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Stout-hearted brew.

Stout-Hearted Brew

For over 250 years, the term "stout" has been used loosely for any strong ale. English brewers in the 17th and 18th centuries who brewed several styles of porter used the term as a product description. Products ranged from the weakest porter to the stronger "single," "double" and sometimes "brown stout."

A little more recently, Jim Koch, Boston Beer Co.'s president, once said that anyone can make a decent stout in their bathtub. He might have been right, and, in fact, some homebrewers do just that. Nonetheless, you can be sure Koch was not referring to brewing the dry stout which has become a world classic. A stout to which all others are compared. The world's best-selling stout. "Godfather of stouts." Guinness Extra Stout.

The famous brew was born at Dublin, Ireland's St. James Gate in 1759. That year, 34-year-old Arthur Guinness was offered a good deal on a brewhouse lease - 9,000 years, at an annual rent of 45 Pounds.

At that time, many Dublin ale brewers were losing sales to porter, a product that had been developed several years before in London. Guinnes, in an effort to combat the English brewers at their own game, began producing a porter of his own.

After settling into his new brewery, Guinness went about refining the traditionally sweet, dark porter into a deeper, richer product. Guinness' brew sold so well that he ousted all other imports from the Irish market, and even gained a portion of the English porter trade. In the 1820s, Guinness' stronger, darker, more full-bodied product become known as an "extra stout porter," and eventually simply Guinness Extra Stout.

Stout sales growth

By 1833, the St. James Gate Brewery was the largest in Ireland, and in 1881, the annual production of Guinness products reached the million barrel-mark. St. James became the world's largest brewery by 1914, and continues as Europe's largest brewing facility.

Guinness' expansion to worldwide markets followed the routes of the clipper ships, according to Guinness PLC director for public affairs Christopher Davidson. Because it could endure the rigors of many weeks at sea better than other beers of the time, Guinness' famous style became known around the globe.

"Historically, [worldwide expansion] came about because Guinness stayed fresh longer than lighter products," Davidson explains. "If you look at a map of the world, you can see that our markets developed with the tall ships, and those cities remain strong markets - Boston, the Carribean, Africa."

As the brew entered the 20th century, demand continued to grow both in Ireland and Britain. Such meteoric sales prompted the construction of the Guinness Brewery outside of London in 1936. Unlike all other British brewers, Guinness accomplished its rise to the top without owning a single "tied house." Consequently, Guinness is the only beer found in every pub in England.

Different port, different Guinness

Although today's Guinness Extra Stout is known worldwide, several variations exist. The bottled product offered in Britain and Ireland is naturally-conditioned, while the Guinness sold in the United States has been pasteurized. Likewise, due to the heavy consumption rate of draught Guinness in Ireland, the brewery has found no need to pasteurize the brew, thereby presenting a "fresher, softer character" than the Stout earmarked for export, explains beer critic Michael Jackson. Guinness, however is pasteurized in Britain and abroad to ensure the product's stability. Additionally, draught Guinness is slightly richer and creamier than the bottled variety, and has a slightly "hoppier" taste. In the Caribbean, Foreign Extra Stout has a higher alcohol content but retains the brand's distinct smoothness.

Over the past 50 years, Guinness has steadily built its brewing empire, now accounting for 35 breweries around the world while its products can be found in 120 countries. Although Guinness is brewed in places like Kenya and Trinidad, many consumers wonder why Extra Stout is still imported to the U.S. "The answer is that we try to operate in each country the best way we can," Davidson relates, "so we have different operating methods all over the world. In Nigeria, where we have four breweries, we only brew our product. If we turn Malaysia, we have undertaken a huge joint venture with Heinken.

"By contrast," Davidson notes, "we don't have any intention of brewing in the United States because the U.S. market is attracted to imported beers."

Guinness Extra Stout utilizes British two-row barley malt as its base, with crystal malt added to give the beer more body. In the early 19th century, black malt was being grown very close to the Guinness Brewery in London, and while a small amount is used in the mash, it is not the ingredient that gives the rich color, aroma and classic brown head. That job is left to the large proportion of roasted barley, which provides Extra Stout its characteristic bite and bitter roasted flavor. The fermentation process is a relatively long one, owing to Guinness' many complex flavors.

Competition brows

Despite Guinness' apparent strangle-hold on the stout market, several America microbrewers have moved onto the scene. Although these new stout brewers display an inherent respect for Guinness and the huge sales revenues it generates in this country, most believe that "the times they are a changin'."

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s headbrewer, Steve Dresler, explains that the most obvious difference between American stout and Guinness is the freshness factor. "The best Guinness Stout that 've tasted came from Jamaica," Dresler notes, "it was really a nice, fresh product.

"Our Sierra Nevada Stout is a very full-bodied, dark beer," Dresler explains. Sierra Nevada Stout came about through trial and error, and continues to change, according to its brewer. "Basically, we made up the recipe," Dresler reports. "You start with what you think a stout should be, and it evolves into what you like. Over the last few months, for example, we've increased the hoppiness, and got a great product."

Still overlooked by many mainstream beer drinkers, Dresler has seen a steady rise in his company's stout sales. "There's not a real big market for stout," he notes, "but we make a good product and our sales have risen steadily."

Utilizing five different malts - pale, crystal, munich, roasted and black - Pyramid Brewing Co.'s Sphinx Stout is a full-bodied product with some hop aroma. According to brewer Jerry Bockmore, his stout's "intensely roasty, almost coffee-like flavor" comes from the 15 percent roasted barley in the mash.

Regardless of its rich flavor, Bockmore reports Sphinx Stout is his brewery's weakest seller. "We produce bottled and a small amount of draught stout," Bockmore says, "but Guinness is the only stout that sells well in the United State."

While Bockmore admires Guinness' bottled stout, the doesn't see the draught product as a true stout. "Guinness is fine stuff out of the bottle," Bockmore states, "but the draught Guinness we get in this country is a milder product. There's a difference," Bockmore explains, "because draught Guinness is meant to be a session beer. They want to sell a lot of it, so they make it a bit weaker."

Boulder Brewing Co. brewer David Zuckerman shares the same hypothesis about Guinness as Bockmore. "There's a great misnomer about Guinness Stout - the draught is only two-percent alcohol," Zuckerman says. "People tend to get drunk when they drink it, but its totally psychological."

In an effort to please the palate of his consumers, Zuckerman's Boulder Stout is "nowhere near as heavy as Guinness," he says. "We have designed our stout for a much less rigorous stout palate."

Apparently Zuckerman's tack has paid off since he brews and sells 50 barrels of stout every two months in bottles and kegs. "Sure stout isn't for everyone," Zuckerman reports, "but we sell enough of our product to continue making it a good clip"
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Title Annotation:Small-Scale Brewing in America; Guinness Extra Stout beer
Author:Woodward, G. Woodward
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:May 13, 1991
Words:1298
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