of their base malt. I’m told they add a decent portion of some sugar to the FES which would account for the higher FG. Meaning its probably some sort of sugar that wont totally ferment out.

    As for the UK stuff, this was a can from the UK. Mums a limey and Granddad ran a Guinness pub. I still have unopened bottles from the 1977 Queens Silver Jubilee and another special one with gold foil…don’t remember that one specifically.

  24. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    the more sugars left in the beer the higher the finishing gravity.
    Right. So if you brew a beer to about 7-odd% ABV, pasteurise it, ship it to its destination market, and then add water to bring it to serving ABV, then that’s going to determine your FG, isn’t it? It means that you can get an FG of 1.010 simply by adjusting the ratio of high-gravity beer to water at the keggery/cannery/bottlery, doesn’t it?

  25. Kristen England April 29, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Ah, I see where you are going with this. Yes, you can by dilution. The problem though is that you aren’t just diluting the gravity, you are also diluting the hops, color, etc. Everything will be diluted proportionally.

  26. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 9:34 am #

    But if you bung in enough hop extract in the first place (as Diageo do when they make Guinness), and maybe a bit of caramel (or their legendary “essence”) for colour, it’s not a problem, right?

  27. Kristen England April 29, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    Yes, its 100% doable. Remember when you polish a turd the only thing you get is dirty! 😉

  28. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    Ah, so you tasted the beers after the experiments 🙂

  29. SteveH April 29, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    “So if you brew a beer to about 7-odd% ABV, pasteurise it, ship it to its destination market, and then add water to bring it to serving ABV,”

    Where are you getting the idea of adding water to an already brewed beer? I don’t know it that’s done, and I don’t know how reputable it would be.

    As to the “essence,” I believe that’s added in the actual brewing process. IOW, it’s added as an malt extract might be, then the actual beer is brewed in the usual methods.

  30. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    Where are you getting the idea of adding water to an already brewed beer? I don’t know it that’s done, and I don’t know how reputable it would be.
    It’s standard practice for all macrobreweries, certainly in this part of the world. I know Diageo do it from people who’ve worked in their factories. “Repute” is an issue for the marketing department, not production.

    So do you reckon the American macros aren’t doing high-gravity as well?

    I can assure that the essence is made in Ireland and shipped to all the Guinness breweries and BUL facilities worldwide for inclusion in the beer. I think Diageo do actually admit to that one.

  31. SteveH April 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    “…for inclusion in the beer.”

    I guess I need a definition of “inclusion.” I always suspected, as said above, that it was used as an extract, among other ingredients, in the brewing of the beer to recipe.

    As to brewing high and “cutting” a beer, I’ve heard it assumed, but never seen any corroboration. And to any concern I’d have to the practice, Guinness and Spaten are about the only 2 “macros” I ever consume — domestic or import.

  32. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    Not sure what corroboration you’re after, but it’s what Diageo told Beer Advocate here. I can ask an ex-employee at St James’s Gate for confirmation as well if you like.

  33. SteveH April 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    All very interesting, had never seen that in print (and still haven’t for the big 3 over here), but here is what I was talking about for the essence use:

    “Guinness Essence is shipped from Dublin to Guinness breweries and contractors around the world, where it’s added to a base beer brewed locally. The entire process is conducted according to strict guidelines…”

    But it doesn’t confirm or deny if the “strict guidelines” include the high gravity brewing spoken of in Dublin. Isn’t it also questionable as to whether the Guinness Draught and Extra Stout are different recipes? They certainly taste different, whether from dilution or not.

    I’d be interested to hear what St James might say about the Canadian brewed Extra Stout. Also ask, if you may, why we don’t get the Foreign Extra Stout here in the States… and is that, yet, another recipe?

  34. The Beer Nut April 29, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Yep, it’s all questionable. Draught Guinness is going to taste different because of the nitro dispense: most of our sense of taste happens in the nose, and nitro destroys aroma by keeping those chemicals in the beer. The creamy head on a pint of draught Guinness is basically a lid.

    Foreign Extra is at least two other recipes: I don’t know if the Irish and Jamaican versions differ, but the Nigerian one has sorghum as an ingredient along with the barley. And then you have Special Export as yet another recipe.

    My friend was a lab tech and probably knows lots about how the stuff is made in Dublin, but not so much about how it’s made elsewhere or why it’s sold in particular places. You could ask Diageo yourself, of course, but I’d nearly guarantee you’ll get marketing bullshit in reply.

  35. Stan Hieronymus April 29, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    Not to change the subject from Guinness, but speaking of high gravity, Steve . . .

    That’s been common among macro brewers in the US for a long time. It was a big deal when Samuel Adams was being made in the Lehigh Valley (the brewery they since bought) because Pabst/Heileman (whoever owned it) had to make changes when it brewed Sam Adams. Which was not brewed to a higher gravity and diluted.

  36. SteveH April 29, 2009 at 5:09 pm #

    “That’s been common among macro brewers in the US for a long time.”

    I thought it had been alluded to (especially A-B) Stan, but none of the breweries had ever come out and admitted it.

    Again… I have little interest in the processes of the bigger breweries anyway, so I probably only skimmed any new news.

  37. Mark April 30, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    Great discussion, just wanted to add a couple observations:

    “Canadian” extra stout – the stuff sold in the US is brewed by Moosehead, the stuff sold in Canada is brewed by Labbatt. The Labbatt brewed Guinness is pretty much undrinkable; to me, it smells and tastes like Labbatt Blue with “essence” added (which I have heard is true, but have no proof, other than what my tastebuds tell me).

    “Jamaican” FES – is actually brewed locally by Desnoes & Geddes, is only 6.5% abv, and tastes like a corn-laced lager with Guinness “essence” added. Undrinkable in my opinion. The stuff sold in the rest of the Carribean is the 7.5% FES, which I believe is brewed at St James.

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