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Guinness: 250 Not Out, part II

by Roger Protz, 08/09

"If he can say as you can
Guinness is good for you,
How good to be a Toucan:
Just think what Toucan do".

The image is being used again to celebrate 250 years of brewing but there will be no suggestion that drinking stout may improve your health or sex life.

Guinness remains a beer giant. Following a few difficult decades in Ireland, with younger drinkers switching allegiance to lager, it's in the ascendancy again, with sales rising by between two and three per cent a year. Guinness accounts for 60 per cent of all the draught beer sold in Ireland. Britain remains the biggest market - the Brits drink more Irish stout per head than any other country - followed by Ireland, Nigeria, the United States, Cameroon, Canada, Ghana and Indonesia.


Three million pints of Guinness are drunk every day throughout the world. It's on sale in 150 countries and brewed in 49. While Australasia, Britain, Ireland, Maylasia and North America drink Draught Guinness, most of the world consumes bottled versions, all based on the legendary FES - Foreign Extra Stout, which accounts for 40 per cent of international sales.

The driving force of Guinness world-wide is the vast brewhouse in Dublin. It's so vital to the enterprise that it has its own electricity generating station in case the city is hit by blackouts. It can handle 12 brews a day in busy periods, based on a system of mash tuns, lauter or filtering vessels, and brew kettles for the boil with hops. Fermentation is in giant conical vessels. 20,000 tonnes of malt are used for each batch of beer, with 10 per cent of the recipe made up of roasted barley. All the grain is home-grown and does miracles for Irish agriculture.


Hops are sourced from the Czech Republic, England, New Zealand and the U.S. The main varieties used are Galena, Nugget and Target. "Brewing liquor" - water - comes from the Wicklow Mountains and reaches Dublin via the delightfully named rivers Dodder and Poddle: telescope the names and you could say brewing Guinness is a Doddle.

In fact, brewing is remarkably fast. The single-strain yeast culture creates stout within 60 hours but the beer then enjoys five days secondary fermentation before bottling or kegging. Amid all the new tech equipment, there is a palpable link to the porters and stouts of the 18th and 19th centuries: all the versions of stout are blended with a portion of aged beer that has been matured for several months to give the characteristic aroma and flavour.

The most fascinating product is FES. The 7.5 per cent beer - 8 per cent in Belgium - is turned into what is called "essence" in Dublin.

It's a dehydrated version of the beer, similar to home-brewer's malt extract. It's transported to African countries, where it's difficult to make black stout due to the absence of barley, and blended with a pale beer made from sorghum or other local grain.

The abiding strength of Guinness will be celebrated this summer and autumn. There will be musical events in many countries, principally in the Dublin Storehouse and the U.S. There will be gigs in London, too. A portion of the sales of beer and profits from the events will go to the Arthur Guinness Fund, which aids communities throughout the world.

And on 24 September, the birthday of the founder of a brewing colossus, we will all be asked to raise a glass "to Arthur". SlÓnte!

*Plans to move to a new greenfield site outside Dublin have been put on hold by Diageo. If the new site does go ahead, all stout for Ireland and Britain will continue to be brewed at St James's Gate.

The beers

All versions of Guinness are brewed with pale malt, flaked barley and roasted barley: proportions may vary from beer to beer. Hops are Galena, Nugget and Target.

Draught Guinness (4.2%) Chocolate, coffee and burnt grain on the nose, with smooth, creamy malt, roast, hop resins and burnt fruit in the mouth. Coffee and dark chocolate notes in the finish are balanced by tart fruit, roast and gently bitter hops.

Extra Stout (bottle: 4.2%) A big fruity/blackcurrant aroma with roasted grain, hops resins and chocolate. Bitter hops dominate the mouth with roasted grain and burnt fruit. The finish is bitter with hops, roast and chocolate.

Foreign Extra Stout (7.5%) Flaked barley and roasted barley make up 25% and 10% respectively of the grist. The beer has 60 units of bitterness. This world classic has the slightly sour and musty nose that brewers call "horse blanket" and which comes from the large proportion of aged beer used in the blend. The bouquet is highly complex, with bitter roasted grain, a woody and vinous note and spicy hop resins. The palate is bitter from roast and hops, balanced by dark fruit, with a long, dry and bitter finish with powerful hints of liquorice and dark mysterious fruits, including something akin to sour bananas.

Guinness 250 (4.2%) This beer has been brewed only for the American market: badger the company to release it in Britain. It has a hoppy/resinous nose, with big roasted grain and chocolate in the mouth with a good balance of bitter hops. The finish is smooth, creamy and fruity with good notes of hops and chocolate.

The Storehouse

The visitor centre was opened in 2000 and cost 38 million euro. It's now Ireland's biggest tourist attraction, with one million visitors a year. It traces the history of brewing in Dublin with many old photos and films, including one of coopers at work making wooden casks. There are samples of barley, grain, hops and water to taste and many old fascinating brewing artefacts. There are several restaurants and the bar at the top of the building serves a free glass of stout to every visitor as well as offering fine views of Dublin.

Guinness Storehouse,
Market Street,
St James's Gate,
Dublin 8.
Open 7 days weeks, 9.30-5; 7pm July-August. Closed Xmas Day, Boxing Day and Good Friday.
For further details: 00353 1 408 4800 / guinness-storehouse@guinness.com

Go to Part I - The beginnings of Guinness


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