On International Stout Day, I found myself near Staples Center at a party thrown by Guinness to celebrate the release of their new Guinness 200th Anniversary Ale.
Was there nitro ice cream? Yes.
Was there coffee infused Guinness? Yes.
Was Guinness Blonde available or the Nitro IPA? The former for some unknown reason considering that it sure wasn’t Blonde Ale day.
The verdict on the new beer: It is a nice companion piece to the draught and Foreign Export (which I also tried) but it wasn’t strikingly different like the Antwerpen Stout is. Don’t let that nitpickery make you think that I didn’t like because I did. But it is almost less a variant and more of a slight tweak. I did hear that a barrel-aged version might be coming from the Maryland office. That really intrigues me.
The humble Milk Stout is not one of those beer styles that people decide that they are going to mass produce, it might get trotted out as a seasonal or get imperialized for an anniversary ale, so to see Guinness bring one out as part of their extension (and in cans no less) is heartening to see.
Has it been that long? Not that I was here for all of it but if Guinness says they have been sending us their fine Irish stout for 200 years, then I will believe them. It would have been cool to see the Toucans flying above other American landmarks like the Grand Canyon or the Space Needle, or even the Hollywood Sign, dare I say.
I don’t know how drastically different this beer will be from the other iterations of Guinness and Guinness Export Stout but I gotta say that the label is quite classy. I first have to get ahold of the wheat beer and then look for this one.
Apparently, the East Coast of the U.S. is where it’s at for brewery locations but this time, it is not a brewery from the west that is breaking ground but instead stoic (with hints of change) Guinness that is planting a “Coming Soon” flag.
The oddly named Relay, Maryland will be the site for a U.S. version of Dublin’s popular Guinness Open Gate Brewery, it will be a mid-sized brewery and visitor experience. Just without the huge facility and without any stout which will not be brewed stateside. The Maryland “facility will brew and feature beers created solely for the American market.”
I did not know this but it is a return to the U.S. for Guinness after 63 years.
St. James Gate has a pair of new beers in the pipeline from their Brewers Project & Open Gate Brewery. I was invited to their latest SoCal Guinness event, this one at the Holding Co. up an alley off of Beverly to sample Antwerpen Stout & Rye Pale Ale. When last we heard from the Irish brewery, they had released the West Indies Porter and Dublin Porter. Two recipes from the vaults that were variants on what Guinness is known for, dark malty beers. This time (in what I think is a better move), they have released a lighter beer alongside a porter.
The Rye Pale Ale pours a slightly hazy amber color. At first, I thought there was not much hopping to it. Then I recalibrated my out of balance hop palate and found that this beer has a good spritz to it with a smallish hit of hops and rye spice. The taste does stick. And as I drank more, I enjoyed it more. It is an upgrade from the Nitro IPA in that the name is more in line and it has a story behind it as well. The RPA being a brew that was a Christmas gift beer for friends and family before ever going on tap. Once it did go on tap, it sold and became a candidate for packaging.
Antwerpen Stout to me is all licorice. This beer also has a story as it was first brewed after World War II for the City of Antwerp market. It is also much bigger at 8% and quite chewy to me. When chocolates and truffles were passed around you could see people making sure they had the beer to pair the chocolate with.
I also got to speak with Owen the West Coast Brand Ambassador for Guinness about what is new and I learned a couple of cool things. They have now opened a tasting room for the R&R Open Gate Brewery. But it is only (currently) open on Thursday and Friday and by online reservation only. They let only 120 people in and that is it. No lines allowed. Plan ahead if you want to visit. And you might want to because they are not just a porter/stout brewery. No matter your feeling of Nitro IPA or their Blonde American Lager (that is brewed at the old Rolling Rock facility in Pennsylvania), they are trying to be seen as a full brewery that isn’t limited to one style. Case in point, they recently had a plum sour on tap.
Considering that Guinness is part of a massive corporation with a long history behind it, and a signature ale that at times blocks out the rest of their line, it is good to see that new stuff is bubbling out from Dublin. The last four beers that have come out have been much better and not trying to bandwagon or ape popular styles which is a plus.
The Brewers Project an offshoot of the main Guinness brewery as sent the Irish in America (and any other beer drinker) a pair of porters with stylized labels modeled after the original old-timey-wimey bottle designs.
# 1 Dublin Porter – Originally created in 1796 during a time when porters were all the rage in London, Guinness brewed up its own Irish version of the style at St. James’s Gate and shipped to England. While the porter originated in London, the Guinness brewer’s Irish take on the style proved quite popular with its earthy and lively flavor. Today, the Dublin Porter delivers a sweet, smooth beer with dark caramel and hoppy aroma notes with a burnt biscuit finish for a beer reminiscent of a different time — when after a hard day’s work, you’d visit your local haunt for a porter, the “working man’s beer,” and Guinness would have been the respected choice. (3.8% Alc/Vol)
# 2 West Indies Porter – Constantly pushing the envelope to showcase what its brewers could do, Guinness sought to create a porter that could maintain its quality taste and freshness aboard West Indies-bound ships across the ocean for more than a month. In 1801, the brewers at Guinness rose to the challenge, developing a beer with higher hops and more gravity that didn’t just survive the journey, but offered a unique new beer. Based on the original recipe, today’s porter remains an immensely flavorful beer, with generous hops and notes of caramel-toffee giving it a sweet, almost chocolate aroma. In fact, this beer was a precursor to Guinness™ Foreign Extra Stout enjoyed all over the world today. (6% Alc/Vol)
Those are the descriptions from the brewery but who wins the taste test for me?
The Dublin Porter is quite light. It has a creamy, sweet milkshake quality to it. It is smooth with caramel notes. They would really have to amp the hops for me to taste them. What Dublin thinks is hoppy is not to someone in California. There is an Oyster stout mineral note tucked in this beer as well. It is nicely complex and is a beer for a spring with clouds.
The stronger West Indies Porter could be mistaken for the regular Guinness stout. It has more meat on the bones, as it were, with notes of smoke and chocolate and savory salt notes to it. The aroma is very biscuity to the point of toast. It is deceptive in that it tastes rather light despite the higher ABV.
In the end, I would take the heartier West Indies Version. It dispenses with the sweetness and heads straight to thicker and more mineral tasting. No mucking about.