Okay, folks, I'm not trying to start a flame war here, but I gotta ask:
Is Guinness being "watered down" of late in the American market?
Background: I spent 10 years drinking Guinnesses and "arf-&-arfs" in the
Irish pubs of Baltimore while cultivating a lust for Celtic music (most of
my love went to contemporary Scots folk fusion, but I digress....). I gave
up that scene in large part about the time Diageo took over Guinness (it had
more to do with forswearing allegiance to real ale, but again I digress...)
At a recent beer geeks' meeting, someone made the accusation that "Guinness
has been watering down their draft stout........"
We went and ordered a pitcher. (A reliable beer bar.)
I'm inclined to agree. If this is the Guinness that fueled many a session
of mine, it's like waking up to find you slept with a female version of Moe
Syzlask, the bartender in "The Simpsons".
Which Guinness? The extra stout (the non-pub-draft bottles) has been
bastardized for a couple years now, ever since they shifted the brewing of
it for the American market to Labatt.
The regular draught? I havne't had it recently, but Guinness has just never
been that strong or robust a beer to me to begin with. It's always been a
low body, small beer that simply has a notable roasty component to it. It's
quite possible that they're mucking with the recipe, but I'm skeptical since
it still comes from St James Gate. In the vast majority of the cases I've
seen where people as if Beer X has changed (and always for the worse), the
issue is palate evolution, not recipe modification. Guinness draught never
has been a big beer, and maybe increased consumption of bigger beers is
bringing that fact into sharper relief.
We're talking about the draft. Not the "draft cans", coming out of a
regular nitro tap.
I snuck a sample blind into a recent tasting among a couple
Irish-fiddle-playing Guinness worshippers that also know great beer, in a
flight that included a couple homebrewed "mystery" beers (seemingly mostly
Scottish ales), and the others declared it to be a "weakened porter, not
even trying hard enough". Their jaws crashed when I told them what I had
done. And the tap was in a very reputable beer bar. We were reduced to
shining flashlights through our glasses--"are we supposed to be seeing THAT
I'm not asking about the alcoholic strength. I've always known Guinness was
basically a black "session beer," lighter than the average North American
industrial lager, practically a dark mild with lots of roast. I'm
commenting on the body and the mouthfeel. The last sample I had, in a new
pub in town run by a veteran bartender formerly from several of the top beer
bars in the area, was, in my notes, "as if someone had chilled down my pint
with an ice cube".
I'm willing to also acknowledge the prospect that some of my taste buds have
been killed off by a decade or more of imperial stouts/IPAs, barleywines,
meads, etc. But as comparison, I went and sampled other "standards" of my
tasting lexicon, including Wild Goose Oatmeal Stout and Fordham Blue Point
Oyster Stout (both still quite up to snuff) and am seeking out a couple
other standard-bearers (Harviestoun Old Engine Oil, Samuel Smith Oatmeal
Stout, Beamish, etc.) to contrast notes from years ago. So far, my evidence
is that Guinness has, to put it bluntly, become a dud.
And I'm not talking about alcoholic strength. I'm talking about body,
mouthfeel, the "size" of the beer, irrespective of alcohol.
So was I. I've never found it to have a lot of either. It's always been a
light-bodied beer. The nitro dispense and overall character have given it a
bit of a silky mouthfeel that I think the roast character helps contribute
to. But it's never been a very robust beer in terms of body, in my opinion.
And it may very well have. As (I think) I mentioned, I really haven't drunk
Guinness enough lately to note. But I've always found that the beer's
reputation and people's impressions of it outpace the reality. Which is why
I'm skeptical of claims of thinning it out.
I've heard a rumour that they are brewing Guinness in some countries
from shipped concentrate, a la Coca Cola.
It's definitely not as good as it was twenty years or so ago, even in
Ireland (I can remember when you could stick a matchstick in the head
and it would stand upright - those days are long past).
I only ever drink it in Ireland these days, and only then when I can't
get anything better (i.e. when I'm not in Dublin or Cork).
Mike Roebuck wrote in
It's always been thin.
