It’s March the 17th and so, predictably enough, it’s time for a Guinness.
Yet this is no ordinary Guinness. Bear in mind that there are countless incarnations of this most famous of beers, many of them quite different and most of them pretty ropey.
But this. Now this is the real deal. This is the 7.5% Foreign Extra version brewed right where it all began: St. James’s Gate, Dublin, Ireland, and it’s a bit of a stunner.
Foreign Extra was originally brewed in 1801 for export to places such as the Caribbean and Africa—I guess all those Catholic missionaries enjoyed a beer or two—and was made with extra hops as a preservative, and brewed to double the usual strength, presumably in the fear that some of the alcohol would evaporate on the way over.
It didn’t, and so the lucky recipients got rather used to the heady black stuff, and so it is still brewed to that strength both in Ireland and in Nigeria to this day.
It’s almost ironic now that by virtue of South London’s dynamic social demographics, the absolutely rough Nigerian-brewed Foreign Extra is far easier to get hold of around here than the original Irish version.
And yet, hold of it I did get.
So what does it taste like? Well, it is rich, dark, toasty, smoky and smooth, with a huge hop bitterness (60 units—more than many IPAs) offset by a lovely, subtle caramel sweetness.
It’s deeply complex, not least due to its production methods, which see beer being matured in wooden tuns for up to three months, and then blended with younger, fresh stout before being aged in the bottle for a further month. There’s a lot of work goes into this stuff.
In short, Guinness Foreign Extra is a quite different beer to the bland, artificial draught imitation that so many people will be drinking too much of tonight. My recommendation is steer clear of the phony Irish chain pubs and the drunken English people in silly hats, then grab a bottle of this, find somewhere quiet, and take your time over it.
Facts and Figures
|Guinness & Co, Dublin, Ireland
|Porters and Stouts
|Costcutter, Norwood Road, London SE24