before about the inscrutable way Diageo conducts its beer business, with particular recent reference to the series of seemingly similar pale beers they've produced separately for different jurisdictions. Well, last week they joined up two of the dots and released Guinness Golden Ale in Ireland, having previously only made it available in the UK. And their PR folk sent me a bottle.
As many have remarked before me, it's not really gold: more a dark copper sort of colour, though perfectly clear, of course. It smells of straw putting me immediately in mind of traditional saison. There's lots of cereal in the flavour, and a richer crusty brown bread effect. Behind this there are some light spices, almost incense-like, and some of the warmth you find in Belgian blonde ale, despite a very modest ABV of 4.5%. What bitterness is present is provided by light tannins but nothing even hints at the use of hops in this flavour. The finish is dry, much like Guinness Stout, especially in its bottled form. And, like bottled Guinness, this beer has some small measure of complexity but is ultimately rather bland.
The Brewers Project has passed its one year anniversary and is still running, though it has yet to turn out any genuinely worthwhile beers. However, two recent Diageo initiatives offer hope that the company is heading in the right direction here, by utilising its 10hL pilot brewkit for actual beer production rather than just testing, the first time they've done this since the late 1990s. First there's the Smithwick's Homebrew Challenge: a competition organised in association with the National Homebrew Club which will see two finalists making small-batch Christmas ales in St. James Gate, to be distributed to pubs for a customer vote on the supreme champion.
And the other is the opening of a working brewpub in St James's Gate, utilising that same pilot plant. We've seen some great small-batch specials from Franciscan Well's Cork brewpub since Molson Coors took over and began producing the core Franciscan Well range in the UK. I'm hopeful that similarly interesting recipes will be produced at Guinness, and don't mind if I actually have to go on-site to drink them. The structural work required by the conversion looks minimal so I doubt it will be long before the new operation is up and running. Watch this space.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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