A few weeks ago, Chris and Merideth from thebeergeek.com kindly gave me a bottle of Guinness 250, a beer celebrating 250 years of Uncle Arthur. A beer that is apparently not even available in Ireland, which it kind of odd dontcha think? As I celebrate an anniversary of sorts here on The Bitten Bullet (how a year flies!) I thought I'd break out the 250, and compare it to the regular Guinness Extra Stout, blind. Oh, and throw a bottle of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (the one from St. James's Gate) in there too, just because I wanted one. A virtual trip back to the old sod, if you like.
My loving wife set up the glasses while I sat in the isolation booth. She normally locks me in there of an evening anyway, so nothing new there. So, let's call them A, B and C.
Beer A had a dense, creamy, tan head. Held to the light is showed it was a clear, reddish brown, with ruby highlights. There wasn't much aroma really, but what there was brought faint chocolate, and a touch of dark-fruit-jamminess. Up front, the flavour delivered a mildly roasted flavour, and a slightly detergent-like note in the mid-ground. The primary driver is a sweet, roasty flavour, and a slight touch of acidity, like apples or blackcurrants. The finish is dry, with burnt bread crust undertones. To be honest, I found it hard to pick out defining flavours, as overall it felt a little thin, while being easy to knock back. Unchallenging might be the word.
Beer B had a loose, rocky head verging towards light brown. It was opaque, showing a trace of oaky brown around the edges. The aroma was of toffee, dark cherries and chocolate goodness in spades. Sweet, with a suggestion of alcohol. Ok, we know what this is... To be honest, I parked it immediately to go on to Beer C, but I returned later. It's been a while since I had one. Held in the mouth, it's soft ad sweet. But once you swallow, well, I just love that combination of sweet, juicy, roasted malts with an ever-so-slight touch of lactic sourness that scrubs palate leaving it exposed to a long, slightly tingly, bitter chocolate finish. What a lovely beer. It's hard to imagine it coming from the same stable that has for so long dominated the Irish beer world, but I digress...
Beer C had practically no head, but rather maintained the merest suggestion of one with a thin scum fed by a constant supply of bubbles. Can you tell I'm writing this while finishing the FES? The aroma was really hard to detect, giving off only thin malty suggestions and perhaps a whiff of hops. But this made the flavour even more surprising. Quite different to Beer A, this was sweeter, rounder. Soft fudge with a good dose of vanilla. Quite malty, with a splash of fruity flavours in the midground. Strawberries came to mind. There's a slight touch of sourness at the back of the tongue, in a sour fruity way. But just a touch, mind! It's fleeting and is replaced quickly by a soft chocolate coating. There's a lingering, sweet, gentle roastiness to the finish. Really rather nice, but as unchallenging as Beer A. I guess I preferred it though, as it felt fuller bodied and had a pleasant summer fruitiness to it.
So, it was clear from the beginning that Beer B was the Foreign Extra Stout, so I had to decide between A and C. I really wanted C to be the regular Extra Stout, as I enjoyed it more, and it's something I can even get in Germany (well, where can you not get Guinness Extra Stout). But I knew in my bones that the comparatively disappointing Beer A was in fact Guinness Extra Stout, and Beer C was the Guinness 250. I was right...
Guinness 250 is a nice enough beer. I can't help but compare it to the O'Hara's and Porterhouse Celebration Stouts, each of which marked the mere 10th anniversary of the Carlow and Porterhouse breweries. These were strong, meaty brews that made you think about what you were drinking. True celebrations of the brewer's arts. Guinness has been such an institution, for so long, in Ireland that you would think it would really roll out the barrel after 250 years of existence. While I enjoyed it, I can't help wishing they had really gone for a proper celebration. Foreign Extra Stout is perhaps a more fitting commemoration of 250 years of the Guinness brand. Even so, they could have included Ireland, the birthing pool of the black behemoth, in the so-called celebration!
As it happens, this is my own little celebration of the 1st birthday of The Bitten Bullet. I started this last year as a way to keep myself occupied, and to stop spamming IrishCraftBrewer.com with the beers I was trying since moving to Germany. Since then I've totted up a few new beers and have tried to be fair in describing them, and maybe sharing a little of my general experiences here. I'm not really sure what direction the blog is going in, but I've enjoyed exploring new tastes, and having fun with my colleagues along the way. Actually, I'm thinking the German beer drinker is a lot more open to new beer tastes than I previously thought, but it could be that I have ended up drinking with the adventurous ones.
So, I'll continue tottering along, but if you, the reader, have any requests, let me know. Even if it is to stop!