Our gateway beer wasn’t Coors Light, or Budweiser, or Natty Light, or even <shiver> Milwaukee’s Best. Our gateway beer- beer that got both of us to accept that beer is a reasonable thing to drink- was Guinness.
It took a long time for me to get around to Guinness. My friends told me it was like drinking a whole meal, was dense, and was far too intense to have as a starter beer. Instead, I was plied with light American lagers, which, even then, I realized were unacceptable. It took my first trip to Ireland, where you drink Guinness or get looked at askance, to experience and enjoy it. Susan’s first experience with Guinness was as a completely alcohol-naive 19 year old on a college trip to Ireland. She found it enjoyable, but had no real basis for comparison. After these first Irish experiences, Guinness in America tasted funny to us both. Maybe it was the psychological component- it MUST taste better in its homeland, even though it’s the same beer.
Guinness is not near to a full meal. It is in fact low cal, at 125 calories- less than Budweiser or Coors. A stout, by definition, includes roasted barley, which provides a pleasant ‘burnt’ or ‘roasted’ flavour. Guinness has a characteristic tang on the finish, originally from mixing some of the previous batch with the next batch. Guinness is brewed in 50 locations around the world, although Guinness Draught enjoyed in the US is brewed in Ireland. Guinness in Australia is not.
Perched comfortably at the bar of the Grosvenor Hotel in Perth in 2004, I eyed my first pint of Guinness in Oz. It was black and had a perfect head on it. The bartender jauntily added an impression of a clover into the head. The Guinness website claims that experts have blind tasted Guinness from around the world and found it to be indistinguishable. Maybe that’s true. I expected Guinness in Oz to taste like Guinness back home. I was destined to be disappointed.
Guinness in Australia is brewed in Australia, purportedly using the same process and ingredients as that brewed in Ireland. We are here to tell you, it is not. The light acidity is absent, and there’s a flat, oxidized quality to it. The body is not as light in mouthfeel and the finish is more burnt. It all adds up to a disappointing pint of a beer for a beer which we both fondly recall as our gateway beer, and still have a keg of in our house for ‘regular’ beer enjoyment. Try it for yourself, and share your experiences with us!