Guinness, like all the other major beer players, has been feeling the impact of the increasing market share of “craft” beer.
While some continue to live in denial by rebranding their beer after an entire country (while at the same time gobbling up many smaller players in said country), Guinness has decided, if you can’t beat them, at least appear like you’re joining them.
Suddenly, blam! You have an American Blonde Lager, a Black Lager, and a Nitro IPA, among others.
And more are coming — a Golden Ale and Hop House 13 Lager are currently in the UK. No doubt you’ll see them here soon if they test well.
Now, I haven’t tried any of those, so I can’t speak to their quality. But, quite frankly, the thought of a Guinness IPA doesn’t sound very appealing, and smacks of opportunism.
However, the kind folks at one of Guinness’ marketing arms were nice enough to send me some of their new, crafty-ish Porters — Dublin and West Indies.
Supposedly based on and “reinterpreted” from 18th and 19th Century recipes, these beers (and I assume the ones I listed above) are part of their Brewers Project initiative, developed at a test brewery at corporate HQ in Dublin to try to stem the tide of those small, local upstarts suddenly gobbling up more precious grocery-shelf real estate.
As the names imply, each beer is squarely focused on a different palate. The Dublin Porter, a mere 3.8% ABV, pours a semi-opaque dark amber, with a whiff of burnt coffee. Tastes of bitter molasses and cola. Very light on the palate. Definitely more of a European porter.
The West Indies, on the other hand, is much beefier and, at 6%, geared more to the American drinker. Darker brown, nearly black, in color. Much more roasted coffee and mocha notes in the nose. Mouthfeel is richer, more weighty. Dark roast coffee and chocolate notes continue on the palate, with maybe a tang of vanilla.
Overall, while I’ve never been a giant Guinness fan (which from my snarkiness here is probably quite apparent), I’ve always thought their Stout was solid, and a no-brainer when various beer-colored waters are the only other options.
Count these in the “solid” category, as well. Well-constructed and very drinkable. While I figured I’d be partial to the West Indies (which I am), I found the Dublin to be a nice change of pace, and checks the box if you’re looking for something sessionable other than your usual fruity wheat or IPA.
In a sea of big-beer posers putting out “craft-style” brews, you could do a lot worse than these.