The Black Stuff
The first comment I usually get from everyone who has scanned the beer review list is almost always the same. “So, where’s the Guinness?” Fair question. I didn’t mean to ignore the stuff. Guinness is one of the beers everyone has had at one time or another. Some love it, some don’t. Some are afraid of it. But everyone has had it, knows it, has an opinion about it. I didn’t think my two cents would be required on the subject.
I love it. How can you really not? It would be hard to imagine Ireland without it, let alone the Irish. They started brewing at St. James’ Gate, Dublin in 1759. It took a few decades before they came up with what is now their signature beverage. The Guinness Draught we get today started out as a porter, actually, before evolving into the near perfect pint of stout. There’s no denying its popularity -- something like 2 billion pints are knocked back a day. If you walk into any self-respecting Irish pub (in Ireland or anywhere in the world) and simply ask for a pint, it is always understood that Guinness is what you’re asking for.
It’s supposed to take 119.5 seconds to pour your perfect pint. They take things that seriously at Guinness. You’ll see the bubbles defying physics as they tumble upwards and form the creamy head. The 42.8 degree beverage will be worth the wait. Don’t have that Extra-Cold stuff if they try to pawn that off on you. Though, that seems to be mainly found in England more so than the States for some unknown reason. In any case, have it at the proper temperature. The cold just needlessly kills some of the flavor. If you don’t want flavor, have water. Or Bud -- same thing.
Guinness does have a bit of flavor. It tastes like it smells -- like it looks even. Creamy and smooth, it starts sweet with the caramel malt. Then the roasted barley brings things to a nicely bitter finish. Very little carbonation, which is maintained even in the bottles and cans using those widgets. But, you already know what it tastes like. For a massed produced beer, it’s about as good and consistent as any.
It goes well with any meaty dish. Pour on the gravy and scoop up a mound of potatoes. Roasts and stews go with Guinness like a hand in a glove.
But people are definitely frightened of this beer more than of any other. Maybe it’s the color. It just looks scary. The reality is it’s not heavy. It has fewer calories than your watery Bud. It’s not strong at only 4.2% alcohol. It’s not overly flavorful. It’s not harsh. I think Americans have it early on in their lives and just decide it’s too...something. Too not Bud Light, I guess.
Maybe they’re getting those smaller bottles of Guinness Extra Stout and thinking that’s the stuff. It’s not. The extra stout has much more of an intense, richer flavor and is stronger. That’s the Guinness most of America is thinking they don’t like, presumably. It’s great to cook with, though. If you’re making chili or stew, throw some of that in instead of the water. It’s fine to drink as well if you like even more flavor than the regular Guinness.
Guinness Draught is what the authentic black stuff is called. It’s what they’ll pour you in a pub. It’s nothing to be afraid of. Try it in a half and half if you’re not ready for the full effect. Mixed with a Harp, it goes down even nicer for my money. Straight up, it’s possibly the best massed produced beer on the planet. Good balance, nice flavor. It’s not the big, dark and nasty beast of a beer too many make it out to be. If it was the only beer in the world, I’d still be a happy man.