BeerVisits - UK - Europe - USA/Canada - World

Brewery Visit - Europe

Part 5: The many faces of Guinness Stout

Wednesday 13th May 2015

Bob Thompson

Guinness5 1So we walk away from the No 4 brewery and the huge number of conical fermentation vessels that surround it, and make a short diversion into an unmarked building. I soon realise that this must be the laboratory complex. Here Eddie had laid on a real treat as he had gathered together a considerable number of the many different bottled beers that Guinness brew for home and domestic markets; it was quite an eye-opener.

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I will discuss them in the order of presentation. First up was Guinness Draught (4.0%), except it wasn’t draught. This had a very distinctive bottle shape, and was covered by an all over black label with the golden harp as its centrepiece. But what did it taste like?

Well, I liked it a lot and when Eddie told us that that it was nitrogenised rather than carbonated and also was of 40 IBU, I realised why I thought so much of it, hardly any CO2 and a very bitter aftertaste.

Guinness5 3Next we had the normal UK version, Guinness Extra Stout (4.1%) also known more recently as Original and is now branded as XX Extra Stout. The basic taste was fine but the carbonation spoilt it, to my mind the American export beer was much better. It is diluted from an original brew of 7-8% abv. We followed with a considerable number of Foreign Extra Stouts. It was utterly fascinating trying so many different versions!

We started with a bottle of Foreign Extra Stout (7.5%) as it is sold in the UK, Ireland and the USA. This is brewed in Dublin and harks back to the end of the nineteenth century when the standard stout sold would have been of this strength. I liked it a lot as it had an intense flavour with added bitterness. I understand it has a very small amount of beer that has previously matured added to it, giving it its rather special taste.

It is this beer that we should have judged the other Foreign Extra Stouts on, although that was not as easy as it sounds! It is brewed with Galena, Nugget and Target hops along with flaked barley, roasted barley and the main ingredient is Pale malt. It is more heavily hopped than the standard product and comes out at 47 IBU, which is very bitter.

Guinness5 4I guess this is time to mention extract. Guinness Flavour Extract (GFE) is brewed in Dublin and is a non-alcoholic wort that is hopped. It is then dehydrated down to form a syrup and sent to the country of consumption. There it is mixed with a pale ale base and becomes Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. This is the Foreign Extra Stout that is found outside of Europe and North America.

Guinness owns breweries in Africa and also Malaysia, where the Foreign Extra Stout is the main product, although other drinks suitable to local tastes are also made on them. Nigeria was the first, opening in 1962 followed by three others; the date of opening is shown in brackets. They are Malaysia (1965), Cameroun (1970) and Ghana (1971). These were later joined by Guinness owned breweries in Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania and Uganda. These breweries would not have been possible without the development of GFE.

Guinness5 5Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is incredibly popular in African countries and is brewed in nearly all of them. This is done by licensing local breweries and supplying them with the GFE.

No less than 39 countries have breweries that produce Guinness and the French-owned wine and beer Castel group brews it at their plants throughout the French-speaking African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo (DR), Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Mali. Over 4.5 million hectolitres of Foreign Extra Stout are brewed per annum.

Back to our tasting session, we now had a number of these beers to try. These had been returned to Dublin as control samples.

Guinness5 6Firstly there were several African samples from Gabon (7.5%), Ghana (7.5%), Congo (Zaire) (7.5%) Nigeria (7.5%), Seychelles (7.5%), South Africa (abv unknown) and Tanzania (6.5%). They more or less tasted the same with the exception of the South African version which was considerably sweeter.

We then had two that I believe are brewed in Dublin for Germany (4.1%), which I presume is the same as the UK version and secondly Belgium (8.0%), a fantastic version that was very hoppy; I loved this one. It was first ordered by the long-established John Martin company of Antwerp in 1912. They made their name also importing ales from Edinburgh. A “Scotch” is an established beer style in Belgium now and is often sold in a thistle-shaped glass.

Our final two tastings featured two new porters. Firstly I had Dublin Porter (3.9%) and I hadn’t expected much because of its low abv percentage. Well, I was wrong as it had a full taste with medium bitterness that belied its strength. The other, West Indies Porter (6.0%) was equally as good, having good bitterness, the typical Guinness roasted flavour and a slightly peppery finish.

