Thursday, September 30, 2010

FES: OMG

So when the word started to percolate about Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (I tweeted about that back on the 22nd, and I apologize for not blogging...gotta stop that), I got right back to the Diageo people and asked if it were true. Sure, they said, and would you like a sample? Yes!

This is a bit of a grail for me; I've kind of purposely kept myself away from it till I could get it legit. Worth the wait, and really not at all what I expected. First, it's not heavy and thick (like some other "Caribbean" stouts); it's actually quite light for 7.5%. Second, it has a great aroma of boozy burnt malt. Third, it's properly black...like I remember "regular" Guinness being, though that could be a trick of memory. Finally, it's not sweet! It's quite bitter, burnt bitter and hop-bitter, but smooth as a swoop. Intriguing stuff, and easy to understand why it's so popular: it's 45% of total Guinness sales!

What's not so easy to understand is why it's taken Diageo so long to bring it to the positively beer-crazy U.S. market. Was it because Guinness stout was so damned popular, they were afraid of cannibalizing it? Yeah, that strategy worked so well with Guinness Extra Stout...and Smithwick's... Should have sent this ten years ago!

17 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

The Caribbean FES is quite different to the Irish one. I did a compariason here. I've never tried the Nigerian one, brewed from sorghum, but I'm told it's quite different again. That 45% figure covers at least three different beers.

Steven said...

Can't wait.

Then again, it took our distros an extra month-and-a-half to get the Guinness Anniversary on the shelves -- I can't imagine what they're thinking now with this and the Guinness "Black Lager" being test-marketed in our area.

Anonymous said...

I received two bottles the other day---your post encourages me to chill and sample them immediately!

-AlcoholReviews.com

Bill said...

I would assume they kept it out because of scale -- they wanted to make sure they could sell enough of it to make it worth their while. They do a lot of supermarket sales and sales in places where a 7.5% beer couldn't legally be sold. I'd imagine once Stone and Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada proved you could sell higher-alcohol beer in sufficient quantities, they made the decision to bring it to the U.S.

bmc13 said...

hey, your post mentioing grails brings out the fact that this summer my wife and I were able to hit both Wynkoop Brewing and the Church Brewworks on our vaction.

Isn't it abummer that your book is already out of date with Porterhouse and General lafayette closing. One eh, one bummer.

I will be in PA in November and December, so keep your calendar updated, I will buy your new book, but I want it signed by the author.

Anonymous said...

Please get a real job Dad, you are the laughingstock of our town.

Joe Stange said...

I reckon the version we have here in Costa Rica is the Caribbean one. Odd that I just wrote about it a few days ago. It's certainly one of the better beers available down here. Arguably the best, and I'm not a Guinness fanatic.

The Beer Nut said...

If it's 6.5% ABV it's the Jamaican one.

Rita said...

Dear Mr. Bryson,
I enjoyed this article very much! I hope to read more soon!

Gary Gillman said...

I bought this recently in New York - not that it was easy to find - and it's excellent. That lactic edge to it, I wonder how they get that? Is old beer still added, or is something else done to achieve that? Anyway it's very good, the one released here (U.S. I mean) is made in Ireland and the quality shows. I had one not long ago made in Trinidad and Tobago and it wasn't as good (but not bad).

I'd peg the taste as roasty, bitter/tart, with a Marmite-like overlay and a light sweetness. very good.

What did take them so long, I can't figure that? Can it be perhaps that they think they would sell less on average because it is stronger?

The Beer Nut said...

They add food-grade lactic acid to it.

Gary Gillman said...

Interesting about food-grade lactic acid being added. Regular Guinness must use it too, I can recognize the taste. Perhaps not quite historical, but it works.

Gary

The Beer Nut said...

Cost-effective trumps historical every time in macroland.

Yes, Draught Guinness (and our Extra Stout which is the same thing bottled, known as "Original" in the UK) also gets lactic acid. In fact, I've heard a rumour that they're all the same beer: FES is what's brewed and then diluted to draught strength as required.

Gary Gillman said...

Beer-nut, or Lew if you know, do Beamish and Murphy put out an extra-strong version? One would think they share a tradition similar to Guinness..

Gary

The Beer Nut said...

While Diageo reluctantly maintain some of Guinness's traditions, that's not how Heineken works.

There certainly used to be other stouts made by Beamish & Crawford and Murphy's. The poster depicted here and here hangs in a pub near me and shows some of the variety of Beamish & Crawford stouts over the years, including their own Foreign Extra. It's extraordinarily likely that Ireland's other breweries produced beers like these at the time too. There were plenty more stout brewers apart from Guinness, Murphy's and Beamish & Crawford, much as Diageo and Heineken would like us to forget that.

One thing that interests me is the pugilist theme: we know that Deasy's brewed a stout called The Wrestler (a name subsequently borrowed and adapted by The Porterhouse), and here on the Beamish poster we have "Knuckleduster". I do wonder if you had to have a brand which evoked unarmed combat in your portfolio?

The Beer Nut said...

I don't know if my full response disappeared somewhere, but short answer: they used to (as, I'm sure, did the other brewers) but they don't any more.

The Beer Nut said...

Oops, put in the same link twice. Here's the other half, if you couldn't guess from the URL.