Not too many years ago, right before what beer lovers consider to be the beer renaissance of the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was pretty hard to find a bottle or a well-poured pint of Guinness Extra Stout in Charleston. I'd actually never even heard of the stuff until my senior year in high-school (back when a bottle of Beck's Dark or a can of Coors looked pretty exotic to me). My first-ever swig of the classic stout style from Dublin was from a room-temp Guinness bottle, and the roasted coffee-like flavor and burnt malt bitterness was a shock at first, but within a few sips, I fell in love with it.
Nowadays, Guinness is everywhere in Charleston. More than a few dozen bars and restaurants pride themselves on pouring beautiful glasses of draught Guinness at the right temperature and with the proper level of foam at the top. Grocery stores and gas stations regularly stock bottles and cans of it on the shelves. It's a wonderful thing having the Granddaddy of Irish-style stout available at such convenience.
This spring, the Irish brewery celebrated Arthur Guinness' signing of a 9,000-year lease in 1759 at St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin with the release of a limited-edition Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout.
Officially, Guinness is currently part of a parent company based in London that recently merged with multi-national beer/wine/spirits conglomerate Diageo.
I found a sixer of the Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout for under nine bucks at a local Harris Teeter street this week. It's the first new stout Guinness has exported to the U.S. since it sent Guinness Draught over in 1967. The beer is expected to be available in this market for about four more months.
The original Guinness Extra Stout is a top-fermenting brew made with roasted malts and roasted unmalted barley. It's classified as a "dry stout" or "Irish stout" — smoother and roastier than its English and American counterparts. The regular stuff is extra-dark with a black hue and a dense, tan-colored foam. Despite its dark color and strong flavor it's medium-bodied and quite drinkable.
At a strength of five percent alcohol by volume, the 250 Anniversary Stout turned out to be just a slight variation on the recipe for the Extra Stout. Lighter in body, but just as dark/black in color, the anniversary version actually features a hint of hops in the flavor and aroma, adding a little zest to the malt-heavy style. It's not a high-gravity whopper with great bitterness or overwhelming malt flavor, but's a nice side-step from the classic, and well worth a try. Slainte!