Guinness, Bottles, An Addendum

Another Form of Bottled Guinness Needs Discussion

After writing my notes on Guinness in bottles and cans, I was mindful that another version of the black brew, Guinness Special Export Stout, may still be – and clearly was at one time – brewed from a 100% barley malt mash. Probably the components were/are pale malt and black malt or, pale malt, caramel malt and black malt (which would be better).

This online discussion from 2012 about different forms of Guinness seems to confirm that Special Export Stout was all-malt then. Whether it is today, I can’t say. I had it last in Paris about 5 years ago, and found it rather thin and very similar to Guinness Extra Stout except stronger. However, from 20 years ago, I recall Special Export Stout being very good, rich and fruity. Older reviews on Beer Advocate and Ratebeer, the online rating forums, confirm that recollection.

What I had in Paris 5 years ago, bought in a discount food store chain, conceivably might have been different from what is sent to Belgium as Special Export Stout. Belgium is important because the John Martin importation agency of that country recites a history on its website that a different form of Guinness was wanted for that market than was being exported, this during WW II, unlikely as it sounds. Guinness sent them what is called now Special Export Stout. I should add my own reading suggests it wasn’t really new but had roots in an older form of Guinness sent to the Continent, but that is neither here nor there.

Guinness’s own website calls Special Export Stout “sweeter”, which suggests more malt is used than the other brews get, and maybe 100% malt again. This link from the Guinness website shows a picture of the current bottle and a description of the taste.

Therefore, Special Export Stout, if still all-malt, is – like the adjunct Foreign Extra Stout which is soured with a dash of matured beer – a vestige of 19th century brewing practices at St. James’s Gate, Dublin. The mashbill of Special Export Stout could therefore be the basis of a restored, pre-adjunct draft Guinness Porter and Stout. The hop rate is apparently fairly low, but if the rate was kept as is and the original gravity dropped to 1055 or so, you could get probably a very credible version of 1800’s Guinness Porter. Keep the gravity as is and boost the hops, and you will get closer to Guinness Extra Stout (aka Double Stout, Double Porter, etc.) in its classic era.

Once again, addition of unfermented wort – the extract of the mash boiled with hops but not yet fermented into alcohol – to a blend of fresh stout and some matured would enhance the credibility of the restoration.

But anyway, the point being, Guinness Special Export Stout in Belgium at any rate may still be all-malt. If anyone reading knows for sure, pray tell us.

Guinness in its history made beers under many names, which often were synonymous, for example, single stout and porter were used at different times to mean the same beer. Indeed, Guinness over the years has continued to make a surprisingly large number of beers. Most don’t last long in the market and seem variations on the theme of the main types (extra stout, widget stout, draft Guinness, Foreign Extra Stout).

From the standpoint of the advised or craft-oriented consumer, I’d suggest the key questions for both top quality and historical authenticity are: is the beer pasteurized (and if so, how); is the beer filtered; is the beer an adjunct beer; is the beer as highly hopped as possible; and does the beer exceed about 70% attenuation. The closer one gets to answering the first three of these, “no” and the last two, “yes”, the more the chance is the beer will hew close to its 1800s roots.

One might add, use of wooden vessels and unfermented wort for conditioning are requisites too. But there is a limit to how far any restoration project is likely to go. I’d give up on the latter two if I could get the others.