This is by far our most strenuous test to date – the Guinness Draught 4 way test. Guinness is classified as a dry stout and it comes both in cans and bottles (as well as on tap). We wanted to do a bottle vs. can test to find out which beer delivery system really tasted better, but we noticed that both the can and the bottle recommend serving “extra cold.” This is a bit contrary to what we know about beer, which says you should drink them warmer, closer to 50-55 degrees (the British ales are recommended even a bit warmer than most beers). So our bottle vs. can test became an extra cold bottle vs. a warmer bottle vs. an extra cold can vs. a warmer can. Both the cans and the bottles have a “widget” inside them that helps simulate a draft beer coming out of a tap.
An interesting side note: pouring a Guinness on tap is an art form in and of itself. We’ve all seen Guinness served in bars and if you’ve seen someone who actually knows how to pour Guinness correctly out of a tap, it’s a thing of beauty. Because the beer is run through a cooler to chill it to the required temperature, the nitrogen bubbles become agitated and as it pours it creates the creamy goodness that makes Guinness so famous. So pouring the “perfect pint” is a multi-step process that involves topping off the initial pour after it has settled for some time. Guinness says it takes 119.53 seconds to pour the perfect pint. There is a terrific photo essay at INtake, an Indianapolis nightlife guide, on pouring the perfect pint (additional reading can be found at Esquire). Bonus Video – Fergal Murray, the Guinness brewmaster, explains the perfect pour (click on the video to play it):
Back to the review. Dad notes: While I realize that Guinness is pretty much thought of as THE STOUT I must admit I’ve never been a big fan. Awhile back I was drinking a Guinness Extra Stout and noticed it was brewed in Canada. I thought maybe the real Guinness Draught brewed in Ireland would be better so I mentioned it to John. He said the cans he had were brewed in Ireland so on his next trip home for a wedding he brought 2 Guinness cans (along with 10 other beers for good measure). On the day we carved out a little time to test them I went to the liquor store to get a couple of Canadian made ones, and discovered that the pint cans and bottles of Guinness Draught here were also Irish. I then realized it’s only the Extra Stouts that are brewed in Canada. Dismayed but undaunted I grabbed 2 bottles of the Draught and headed home. So now we had four Guinness Draughts and we intended to drink them all under the guise of testing, not drinking but TESTING. 52.2 ounces of testing in the middle of the afternoon.
The cans are 14.9 oz, with a widget inside. The bottles are 11.2 oz, also with a widget inside. Though both widgets float in the bottle, the can widget is more of a round ball and the bottle widget is more a of a long plastic cylinder, called a “rocket widget.” The bottle actually recommends you drink it straight from the bottle, but that just seems so wrong we can’t bring ourselves to even fathom it. Besides, who can resist the sight of a beautiful glass of stout with that light brown head?
For our warmer beers the rest time was 26 minutes out of the fridge. The beer temperature of the can was 58 F and the bottle was 53 F. For our extra cold beers they spent the same amount of time in the freezer. The beer temperature of the can was 38 F and the bottle was 34 F. “Extra cold” isn’t a clearly defined number but these seemed to fit the mark (side note: after reviewing the Guinness web site after the test extra cold is supposed to be 38.3 F). We used 4 pilsner glasses.
All the pours are terrific. It’s a creamy, frothy pour that waves up from the bottom of the glass and settles into a rich deep cinnamon tan head that hangs around forever. The beer itself is a deep black color that complements the head very well. It’s a visual treat to watch the wave and see the cream work its way up to the top to create a luscious head.
The aroma is roasted malts, with some coffee undertones. Overall the beers are all thick, rich and creamy. We found that the flavor of the counter rested (warmer) beers was markedly better – better than the extra colds with more depth and complexity. The subtle taste of the coffee and chocolate with the bold anise or black licorice flavor really came through. There is also a terrific touch of sweetness as well. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy and it laces insanely well on the glass. It’s got a dry finish and has a smooth slightly coffee aftertaste.
The very cold stouts lost the marvelous subtleness of the rested ones and gave us only black licorice. We both found much to our surprise that the taste of the can was smoother than the bottle. Given a choice between a can and a bottle of the same thing we would always choose a bottle but this may give us cause to rethink that. Fortunately that is rarely the case, as we don’t like to do a lot of thinking when we are drinking.
34-38 degrees is just too cold for a stout. 40-49 degrees might be better but we only had 4. In the 50’s is just so right for a stout. The can definitely wins out for smoothness. It also really does taste a lot like a draft beer on tap – they’ve done a good job with that. There is another test we must do – a bottle vs. a bottle poured into a glass.
4 containers of Guinness, about 10 bucks. A father and son standing around swilling them on on a summer afternoon, absolutely priceless.
Guinness Draught Rating: 7 out of 10 (?)
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