Now the yellow label...that's become crap in the US thanks to
I suppose one could go to one of the thousands of Guinness fan
sites and track the OG/malt bill, but the current incarnation
matches my memory of it. Guinness is about as close to a Mild
as can be had reliably in the US and I think Guinness has simply
been eclipsed. They haven't become a dud, they have weathered
change poorly. Guinness has become somewhat...trite. Ready-to-
serves...I can't believe how many people drink
I think a big part of the "problem" is that Guinness is being
served colder all the time (at the direction of the brewery, not
the distibutors as I understand it).
Also, people seem to think that it is a big beer. Try telling
those next to you that Guinness has similar abv to Coors Light
and they will invariably take it as personal criticism.
FWIW, I still find a properly made pint of Guinness to be very
I heard that they pay local hookers to jump into the cooled wort
prior to pitching to add a bit more can't-quite-put-my-finger-
on-it character. I also heard that Jim Koch is really a woman
and Mike McMenamin likes the Grateful Dead.
What else have you heard?
You mentioned evidence previously. What is your evidence?
Recipe change? Mash schedule? Or fond memories? Hell, I have
fond memories of Erlanger and Moosehead... If the trend in the
US is Bigger is Better (How else can anyone explain the godawful
Stone Bastards?), then why would Guinness go the other way?
You can't do that today? I'll bet I can.
I've been drinking draught Guinness in the US for 20 years.
Unlike Steev, I still drink it. I've noted two changes: It is
now served very cold in many bars and many places don't know how
to serve it ("Don't you love that tornado in the glass?" Uh,
no. I'd rather you did it right.)
On 05 Jul 2005 13:55:33 EDT, Scott Kaczorowski
Do you get two versions of the draught in the US?
Here in the UK we get standard (cold) and extra-cold, on two separate
Define properly-made. The only place I will drink it is in Ireland,
and only then when I can't get Porterhouse or MacGuires stouts, which
are far superior beers. If you haven't been to one, Porterhouse have a
sign in their pubs which lists "what we put in ours" (water, malt,
hops and yeast), and "what they put in theirs" (a longer list of
additives and adjuncts, besides the normal ingredients). They don't
name Guinness on the poster, of course.They don't have to.
I don't recall who told me this, but I will do some double-checking.
I keep hearing that American beer is rubbish, but I know it's not true
Oh, definitely fond memories. I suspect the recipe change too, but
have no inside proof.
Ease of production, cost cutting, increasing profits.......
I'd like to see you do it. I can't any more.
I started drinking it in the UK when it was available in bottles, and
it was bottle-conditioned. That was over 30 years ago. I've since
drunk it all over Europe, in the US and in Canada too. I may have
drunk it in Australia. I stopped drinking it it a few years ago
because it's become mass-marketed rubbish, and because I can get much,
much better beers here now.
I agree that there is an accepted method of serving it, and that a lot
of bars don't comply. If you drink it in a fake Irish theme pub in
Europe, however, it will be served properly, because the Guinness rep
makes sure the staff are trained (and that's because most of these
pubs are at least part-financed by Guinness anyway).
Guinness these days is about money, not beer.
And they don't get much of mine.
Not that I can tell.
I was in Dublin about a year ago, and the draft Guinness there
is tastes just like the "draft" Guinness you get here in the 16 oz
nitro cans. Albeit maybe fresher tasting. I did notice the
head is a bit more creamier and thinker when it comes out of the draft.
Its either 4.3% ABV, I think ... I can't recall exactly
now off the top of my head.
Now when I was in Belize six month ago, you could get Foreign Export
which was a different beastie altogether, being about 8% ABV.
Then here in California, they sell a "Export Guinness" in bottles,
which I really dislike ... it has the character a lot like the Foreign
but without the alcohol, about 5% abv I think. For some reason
I always find it vile.
Mike Roebuck wrote in
Never heard of such a thing. We don't do that here, at least not that
I'm aware of ("yet", I suppose). Last I was in England was about two
years ago and I don't remember seeing this sort of setup there,
either. 'Course...I wasn't looking for Guinness.
Properly poured/prepared/served. I'm skeptical that the beer itself
has changed significantly.
I assume you mean the Plain:
"A classic modern light stout with the added complexity of a late
kettle hop. Aromatic character. Rich roast, dry, clean and bitter
without any sourness."
"Modern light stout." Heh! Obviously meant to compete directly with
Or they're afraid to.
