Friday, 14 August 2009

Guinness 250 Showdown and a Bitten Bullet Birthday

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!

Prost!

17 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

Very interesting stuff. I figured there'd not be much between Extra Stout and 250, but that 250 would show some signs of someone thinking about it. However: I think they're so similar that a triangle test is called for.

Chris, when you're ready, do drop us over a bottle...

And happy blogday to The Bitten Bullet.

Mark said...

Happy Blogiversary!

Blind tastings are great because you can do it unaffected by name and reputation. I'm hoping to do a video blog soon where I'm literally blindfolded and my girlfriend brings me a beer to see how well I do at describing it without external factors such as looking at it!

Barry (Adeptus) said...

Crap, TBN, I could have done a triangle test actually. Hey, Chris, while you're at it...

Mark, you might need to go the full hog and involve handcuffs so you can't even touch it. You'd get a broader type of audience, but probably completely the wrong type! :D

Thanks for the B'day wishes.

knutalbert said...

Happy anniversary! I agree that it is strange that Guinness does not do something more daring once in a while. Their Brewhouse series was a wasted opportunity, too.

Barry (Adeptus) said...

Thanks, Knut.

The brewhouse series seemed to just fizzle out, and from what I tried, they were nothing special.

They have a history of embarking on something and just letting it die out. The St. James's Gate series in the late 90's was another one that vanished. Four beers (Pilsner Gold, Wicked Red Ale, Wildcat Wheat Beer and Dark Angel Lager) were launched to a limited set of pubs. This was followed by a big "Brewers tasting evening" in St. James's Gate where three more Beers (X, Y and Z) were tasted, while chatting to the brewers and listening to the Guinness Jazz band. And then... nothing...

My St. James's Gate glass has, sadly, since been broken...

Breo also disappeared, although that may not have been a great loss.

Tandleman said...

Happy Anniversary Barry. I don't think Guinness 250 is available in the UK either, or if it is, it's keeping a very low profile.

I have a bottle of FES, a bottle of Special Extra Stout (the Belgian one) and a bottle of Nigerian FES just waiting for the right moment to do a side by side tasting. Goodness knows when that'll be though.

The Beer Nut said...

Guinness 250 is US, Oz and Singapore only, I believe. Though I'm sure some enterprising importer will be able to grab some. They bring in enough shite lagers, so why not?

Barry (Adeptus) said...

Thanks Peter. TBN beat me to it, so yes, made for the "foreign" markets.

That sounds like a great threesome you've lined up there. I've never tried the Belgian or Nigerian versions, but have heard good things about them!

The Beer Nut said...

You've never had Special Export? Blimey! Just as well you're heading to the Low Countries soon, eh?

Barry (Adeptus) said...

I never thought of that...

That plan is progressing well. Seems my wife and son will travel to eastern Germany to visit family that week. So, will hopefully see you in Amsterdam!

Tandleman said...

BN - Quite bizarre that. Barry. Special Export is the dogs. You'll love it.

The Beer Nut said...

My theory is that it's too close to our Extra Stout to be worth bringing out over here. Similarly, there's no FES in North America (AFAIK) probably because it's too close to the Canadian-brewed 6% ABV Extra Stout.

I should stop trying to enter the mindset of Diageo, though. That's how they get you.

Now: who's for an Archer's Aqua?

Bailey said...

Congrats on your first year. I love these blind tasting posts, so more of these, please! Especially when you subject random Germans to the ordeal, too.

Barry (Adeptus) said...

Thanks, Bailey. I subjected a few to a terrible ordeal this afternoon, where I had to insist, quite forcefully, that they were in fact drinking beer :D More when I recover...

Bionic Laura said...

Congratulations on a year of the blog!

Those blind taste tests are a real eye opener.

John said...

Belated Happy Blogbirthday, Barry!

Thom said...

Another belated happy birthday here.

I'm not too fussed about trying the 250 celebration stout. The Brewhouse series was a disappointment and I don't expect much more from this one.