Some beers transcend the shifting priorities of the craft industry, rising above the fray even as consumer desires change. They remain ever relevant, true masterpieces in their own right. Guinness Draught is one of those beers.
My early exposure to Guinness linked its dark appearance with a heavier, meal-like drinking experience, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This nearly 300-year-old beer has been shaped through its existence to be quaffable year-round, drinkable at nearly any temperature, and—at only 125 calories and 4.2% ABV—light enough to enjoy more than one pint.
When properly poured (vigorously, from a tap), Guinness churns in the glass with a rich, tan swirl of bubbles that settles into the “distinctively dark” black body. It’s a process that deserves recognition, a sideshow journey from pour to sip that is missed in most traditionally carbonated offerings. Any good barkeep will rock the tap handle in the opposite direction, slowing the flow and capping the pint with a dense, cream-colored foam that appears so thick it may be a solid.
For all of the deserved attention on the pour, Ireland’s stout has a pretty mild aroma. Bittersweet chocolate, malty sweetness and roasted grain combine for a soft and balanced nose. As Guinness warms, the sweetness gets thicker and stickier with a bigger punch of chocolate and less of that roasty bitterness. The subtle aroma works just fine, because by the time the pour settles you don’t pause to smell it on the way to your mouth anyway.
No, it isn’t the best stout on the market, but it just might be the best and most versatile beer under 5% ABV.”
Guinness doesn’t bring a rush of flavor or knock you over the head with the strength of any individual component. It’s a beer that brings subtlety and balance in its combination of bitter and sweet. It’s essentially a session stout, with the roasty, sweet, and boozy notes turned down to a sessionable level. In fact, outside of that balance, it isn’t the flavor that sets Guinness apart but rather the silky, creamy mouthfeel. It is the king of nitrogenated beer, pioneering the innovative technique well into the brewery’s existence. The end result is a smooth body that pairs perfectly with the balanced flavor, and leaves behind a mustache of long-lasting foam on every sip.
From the surging pour to the Got Milk?-style mustache left after each gulp, Guinness is a beer of balance and distinction—a legendary beer steeped in history and innovation. No, it isn’t the best stout on the market, but it just might be the best and most versatile beer under 5% ABV. Drinkable at any time on the calendar, it is always a lovely day for a Guinness.