Porter Pursuit. Part III.

Guinness Extra Stout, Canada-style

This is the Labatt-brewed version of Guinness Extra Stout, 5% abv, available in Canada since 1965. I try it every couple of years or so, so we can add this 2021 review to those of previous years.

According to the label, the licensed brew is produced only in Montreal, not at any other Labatt plant in Canada. Labatt of course is a unit of Anheuser Busch InBev.

This is the best taste yet imo, at least for many years. The key elements – bitterness, roast character and malt background – seem boosted. David Hughes’ book “A Bottle of Guinness Please” states the formulation changed in 1971, with a starting gravity of 1052.

As it is 5% abv (always been, the Canadian version), this would produce something like 1013 FG, allowing too for tolerances in the ABV.



The beer seems about 1012-1013 FG, noticeably richer than the canned “widget” Guinness and draft versions, both sent here from Ireland. If the spec changed later again and the OG is, say, 1050, the beer at 5% abv would be correspondingly drier.

To my taste it’s quite similar to Dublin Guinness Extra Stout. There used to be a more evident “Canadian” background taste but the current brew seems deeper in character. Perhaps the years of craft success have impelled Guinness to re-examine some of its recipes, although I find its stouts middling at best.

Still, the Labatt Guinness is good, and reminds me of when I first tasted it in Montreal in the 1970s. As to its make-up, I noted in an earlier post:

Guinness apparently still relies on “Guinness flavour extract” to impart the Guinness character to a local pale brew. The essence is exported around the world to this end. Bill Yenne in his Guinness history explained it in fairly non-technical terms, see here.

I am convinced most beers, perhaps more typically in craft hands but not restricted to that, get tweaked over time. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes not.

Guinness should brew Foreign Extra Stout in Canada or import it here, and its milk stout, etc. We get no line extensions except the two lagers, Blonde American and Hop House 13. Our state-controlled beer distribution system does not favour listing smaller volume extensions, even those routinely available in the United States.




2 thoughts on “Porter Pursuit. Part III.”

  1. In the late 70s and 80s, I enjoyed Canadian Guinness when visiting my wife’s relatives in Ontario. I haven’t thought much about the “Canadian” background that you mention of Guinness of that era , but I tend to agree that it was there. Guinness (now Diageo) is an example of the fact that technology can be used for good or evil. You mention the “flavor extract” being shipped to licensed brewers around the world. It seems like a useful strategy that, at least in Canada, works well. The Guinness widget can be OK or a problem depending on the beer being nitrogenated. I thought some very pale ales suffered from the treatment.

    • Thanks, and while nitro is not my preferred conditioning method, really the inherent beer quality is the determining factor for me as well.


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