Two beers; one name. There can be little difference, surely? Well you’ve clearly never tasted GUINNESS Draught and GUINNESS Original side by side says top beer blogger Jeff Evans
There’s a mere 0.1% variation in strength, but the way in which they are presented makes a whole world of difference to the appearance and, more importantly, the taste.
Draught in a can
GUINNESS Draught was introduced in 1988, a canned equivalent of the Draught GUINNESS in pubs that first saw the light 30 years earlier.
Back in the 1950s, cask-conditioned stout was being phased out in Ireland, but the new-fangled keg beer dispense systems, using pressurised carbon dioxide to store and serve the beer, were not popular with drinkers who preferred the softer carbonation of the original cask beer.
Hence GUINNESS set to work on devising a revolutionary new dispense system, using a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases. The result was a stout that had a smooth, creamy texture and was a delight to observe as it filled the glass with a milky swirl.
Bottled GUINNESS Original, or GUINNESS Extra Stout as it was known at the time, continued to be popular in its own way, devotees preferring the lively presence of carbon dioxide bubbles in the beer, which delivered a complex, more challenging stout than that presented in draught form.
Appreciation of GUINNESS Draught begins with the eye. Pouring a glass is pure theatre, watching the eddying surge as the creamy top slowly subsides, the darkness rises from beneath and the beige-and-honey no man’s land in the middle gradually diminishes.
Chocolate and mellow coffee fill the aroma before malty sweetness with hints of caramel washes softly over the tongue. It’s a frothy caffè latte in beer form, underpinned by a bite of tart roasted grain that pushes through even more in the quickly drying, increasingly bitter finish.
The Original version
GUINNESS Original, on the other hand, is a more assertive character. Instead of a smooth, dense, laid-back mousse of foam on the top, the head is rocky and jagged, comprised of tiny bubbles that prickle and pop in the mouth.
The raised carbonation level ensures that there’s a sharpness to the taste that accentuates the bitter roasted grain flavours. Sweet, milky coffee, caramel and chocolate once again all feature but the almost burnt malt flavour seems stronger, leaving a refreshingly tart, roasted bitterness in the chocolatey finish. You can find both beers in most leading supermarkets.
My first memories of GUINNESS are the remarkable television commercials of the 1960s and 70s. GUINNESS was a drink that held me in thrall. I particularly remember the clever campaign that ran during the long, hot British summer of 1976.
‘Ice cold GUINNESS’ was the theme, emphasising the point that such a complex dark beer would maintain much of its flavour even when chilled right down and offer a far more satisfying drink than the insipid lagers of the day.
It’s a theory I follow even to this day. Dark beers are most certainly not just for winter.