02 September 2007

Black and white contrast

I feel it is beholden on me to report on anything new coming from Ireland's brewers, no matter how awful I know the beer is going to be in advance. Sometimes I might be wrong, though usually not, but the important thing is to know. So it was that I found myself yesterday in the back room of classic Dublin pub Doheny & Nesbitt contemplating a pint of Guinness Mid-Strength, currently being tried out on the Dublin market. Guess what: it's awful. The idea is to have something that looks and tastes like Guinness stout, but with one-third less alcohol. The lab has got the texture right: this is your normal creamy pint of Guinness, but what little beer flavour Guinness has has been removed, making it almost completely tasteless. I say "almost" because I detected a slight chemical sourness, which may just have been from a bad pint, though I'm not sure. It's almost like the brewers achieved their objective by adding two parts Guinness to one part (dodgy) water. I hope at the end of the trial Guinness Mid-Strength is found guilty and put away forever.

Not so much to get the taste out of my mouth as to get some in, I went across to Messrs Maguire for a pint of their Plain. This is such a total contrast, being awash with delicious stout flavours. The first sip dumps about half a kilo of malt on your palate, with an inherent sweetness and a touch of chocolate. Just as you get used to that there's a rising, astringent bitterness that takes a few seconds to gain control. Repeat to the end of the pint. It doesn't have the heavy creamy stout texture that most Irish craft brewers go for, trying to ape the big boys: Messrs Maguire save that for their Extra stout. Instead, this is a teensy bit thin, but more than makes up in flavour what it lacks in mouthfeel. An extreme Irish stout and anything but plain.

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