I looked all over the web for info on this and I couldn't find
anything. I know (?) Guinness uses finings....but adjuncts? If
roasted (unmalted) barley qualifies, then most Stouts are guilty,
including the Plain. I'm very curious as to what might be on that
list. Head stabilizers, ???
Please do. I'm curious.
It's mostly true.
That's the thing, idn't? I've been drinking Guinness here in the
States for 20 years, and I am not struck by huge differences in
Guinness Remembered and Guinness in the Here and Now.
Point taken. 0.025cent per unit saved is $1m earned.
But Guinness doesn't have any real competition here other than maybe
Beamish. Guinness is often the only "dark beer" in a mediocre multi-
tap. If one were to find another Stout on draught (uncommon in my
experience), it would most likely be bigger/sweeter/local. A common
misconception is that Guinness is a big, heavy, alcoholic beer. Maybe
Draught Guinness should be more like the Export...I think that would
be a shame, but I just don't see them going the other way (lighter,
Well. Hell. I guess I'll have to try it. Wood matchstick, no?
Is it the marketing that makes it rubbish to you?
Another good point. We have the same "problem." Beers like Guinness
are sure to suffer a bit.
I hear you. I can think of dozens of breweries that aren't in it for
the money. Oh, wait, no I can't...
Long Beach, CA
lists 3 versions of Guinness.
Guinness (Extra Stout)
Alcohol Content 5%
Type of Beer Stout
All the goodness of Guinness. A dark, full flavoured rich stout beer.
Brewed under license from Guinness of Ireland.
Alcohol Content 4.1
Type of Beer Stout
The brand is brewed at St. James Gate in Dublin. Made from hops, malt,
yeast and water, the roasting of the Irish barley gives it the
distinctive ruby tint while the yeast assists in firming the creamy head.
Guinness Draught in a Bottle
Alcohol Content 4.2
Type of Beer Stout
Guinness Draught In a Bottle is a smooth, full bodied and creamy beer.
Despite it's body, it is a rather mild and easy drinking beer.
I think the whole thought of Guinness being better at it's source
(i.e., Dublin) is hogwash. I've been to Dublin more than a handful of
times. I can take you to a few Irish owned pubs in Philly that pour
just as good of a pint there than at the Gravity bar.
Going back to Porterhouse and Mssrs. Macguire's in Dublin, both brew
IMHO, the best plain porters for the money. Talk about fresh! The few
Irish-style stouts I've tasted here in the Philly area at brewpubs have
out and out sucked the big shillelagh.
As a Irish travel consultant, I recommend to everyone to stop off for a
pint (and lunch) at either brewpub in Dublin and then go to St James's
Gate. All have come back to thank me.
You've gone from Guinness to the wonderous world of Impy stouts, barley
wines and I'm sure Belgians. An old Irish says goes like this, you can
always go home, you just can't stay.
I've seen it a fair amount over there. Tends to show up in the sorts of
places where a lot of lager (and I don't mean good German stuff) would get
consumed. And a lot of Weatherspoon's pubs. Serving Guinness extra cold
kills off what little flavor it already has.
And it's fabulously good. As are all of Porterhouse's beers, in my
Maybe it ends up being a bit of a regional thing, but I've lived in areas
where Murphy's is arguably more popular than Beamish. They're all pretty
damn similar, though, as to be nearly interchangeable.
As are any of the beers that wowed us once upon a time, especially back in
the days where we were discovering the vast new world of flavorful beers.
There are beers that underwhelm me in ways now, but I realize it's because
my tastes have been exposed to more, and often bigger, things and they've
evolved. That doesn't mean every last beer I drank a dozen years ago has
been "dumbed down," which is a common mistake I see people make when
wondering if a beer has changed.
In purely turnover terms it isn't hogwash. Guinness in Ireland tends
to taste better for two main reasons IMO. Reason one is that they sell
a lot of it so, it is fresher in the sense that it isn't old. It is
still heavily and clumsily pasteurised though. Reason two is the good
atmosphere tends to cloud judgement a little. When people say they had
a great pint of Guinness they may well be including things in their
assessment that are nothing to do with the beer.
Not sure about Maguires but Porterhouse don't pasteurise their beers
and don't include a lot of shitey adjuncts. Their recipes are better
too. Simply better beer all round.
Chairman CAMRA Rochdale, Oldham and Bury Branch. My CAMRA connections are given
for information only.