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“Let’s jump on board and cut them to pieces!” — Edward Teach
Oy, beer-faces! It’s feckin’ March, an’ we’re gonna talk about some Irish beers.
They’ve got some fine beers brewing in Ireland, and not all of them are trad styles. Last Saint Patrick’s Day, I reviewed a few of the Irish craft beers you can get here in Rochester. But we’re not here to talk about those today. This piece is all about the Guinness. Their Brewers Project 18 Pack, to be precise.
“My goodness, my Guinness!”
I may have mentioned previously that the authentic Irish-ness of Guinness is somewhat in question, owing to the company being owned by Diageo. So now I get to eat crow. And crow tastes like shit.
It is entirely true that Diageo is a British company, and that they currently own Guinness. They’re one of the largest alcoholic beverage companies in the world, and own, among many other brands, Johnnie Walker and Tanqueray. But unlike some conglomerates that I shan’t mention here, they don’t ruin every brand they touch. I make this assertion based on many years of enjoying their fine products. Scotch and Gin aside, I cut me beer teeth on imported Guinness Draught and on Oregon micro brews, and as anyone who drinks with me knows, Irish stout is one of my favorite beer styles.
So. It’s been two hundred and fifty-seven years since Arthur Guinness opened his Dublin brewery. I don’t ask the Irish if they feel like Guinness is still Irish; Oi don’t want ta get thrown out ta pub. The stout is damned good on tap in its home country, and reasonable from a can or bottle here, provided ye get the stuff that’s actually brewed in Dublin. But we’re not talkin’ about the Draught or Extra Stout today.
Brewers Project 18 Pack
According to the press release put out on February 23, 2016, the St. James’s Gate brewery has got “a small group of talented Guinness brewers” who are playing with old and new recipes, and generally getting crafty and innovative. These folk are called the Brewers Project. Ireland and the continent have been enjoying their creations for the last year or two, and I wrote about their U.S.-only Nitro IPA shortly after it was released last fall.
A couple of weeks ago, I picked up an 18 pack with Guinness beers that I’d never seen before: Dublin Porter and West Indies Porter. These two are based on recipes from 1796 and 1801, and packaged alongside Guinness Original. All three beers in the 18 pack come in 11.2 ounce bottles—as is common with imported European beers—and sport old-school labels. Turns out, the pack is only available at Costco, BJ’s, and Total Wine & More.
This guy was first brewed in 1796, as an Irish version of the very popular London porter. The English must have liked the Irish version, because that’s where Guinness shipped it to (please, no lessons on English domination of Ireland. I’m feckin’ aware). The revived Dublin Porter is very much a classic example of the style, and one of the best porters I’ve tasted in a while. At 3.8% ABV, it’s very much a session beer. In case you care about such things, it’s only 114 calories, making it pretty easy on the waistline. And whaddya know, it doesn’t taste like swill. Suck it, “light” beers.
West Indies Porter
In 1801, Guinness engineered an export porter for long voyages to the Caribbean. It was hoppier and higher alcohol, much like its descendent, Guinness Foreign Extra. The new West Indies Porter is exactly what I’d expect from an export porter; chocolatey, with a hint of tropical fruit, dark and relatively viscous (for a porter), with a decent head and good hop balance. At 6% ABV, it’s the heaviest of the three beers in the Brewers Project Pack.
I’ve tasted pretty much all the versions of Guinness Stout available to me: Draught, Foreign Extra, whatever they had on tap at an Irish bar in Ontario, and the draft version in Ireland. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again; it’s much better on tap in Ireland than elsewhere. But the stuff in the Brewers Project Pack is the real deal. Brewed at St. James’s Gate, packaged in a glass bottle and carbonated with CO2 instead of nitro, it’s a fantastic version of Ireland’s most famous stout. Dry, roasty, with all the beer flavor and none of nitro’s artificial smoothness, with a faintly chocolaty nose and gorgeous, deep ruby color that you just don’t see in a nitro pour.
A word about nitro
Guinness has been poured on nitrogen for quite some time, and even though it’s far from new at this point, the widget in their cans remains an impressive innovation that American breweries are just beginning to replicate (in their own ways, of course). A nitrogenated beer is a lovely sight to behold, as the gases rise, forming the iconic thick, creamy head. It also causes a very smooth mouthfeel. But though people claim that nitrogen doesn’t flavor the beer, I contend that it does. That’s why I like the Guinness Original in the Brewers Pack so much; I’m getting the full experience of the beer, without tampering from a gas that is not actually a byproduct of fermentation.
Ben has even stronger opinions on nitro in beer.
Nitro in beer is an abomination and a—bleeping—travesty. That’s what it—bleeping—is. An abomination, a sham, and a mockery. A—bleeping—travashamockery. It’s—bleep—! Nitrogen doesn’t —bleeping—belong in beer. I also don’t —bleep—in my beer. There’s a lot of things that don’t—bleeping—belong in beer. I don’t put—bleep—paintbrushes in my beer, and tell people, ‘Oh yeah, it sorta, you know, it just eliminates the carbonic acid and smooths things out.’ No! The carbonic acid is in there as a side effect of the—bleep—process of making—bleeping—beer! If you don’t want to drink beer, drink—bleeping—wine, like a little—bleep—. For—bleep’s—sake!—bleep—.
I don’t want—bleep—nitrogen in my—bleeping—beer! I want neither nitrogen, nor argon, nor xenon, nor neon, nor any single—bleeping—noble gas in my—bleep—beer, because yeast do not make them! They are not a part of beer. I also don’t put in—bleeping—Cool-Aid, antifreeze, motor oil…there are so many—bleeping—things that don’t belong in a—bleep—beer. Nitrogen is one of them. CO2 belongs in beer. At a certain point, oxygen belongs in beer. Alcohol, for—bleep——bleep—, belongs in beer. You don’t catch people boiling out the alcohol and putting in—bleeping—ether, ‘I don’t like alcohol, it ruins the flavor of the beer, and I just kind of like the brain-melting effect of ether.’ No! Because beer is—bleeping—beer. You don’t—bleep—with beer, you make better beer. You don’t sit there and be like, ‘I just kinda want it to taste a little bit more flaccid.’ No! And if you do say that, slap yourself upside the—bleeping—head, because you’re not a—bleeping—beer lover, and you can go—bleep——bleeping——bleep—.
Bleep count: 33
Ben does make the concession that he enjoys Guinness and Murphy’s on nitro, but adds that they’re still better without.
I love the way you guys are using your 250+ years of brewing experience to make new, old-school beers. Classic beer styles are usually my favorites. I’m really digging the porters and stout in the Brewers Project Pack, and feel that I’m finally experiencing Guinness as it’s meant to be stateside, which is really cool. Please keep these great beers coming.
Words by Meagan Wilson and Benjamin Wilson
Photos and images courtesy of Taylor Strategy
Guinness. “Coming to America: Guinness Dublin Porter and West Indies Porter Debut for the First Time.” News release, February 23, 2016. Accessed March 06, 2016.
Holl, John. “Good Beer Gas: Nitro Beers Explained.” CraftBeer.com. 2013. Accessed March 06, 2016.
Schultz, E.J. “Guinness Gets Crafty With New ‘Brewer’s Project‘” Advertising Age CMO Strategy RSS. July 27, 2015. Accessed March 06, 2016.
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