Hot and Stout: Guinness Stakes Its Claim As the Perfect Summer Beer
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In Ireland, where beer is the lucky liquid of the land, the Guinness flows year round.
With a history that dates back more than 200 years (when Arthur Guinness signed a 9000-year lease on St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin), Guinness is not only one of the oldest beer makers in Ireland, but one of the oldest beers in the world. It’s also one of the most well-known beers, thanks to its popular Guinness Draught, which you can find on-tap at neighborhood pubs and fancy bars alike (you can also get it canned).
For Guinness, tradition seeps through every pint, bottle and can, with a time-honored recipe honed from the original Guinness Extra Stout, first brewed in 1821. And for many, that rich and creamy stout is what they associate with Guinness, often referring to it as a “dark” and “heavy” beer.
But as the Irish will tell you, a good pint of Guinness doesn’t have to taste — or be — so serious. In fact, there’s a case for Guinness being a great summer beer as well.
“The word ‘heavy’ is often used to describe stouts, which is a shame,” says Ryan Wagner, Head of Marketing and Community Partnerships for Guinness Open Gate Brewery Chicago and a Guinness National Ambassador. “There are many reasons why Guinness can be a year-round favorite for me.”
While Americans may see the brand as a cold weather pickup, they chug Guinness across the pond at everything from soccer matches and summer music festivals, to camping trips and sunny park hangs. Bartenders in Ireland will tell you that Guinness isn’t just a “coffee-flavored beer” either — there are subtle notes of toffee and caramel similar to the IPAs and lagers we reach for in hot weather. And then there’s the alcohol content, which is actually lower than a Budweiser. There’s a reason the Irish can drink into the early hours of the morning in Temple Bar, only a portion of which is due to their brutish determination.
So can Guinness really be the perfect summer beer? We caught up with Wagner to talk tasting notes, tasting pairings, and why it’s time to turn popular misconceptions on its (frothy) head (the first one: Guinness isn’t actually black in color — it’s closer to a ruby red).
A lot of people associate Guinness with St. Patrick’s Day, but why is it a beer you can drink all year round?
First and foremost, it’s an excellent beer for food pairings, so it’s a lot of fun to find new and exciting ways throughout the year to pair Draught with different cuisines. Whether it’s a holiday roast pork, burgers and hot dogs on a summertime grill, or the kinds of hearty dishes full of roasted vegetables that pop up around harvest season, Draught pairs amazingly well with all of them.
It’s also a great beer for any seasons because of the lightness of flavor. I think too often people see the color of Draught Stout and can only picture drinking it in the colder months. Somewhere along the line, stouts and winter became intertwined, but the light roast character, touch of bitterness, and silky mouthfeel are quite different from the preconceived notions many people have about that particular beer. It actually drinks well for every occasion – including days spent on the beach. Don’t let the color fool you!
Can a Guinness beer actually be refreshing?
I think a huge advantage to a beer like Guinness Draught on warm days is how lightly it sits on the stomach. Guinness Draught, by nature of it being a nitrogenated beer, has 75% less carbonation than a typical carbonated beer. That carbonation is what will often make us feel bloated or full. With less carbonation, Guinness Draught is much more sessionable than people realize.
What are some misconceptions people may have about Guinness and stouts?
Many stouts, especially a beer like Guinness Draught Stout, can actually quite low in alcohol (Draught is 4.2% ABV, for instance) and lower than you might think in terms of caloric content. I think the color of beers like stouts and porters makes some people shy away from them, which is why I often joke with people having their first sip of Guinness Draught Stout that they should try it blindfolded! Your eyes often lie to you and really only tell a small part of the sensory experience of drinking a beer. The aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel of the beer are critical to truly getting a sense of the beer as you drink it.
How does a Guinness compare to barrel-aged stouts?
I think the rise of barrel-aged stouts has perhaps altered the perception of stouts in general – many assume that all stouts must be barrel-aged and high in ABV. Beers like Guinness Draught Stout and Guinness Extra Stout help to reset that perception. Stouts are one of the most historical styles in the beer world – and they deserve a better reputation!
Buy Guinness Draught Stout $5.49
How would you say Guinness is different from say, Bud Light, or other beers we typically associate with summer drinking?
The one word answer here is flavor. Guinness Draught Stout is much bolder in terms of its flavor, which gets a huge boost from roasted barley in the brewing process. It’s also where Draught’s iconic ruby red color is derived. That flavor is what separates it from many of the other beers that are considered summertime go-to’s.
I also think looking at Guinness’s impact on countries around the world shows just how much of a warm weather beer stouts can be. Look at places like Nigeria, Jamaica, Ghana, etc. — they are certainly places with warmer temps throughout the year, but also places where Guinness stouts are incredibly popular all year long.
What summer foods pair well with Guinness?
Barbecue and anything cooked on the grill jump right to the top of the list for me. The process under which things like meat, fish, and veggies brown under heat is called the Maillard reaction. That same process is how our roasted barley gains its color and unique flavor. Blending those two together is beer and food pairing magic. We often look for complementing flavors when building pairings – Guinness Draught and summertime cookouts are a match made in heaven.