Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout

Several years ago, a few of my fellow bloggers and I were in a small hole-in-the-wall type bar in Schenectady (I think it was Uncle Ben’s? Although it might have been the Saw Mill. No, it was Uncle Ben’s.) As expected, the beer selection available was limited at best. Everyone around me ordered a Genny Cream Ale.

But not me.

I went for a Guinness. That night I was roundly mocked for choosing the world’s most overrated beer instead of that which sprung from my bucolic Rochester origins.

But I still maintain that though Guinness is most certainly not the greatest beer in the world — a claim that many people who have tried six beers in their lives still make — it is a good beer. Close to a very good beer.

What is so great about it? Several things actually.

First there is the look. Sheets of cascading blah blah with a foamy head of blah blah. I’m not going to say anything that hasn’t already been said.

But it does have a nice smoky, nutty aroma, with a roasted smoked porter-like taste. Is it the greatest? No. But it has its rightful place. And when you are staring at Heineken and Amstel Light everywhere, tell me that the rough edges of a dry stout don’t call your name.

Guinness, the venerable brewery that they are, have recently released their 250th Anniversary Stout, which their website touts as “the first new Guinness® stout we’ve introduced to the US since we first started importing Guinness® Draught in 1967.”

Every beer, of course, should be judged on its own merits, but I found it hard to separate this Guinness from the one we all know and love. It is a totally different beer, but how does it stack up?

First, the look is not the same as the Guinness you know. There is no fancy pour-pause-pour technique necessary here. And try as you might, you won’t be able to carve a shamrock into the head. What you have here is a bubbly, root beer-like head, not the shaving cream you might be used to. It still looks like a very good porter, with a darkish red-brown color. But it doesn’t have the cache that “classic” Guinness has.

The aroma of the Two-Fiddy doesn’t have the nutty charms of the original either. It’s got a malty aroma, with hints of coffee … but weak coffee. It has the faintest trace of cigarette ashes. A hint of cocoa, but only a hint.

The taste is really just that of any ole porter. (Not to be confused with Cole Porter.) It’s sweeter than I would have preferred, with none of the grounded, nutty flavors of the classic. It’s more like a darkish brown ale. What smoky malt there is in the taste is offset by some sweet sugars and a hint of molasses. And those cigarette ashes are back, too.

That classic Guinness feel is absent too. It’s not creamy, but fizzy and watery. (Note: the old “Guinness is a meal in itself” trope is a fallacy as we all know. Anyone who says this should have Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA force-fed to them.) Overall, I’d have to consider this beer a disappointment.

Would I have given this 250th anniversary incarnation a couple grades higher if it didn’t have the “Guinness” name attached? Possibly, since it can only pale in comparison. But at best it’s still an average porter. Not at all bad, but not something that needs to be bought in bulk either.

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~ by William H on June 25, 2009.

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