Guinness Draught

By on August 10, 2007 @ 9 PM (14 Comments)

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.

Test variables:
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.

Final Thoughts:
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 (?)

14 Comments (Add Your Comments)

  1. Dave says:

    Guiness draught poured by a pro….very, very hard to beat and I’m partial in Ireland at the James Gate Brewery in Dublin. Even better, getting a real pour at a pub in Ireland. Yes, a warmer beer is poured there but man it’s darn near a religious experience!

  2. Jay S says:

    Well you guys have botched it then. The bottles are designed to be drank from the bottle for a reason, so by pouring it out, you have missed out on the head that Guinness is known for.
    The bottle lets out nitrogen a bit at a time as you tilt back the bottle, so by pouring it out into a glass, all you’ve accomplished is a bottle full of nitrogen, and a dull guinness draught.
    If drank from the bottle, the taste of the draught is much smoother, richer, and and not overly bitter finish as the can. It resembles a well poured Guinness much more, and for a take home beer it is quite good.
    If your so inclined to test this later, peel off the label, and drink from the bottle. Watch the head action while you do, it’s quite impressive.
    While not truly comparable to a properly poured Draft Guinness, for beer you can keep in your fridge, it’s quite wonderful.

  3. Dad says:

    Thanks for the comment Jay S . I always thought that drinking from the bottle or can was kind of like watching Victorias Secret models walking down the runway in baggy sweats but will try it as you suggest. I suppose the same would be true for any widget containing beer. As ben Franklin said “Beer proves that God loves us and wants us to be happy”.

  4. Chris says:

    Recently made the trip to Dublin, and have to agree — the Guinness tastes better there, although I suspect that some of that is just in my head. It tasted great at the brewery, but the best pint I had while I was in Dublin was at a pub called John Mulligans. Highly recommend a stop if you are there.
    Smithwickes was the other beer we drank a lot of, and it tasted much better as well.



  6. Part of enjoying Guinness is watching it pour and cascade…then form ..sit for a sec..then sip and enjoy so I agree about your theory on the bottle, however you have to forgo all of that for practicality. There is nothin better than the real thing, but drinking from the bottle is close. I think the best way to go (next to a home draught system) is to use the can into a pint, however if i am at a bar I don’t hesitate to order the bottle b/c most bartenders can’t pour a perfect Guinness anyhow..they botch it almost everytime. Can at home, bottle when out if they don’t have it on tap. If they do, ask if I can pour myself lol….nice review btw.

  7. Goose says:

    Guinness is the world’s most perfect food.
    Review complete

  8. michael_aussie says:

    Ireland certainly do make some wonderful beers. I too love Smithwicks. However, I’ve never seen it in Australia.
    Another fab beer is #4 from Baltika in Russia. Pure heaven.

  9. fearthefuture says:

    i think it has more flavor warmer.

    most beers that talk about being servered cold are usually trying to hide their taste

  10. Johnny says:

    My mouth is watering for a Guinness right now! I absolutely LOVE Guinness. It is indeed, a very tasteful draught beer. I’ve recently become very involved with the internet and blogging and I love coming across articles/stories/blogs on beer. I just joined the Guinness fan page on Facebook (havent quite learned how to use it yet haha)

  11. Kenneth says:

    i enjoy Guinness either EXTRA cold or a little on the warm side, just slightly under room temp.

    the bottle is better in my opinion. no matter how you drink it, it is nothing but bliss.

  12. Jay says:

    I absolutely love Guinness. I am sipping an extra stout right now. I also enjoy the drought from the bottle. I have not tried the drought from the can yet, I might pick up a pack today.

  13. Mats says:

    I’ve tried both of these recently, and I have to say I had two very different experiences.

    I bought a 4 pack of the cans, which I then poured into a glass (had heard mixed responses regarding the widget and whether it was still better out of a glass). It was my first experience with Guinness (or stout for that matter… just turned 21 recently), and I found it mostly bitter. I was actually pretty disappointed by it.

    Then I was in a bar and I ordered one of the bottles (just figured I would give it another shot… could be an acquired taste or sometimes your tastes are just different). I drank that straight from the bottle and really enjoyed it. Picked up on the coffee flavor and some others that I couldn’t really identify. Anyway, am now looking for an excuse to pick up some more of the Bottles :)

    Not a scientific test at all, I know (especially with pouring the cans into a glass but drinking straight from the bottle) but just figured I’s share my experience. Pretty sure they were similar temperatures though… probably something like forty degrees.

  14. Patrick says:

    If I can not get Guiness on tap (which only usually happens when I prefer a quiet evening at home instead of hitting a local pub), the next best thing is Guiness Draught. But, I much prefer the canned draught to the bottled draught. The bottled draught seems to have too much carbonation and feels a bit thinner. The canned draught, in my experience, seems to create a smoother, creamier and thicker beverage, much closer to the Guiness you get on tap. I don’t know what causes this difference, perhaps the widget in the cans works better than the widget they put in the bottles, but I find there to be a very noticeable difference

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