Is Guinness losing its punch?

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".
Reply to
Alexander D. Mitchell IV

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.
Reply to
Steve Jackson

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 much light?"
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.
Anyone else?
Reply to
Alexander D. Mitchell IV

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.
Reply to
Steve Jackson

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).
Reply to
Mike Roebuck

When I was a wee lad, we could place a length of rebar in the head and it would stand in place.
Reply to

Mike Roebuck wrote in news:
It's always been thin.
Now the yellow label...that's become crap in the US thanks to Labatt.
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 mikeshardlemonade...
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 enjoyable.
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.)
Reply to
Scott Kaczorowski

On 05 Jul 2005 13:55:33 EDT, Scott Kaczorowski wrote:
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 fonts.
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.
Reply to
Mike Roebuck

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 Guinness, 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 Export, but without the alcohol, about 5% abv I think. For some reason I always find it vile.
Reply to

Mike Roebuck wrote in news:
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 Guinness.
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, dumber, whateverer).
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...
Scott Kaczorowski Long Beach, CA
Reply to
Scott Kaczorowski

The website for the Beer Store here in Canada
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lists 3 versions of Guinness.
Guinness (Extra Stout) Brewer Labatt 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.
Guinness Draught Brewer Diageo 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 Brewer Diageo 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.
Reply to
Bruce Weaver

Around these parts there are a few bars that have Murphy's stout on tap. Mostly though if a bar has anything besides NAIL they'll have Guinness (and Samuel Adams Lager).
Reply to

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.
Reply to

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 experience.
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.
Reply to
Steve Jackson

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.
Peter Peter Alexander Chairman CAMRA Rochdale, Oldham and Bury Branch. My CAMRA connections are given for information only.
Reply to
Peter Alexander

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