Guinness5 7These two are part of “The Brewers Project” range that promotes different beers under the generic Guinness name. Although first brewed on the No 3 Brew House plant, these beers now all come from the No 4 Brew House. Eddie believed that they were available on draught in certain selected pubs. They arrived on the scene in September 2014. I have found Dublin Porter on draught in several pubs since this visit, especially in Waterford, but I am disappointed that is served with considerable CO2, rather than mixed gas.

In February 2015 Hop House No 13 (5.0%) was launched. This is promoted as a lager with more taste than the average example with the implication from its name that it is hoppier. Well I did try one and there was no discernible hop taste to it. It definitely had more flavour, but that was it. I have heard that it is a crossover lager / ale combination.

Should it be an ale made with lager malt and hops, which I think it is, then it is almost certainly brewed on the No 3 plant at the time of this visit and that would make sense, as I have read that this is being used as a pilot brewery for new brews. The biggest pilot brewery in the world!

Guinness5 8So, good luck to the young brewers that created it, but I hope they come up with something more to my personal taste in future. Yet, who am I to say that, I am not the drinker it is targeted at!

It obviously has an advertising budget and is heavily promoted in the Dublin area and seems to be available in more pubs than the Porters. Towards the end of 2015 the “Brewers Project” was increased in numbers when Golden Ale (4.5%) was added to the portfolio. It’s amber rather than golden and with little bitterness and a bit too malty to be a true golden ale. I have even seen this beer in the UK, in bottle and on draught (keg).

Now, another digression I’m afraid. When I got back home I wanted to try the new Dublin Porter and the West Indies Porter again so I bought a bottle of each in a local supermarket. When I got them home my wife Linda said that we had some old bottles of Guinness lurking in a cupboard, so we had an evening on Guinness (See photo of bottles below).

TGuinness5 9he first we tried was a Dublin-brewed Extra Stout (4.2%) in a 330 ml bottle which was about 18 years old. Being the one with the least alcoholic content of the five tasted, it was the one that had suffered most from age. Although drinkable it had a rather unpleasant aroma. Our next sample was a very unusual as it was Guinness Special Edition Stout (5.0%). Oddly, it was in a screw-topped 500 ml bottle. I would think that it was not bottled by Guinness, possibly contracted out. It was brewed as a winter beer for 1997/8 at Park Royal, London and I liked it as it tasted like an Extra Stout with more body. It was nice to remember the Park Royal brewery by tasting one of its beers ten years after it closed.

Then we moved on to Foreign Extra Stout (7.5%). This was in a 330 ml bottle and was brewed and bottled in Dublin for export and the label indicated that was bound for Madeira. I don’t know how I became in possession of it but I noticed that Madeira was incorrectly spelt so maybe it was sent to another market instead, because of that. It was fine but what I noticed with all of these beers was that they were a lot sweeter than I would have expected, possibly because of their age.

Guinness5 10The next was another Foreign Extra Stout (7.5%) brewed in Dublin, yet bottled somewhere else, possibly at Park Royal as it was labelled for the UK. It was similar, but a little less bitter than the Madeira version.

Finally we had Special Export Stout (8.0%) as imported into Belgium by John Martin. It wasn’t in a Guinness bottle so I guess it was bottled in Antwerp. This was the best, being the only one where the bitterness had lasted well. Finally we had the two new beers which were fine, being exactly as expected.

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The St James Gate brewery at Dublin is becoming more of an all-round plant than previously. In the past they relied on their breweries in Waterford, Kilkenny and Dundalk to produce foreign extract, ales and lager respectively.

I will look at the history of these breweries in more detail in Part 6 whilst they are still in recent memory. And in the final Part 7 I look at the present-day Guinness Storehouse and the company’s archives.

On the subject of beer tasting I would like to mention a subsequent innovation at Guinness. This is the opening of the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in December 2015. This is their experimental brewery and it is open on two nights a week. Please see a separate article under the Pub Visits section of

Part 5 of 7