06 February 2008

Red and dead

As I mentioned, I had a particular aim in mind when I went looking for my first pint in England at the weekend, and it was to try the enigma that is Guinness Red. Diageo brew this in St James's Gate but export all of it to Britain where it is currently being trialled, primarily through the O'Neill's chain of franchise Oirish pubs. I was intrigued by the way it was being marketed, as a tweaked version of Guinness stout, utilising "lightly roasted" barley, rather than what it looks like: your standard nitrogenated Irish red, like Diageo's own Kilkenny or Coors's English-made Caffrey's brand.

The verdict? Well, it has a thicker, creamier head than any pint of Guinness I've met. It tastes of almost literally nothing. Guinness is pretty far from being the world's most flavoursome stout, but this dispenses with even the faintest trace of the dry roasted barley which sits shivering at the back of modern draught Guinness. What would happen at this point in an Irish red is the arrival of sweet, biscuit-like crystal malt flavours, with maybe a dusting of summer fruits, but no, there's none of that either. Just more empty space, and maybe just a hint of dryness at the end. A dry Irish red? Whoever thought of that one needs locking up.

Funnily enough, like Guinness Mid-Strength, Red does have all the texture characteristics of ordinary Guinness. If you've had your senses of taste and smell removed then you might even enjoy this one. Though since you probably work in product development for Diageo, you've doubtless already tried it.

Back to the original question, then, and it's not as clear-cut as I thought. The mouthfeel and the nearly-not-there dryness do suggest that this could be classed as a super-light stout, though a dreadful one. Alternatively, a dry take on the traditional Irish red is another valid perspective. I won't be lying awake thinking about it. The knowledge that this tasteless travesty is being shipped out of the country in its entirety will assure restful sleep.

How to classify a beer with no flavour. Have the BJCP thought about this one?


  1. Anonymous7:49 pm

    You took one for the team there, I doubt there'd be many beer bloggers that's be adventurous enough to take the time to review a pint of Guinness Red. Well done - I think!

  2. All part of the service. Though I should mention that Stonch stepped into the breach before me.

  3. "How to classify a beer with no flavour. Have the BJCP thought about this one?"

    Yes, American Lite lager style 1a.

  4. "Crisp and dry flavor with some low levels of sweetness" it says here. It's a style I have seen done well.

  5. Anonymous3:32 pm

    I tried this stuff two or three years ago in a pub on Parkgate Street, on the opposite side of the Liffey to St James' Gate.

    At the time they were calling it 'Brew 39', I think. My mate Paul and I quizzed the bar-chap and he told us that they were experimenting with adding the hops at a later stage of the brewing process in order to reduce the bitterness and that it was a variant they were trying out for the UK market specifically, bunch of tasteless wusses that we apparently are over here.

    Anyhow, my missus - a definite Guinness fan - took one sip and turned her nose up at it. She's a woman of rare taste, my missus... :)

  6. Different beer, Darren. Brew 39 was a black stout: the first of the late not-very-lamented Brewhouse Series, reviewed by me here. It was very similar to ordinary Guinness, which Guinness Red isn't.

    The Brewhouse Series were largely indistinguishable from ordinary Guinness. When people complain about them, I think it's more likely to be from getting a stale pint of unpopular beer than anything to do with the recipe.

  7. Anonymous3:43 pm

    Ah... I see, thanks for the clarification...

    And thanks for the warning against the Red as well... :)

  8. Anonymous3:46 pm

    Speaking of good stout though, have you tried Nightmare Stout from Nick Stafford's Hambleton Ales? Tried a pint in York a couple of weeks ago - fantastic stuff!

  9. Look, it's bad enough reading on other people's blogs about all the great English beers I can't get hold of without someone coming and writing about them here...

    We get very very few foreign stouts over here. I guess they don't have the same novelty value as the paler ales.

  10. Anonymous4:12 pm

    LOL :)

    I do apologise! I shall refrain from inadvertently taunting in future...

  11. I agree with your assessment of Guinness Red. I tried it for the first time about a month ago and felt it lacked most of the taste that Guinness is known for.

    My thoughts at the time, and are still, that this version of Guinness is meant to step out of the stout world and tip its toes into the traditional ale market, and/or the lager market; a sort of not quite either, and therefore none variety.

    As you can probably tell, I was not impressed by this beer. Although, you could probably chug it easier than regular Guinness... :-)