It’s not exactly new news that Diageo wants a slice of the craft beer pie and their latest attempt is with a couple of new bottles that are interpretations of beers brewed by Guinness in the 1800s.
I was quite interested when I heared that there would be two new beers being added to the Guinness range, Dublin Porter at 3.8% and West Indies Porter at 6%. Especially as, at first glance, it looked like they might be historical recreations. It’s a shame then, that Diageo didn’t go the whole hog and give us a glimpse of what Guiness used to be like, but plumped for the safer, and dare I say more boring option, of mere interpretations. So we are still left to imagine what Guinness tasted like back in the day.
I’ve been meaning to write about these beers for over a month, but life sort of got in the way. They were on special offer in Morrisons at £1.50 a bottle, for a limited time period. The nearest Morrisons is a bit of a trek, and the first time I popped over, they were out of stock of the West Indies Porter (a bit unsurprising really given that you were getting 500ml of 6% ABV beer for £1.50). Going back the following week, I managed to procure bottles of both beers, but drank them with friends, so didn’t take any notes.
I finally managed to get back out to the local Morrisons the other week, only to find the promotion had finished and, again, there was no sign of any West Indies Porter and only a couple of bottles of the Dublin Porter left on the shelf, at an increased cost of £1.89. So I decided to buy some ordinary Guinness and as I had to swing by a Sainsbury a few days later, I also picked up a bottle of Foreign Extra Stout (FES) and decided to drink them all on one night (partially inspired by Boak and Bailey) to see how they differed.
I thought the Guinness Original was quite effervescent in the mouth, with the carbonation raking the insides of the cheeks. There wasn’t much in the way of body or flavour. I was expecting a touch more roasted malt, but it was all quite restrained and wishy washy. The aftertaste was initially sweet and watery, but started to dry out and leave a slightly sweet, roasted maltiness behind. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I was expecting, but I wouldn’t rush out and buy another.
It was interesting to sit down with a bottle of the Dublin Porter and actually think about what it was like. The previous bottles had all been drunk in a social setting and we’d all thought that they weren’t bad. They had slipped down nicely and were relatively tasty, it’s interesting how the taste of a beer can change depending on what you’re doing when you drink it.
It felt pretty similar to the Guinness Original, but with less body and carbonation. It was slightly lighter in colour, with more of a red tinge to it. The flavour was milder, softer and longer lived. While it’s undoubtedly a brain off quaffing beer, it was much nicer to drink than the Original. The aftertaste had hints of treacle and wasn’t anywhere near as sweet or dry; it also lingered for longer.
- Guinness Dublin Porter, 3.8%, 500ml
I was quite looking forward to trying the Foreign Extra Stout, as it has a good reputation. I’m not sure I’ve ever had it before, maybe I’ve had a bottle in the dim distant past, but it would have been so long ago that I’ve forgotten all about it.
It wasn’t as dark as I was expecting, you could see through it as it was being poured, I was expecting something pitch black. I was also expecting it to be thicker, more viscous, with legs that would coat the glass when it was swirled around to release the aromas. It was far more restrained than that, with not much on the nose, and only pleasant levels of treacle and molasses in the mouth. It did have a tickle of bitterness that was lacking in the other two though, which was nice.
The best thing about the Dublin Porter and the West Indies Porter was the price. You really couldn’t argue with £1.50 a bottle, especially for the West Indies Porter. According to the Morning Advertiser, they are going to retail at £3.65 for the Dublin Porter and £4.00 for the West Indies Porter, which is just bonkers. Neither were good enough to justify that kind of price, especially when you consider the cost of a bottle of something like The Kernel Export India Porter, or Harveys Imperial Extra Double Stout.
I was also seriously disappointed by the FES, I was just expecting something bigger and better. Again, I’m not sure why you’d buy one over the two beers I’ve just mentioned, other than for the fact that you can buy FES in a supermarket. I’m not going to say much about the Original, other than I baked a Chocolate Guinness Cake the other day, and used Fuller’s London Porter, as I actually wanted to enjoy the half of the bottle that didn’t go into the cake.
Will Dublin Porter and West Indies Porter survive more than a few months on the supermarket shelves at that price? Will new interpretations be forthcoming from this Guinness Brewers Project, or will it be swiftly and quietly discontinued? It will be interesting to see where Diageo take this.