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“Respect the beer and drink like a brewer.” – Domhnall, Guinness Ambassador
By Meagan Wilson and Ben Wilson
Photos by Ben Wilson
It’s two days past Saint Patrick’s Day, and you might be thinking you’ve had your fill of Guinness for a while. Not like this, you haven’t.
The Guinness Brewers Project are at it again. They’ve got a new beer, this one a wheat ale brewed with 100% Irish wheat. No mixed-heritage wheat here! But seriously, the southern and central areas of Ireland are apparently good for growing wheat, and I can attest that said wheat is good for drinking.
Disclaimer: I received this beer for the purpose of reviewing it. This post is neither funded nor endorsed by Guinness or anyone else.
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Now that’s out of the way, back to the beer!
The first couple of times the Guinness folks sent me a new brew to try, it was after they’d had a big release party. To the best of my knowledge, there’s not so much of that going on. Instead, they’re rolling out this beauty “as spring begins” and expect it to be a great choice for spring and summer enjoyment.
Update: the U.S. launch party for Irish Wheat was on Thursday, March 30, 2017.
We didn’t precisely pair this guy with a meal. Before conducting our tasting, we went with a pre-Saint Patrick’s Day dinner of Sockeye salmon, mashed potatoes and a Guinness reduction. As you might imagine that went down well with Guinness Draught.
Now for the tasting notes
(Ben) Guinness Irish Wheat pours a cloudy honey with a sedate, 1 – 2 finger, white head. The nose is pepper, banana, citrus,and strawberry with hints of wheat-y caramel, like a honey whole-wheat bread. The head quickly subsides to long-lasting ring. The first sip is peppery and fruity, with a tangy flavor reminiscent of a proper hefeweizen with some bubblegum and apple esters; there’s the rub. Exchange some of the banana and clove for some more across-the-channel fruity esters, increase the dryness of the wheat, soften the palate and you’re close. Full mouthfeel, hints of tart and straw round it out.
This is not an amateur maker’s beer. You can taste the expertise. Likewise, this isn’t watered-down horse piss. Sessionable at 5.3%, flavorful, single-origin and authentic. And on the back end, those pepper and cloves finally show up. Better late than never. I’ll love to see how this pairs with tacos pescados.
(Meagan) Who knew that Guinness yeast would work so well for a wheat beer? Yeah, for real. Those Brewers Project folks at Open Gate (the experimental brewery at St. James Gate) brewed this with the same yeast that’s in regular ‘ol Guinness. The malt is Irish Wheat and Stout Malt. You don’t taste them much, except in the clean, dry, back end, but the hops are Mount Hood and Amarillo.
I would describe this as an Irish-American wheat, but that would give you the wrong idea. This is no American wheat (cough, Shock Top, cough). It’s much closer to a very good German or Belgian hefe or wit, but dryer and crisper. And there’s none of the overly-sweet, under-attenuated nonsense I’ve come to associate with many American craft attempts at wheat beer. The finish leaves a faint, pleasant tingle on the middle of my tongue, along with lingering notes of citrus zest and pepper. Though it’s not the saison at all, this is more reminiscent of a Saison Dupont than an American wheat beer.
Bits and bobs
I had the pleasure of speaking with a Guinness ambassador, name of Domhnall, whose brogue was as legit as his name. Beer always has a story, and I wanted to know what was up with this particular product of the Brewers Project, which is a team of “essentially international brewers.” It seems the group includes three brewers from Germany. Many traditional German biers are lagered. This, of course, is an ale. They mash in at about 55 degrees C, and ferment at ale temps, rather than (colder) lager temperatures. According to Domhnall, the yeast is actually given to phenolics, so it works quite well for making a wheat beer. My nose and taste buds agree.
As it turns out, 2017 is a bit of a special year for Guinness. It’s been 200 years (this October) since Guinness first exported to the U.S. This year, for the week leading up to Saint Patrick’s Day, they ran a social media campaign to support the Guinness Gives Back fund, with the tag #StacheForCharity. Each selfie using the tag raised $1 for the charity(s) of Guinness’ choice. Just now, I don’t know how much they raised this time. Previous recipients of donations from the Guinness Gives Back fund include the Leary Firefighters Foundation and Packages From Home.
In case you were wondering, Guinness Irish Wheat is not a limited release like some of the other Brewers Project beers we’ve reviewed. They “see it sticking around in the U.S. market.” This tasty libation really is a great choice for spring and summer, so keep a lookout for it as the weather warms up. As Ben put it at Land Legs, “Just drink some, for fuck’s sake. If you’re a beer drinker, you want to drink it, and if you’re not a beer drinker, you’re wrong.”