Guinness is a brewery shrouded in mystery. The brewery tour doesn’t bring you through the actual brewery, rather taking you through a visitor centre, full of plasma screens, multimedia displays, faux-grain sacks and escalators, culminating in the magnificent view of Dublin from the flying-saucer-like Gravity Bar. But what could they be hiding? Some have conjectured that the real brewery is run by clones of St. Arthur Guinness himself, aided by an army of dark coloured Smurfs with creamy hats, little pint-size homunculi, making Dublin’s famous stout in their own image.
However, thanks to my network of spies, I can reveal that the truth is far more shocking! If you hold these little fellas up to the light it turns out they are not black but in fact very very very dark red. Furthermore it seems that the goings on at St. James’ Gate are not the only thing Guinness are hiding. It turns out they have a secret lair deep within the Sugarloaf mountain (or some other sort of Pilot Brewery somewhere) working on interesting little numbers like the following “Cask Aged Stout” that a Counterintelligence Agent (friend) of mine managed to get his hands on.
“Now hold on!” many of you you might rightly exclaim, aren’t you three ‘ne’er-do-wells’ also brewing a barrel aged stout? to which I can only reply, yes we are, and we’re as shocked as you are, is it a coincidence, or might it bethat this blog isn’t the only organisation with a secret spy-ring? Realistically though, who can blame Guinness for perceiving us as a threat? I’m running a check to see if any of my visitors came from a certain St. James’ Gate ISP!
In any case, as a precaution I have pixelated the image to hide our identities, even drinking this top secret beverage could put all of our brewing careers in jeopardy. Enough of this banter however, how was this secret brew?
Well as you can see from the picture of the back label, it is a ‘cask-conditioned’ stout, aged in a ‘Genuine Irish whiskey barrel’, it doesn’t say for how long. On the front it says it is 8.5%. The Hops cited on the back are Tettnanger, Samargd and Herkules. It says that both cones and pellets are used “throughout the various stages of the brewing and fermenting process” which suggests rather coyly that it might be dry-hopped. I have never heard of Samargd, I’m guessing it’s some sort of Czech hop. Herkules is a high-alpha German hop, and Tettnanger is a classic German noble hop, much used as an aroma addition in continental beers. Despite the label however, I would be very surprised if this stout is in fact dry hopped, since none of us got any hop aroma off it at all. There was very little on the nose in general, except I got quite a sugary, almost treacly caramel smell, which was matched by the flavour. Sugar was the overwhelming falvour here, dark, treacly sugar. The head looked very similar to the pale, fluffy head that bottled Guinness produces. The beer didn’t at all taste boozy or hot, and the body was light, which would be in keeping with a high sugar addition if that is in fact the case. Furthermore, when held up to the light the beer was not very dark at all, it was quite clearly ruby coloured. Couple this with the lack of any roast or burnt character, and I would bet that some sort of brewers caramel or dark sugar has been used to darken this beer rather than very much highly roasted malt. Also missing was the characteristic chocolate or coffee often found in a strong stout. There was a pronounced and quite pleasant smokey flavour, and I think this could have been the barrel’s contribution, perhaps the char gave it some smoke . There was not much whiskey flavour detectable, perhaps it was overpowered by the sugar.
I would have liked something bigger, bolder, certainly roastier, but I suppose that’s why we’re brewing the Barrel Stout. This beer is not as nice as the Foreign Extra Stout, in my opinion, which is weaker, but manages a much fuller body and feel. It woul surprise me if this ever saw the light of day given that the Foreign Extra is so popular, However, any interesting addition to the Guinness range is welcome, but in summing up, it would be nice if this had a real hop character, a bit more malt, and a more pronounced contribution from the barrel.
Now I’m off to get my disguise and go into hiding. You Ain’t seen me.