Tastings School - Black Magic

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Black Magic

Roger Protz travels to St James's Gate Brewery in Dublin to celebrate the iconic brand's 250th birthday.

Arthur Guinness, 250 years on, is still tripping the dark fantastic. The Irish brewery may be part of Diageo, a global drinks giant where Irish stout sits uncomfortably with whisky, cognac and vodka but nevertheless Guinness should be an inspiration to both beer lovers and craft brewers.

It proves, beyond peradventure, that beer does not have to be pale, fizzy and boring. In short, black is beautiful.

Guinness has a lot to celebrate. In 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a lease worth £250 on a dilapidated brewery in St James’s Gate, Dublin, with an annual rent of £45. It was a risky undertaking. There were 30 other breweries in the area, with many more spread across the Irish capital, and around 200 in the whole country.

Arthur clearly had a great belief in his ability to survive as the lease was for 9,000 years. But the odds were stacked against him. The British placed a heavy tax burden on Irish beer in order to give free rein to imports from London, Bristol and Edinburgh.

Many of the Dublin brewers went out of business but Arthur survived and flourished by taking on and beating the Brits at their own game – namely, the production of porter and stout. He was just 34 when he arrived in Dublin. His father, Richard, had brewed ale for the local bishop in Celbridge, Co Kildare. The grateful prelate left Richard’s son £100 in his will, which Arthur invested in a small brewery in Leixlip. By 1759 he was in Dublin and brewing ale.

In 1799 Arthur took the fateful decision to stop all ale production and concentrate on porter and stout. Porter and its strong version, stout porter, were developed in London early in the 18th century and were originally a blend of pale, brown and “stale” [well-matured] ales. After a slow start, porter and stout came to dominate beer production due to massive demand from the burgeoning industrial working class.

By the time Arthur Guinness arrived in Dublin, so much porter and stout from London and Bristol was pouring into Ireland that the local brewers were threatened with ruin unless they changed their methods. Arthur grasped the opportunity and hired a London porter brewer to train him in the skills of making the style.

Guinness porter and stout were a sensation. Before the arrival of the railway, Arthur used Ireland’s canal system to move his beers around the island. Aware that British brewers were busily exporting to all parts of the empire, he developed a stronger version of his beer for the Caribbean trade. It was launched in 1801 and was called West Indies Porter.

It was this beer that turned Guinness into a global phenomenon.

Arthur’s son Benjamin took on the export trade and renamed the beer Foreign Export Stout Porter. Over time, the title was shortened to Foreign Export Stout and today FES is the basis for the various forms of Guinness brewed around the world.

Arthur assiduously built good relations with the British. He became the official brewer to Dublin Castle, the seat of colonial power. Arthur spawned an amazing 21 children and one of his sons, also called Arthur, was appointed Governor of the Bank of Ireland. The Guinness family became pillars of the establishment and played a leading role in the social, cultural and literary life of Ireland. One branch of the family even accepted peerages from the British and became the Earls of Iveagh, acquiring a large estate in Thetford in Norfolk.

Arthur died in 1803. His success can be measured by the fact that he left a fortune of £23,000, made after a comparatively brief brewing career.

Arthur II and Benjamin took over the brewery, with Benjamin developing the export trade. In spite of his elevated position at the Bank of Ireland, Arthur II was not keen to pay too much beer duty to the British rulers. At the time, duty was paid on ingredients – malt and hops – not alcohol and Arthur hit upon a cunning plan: if he used a proportion of unmalted and therefore untaxed roasted barley, he could reduce his duty bill.

At a stroke, he improved the revenues of the brewery and, unintentionally, produced a new type of stout: darker and with a powerful character of burnt roasted grain. Purely as a tax dodge, Arthur II invented Dry Irish Stout, a style markedly different from the English versions of porter and stout.

Sales of Guinness boomed. By the end of the 19th century, the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange. It was brewing 1.2 million barrels a year and was for a time the biggest brewery in the world. In 1904 the company built the first steel-framed building in the British Isles. It was called the Storehouse, where stout was fermented and left to mature before being bottled or racked into wooden casks. Today the Storehouse is a museum and visitor centre: see sidebar.

In 1929, Guinness paid for its firstever press advertisement in the London Daily Express. The simple message – “Guinness is Good for You” – was based on a report by doctors that a pint of stout a day was beneficial as a result of the beer’s high iron and mineral content. The slogan was used for decades until the forebears of the Health & Safety Executive ruled that liquid containing malt, hops, yeast and pure water might be harmful rather than nutritious.

In the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Guinness was responsible for some of the most iconic poster and press advertising in the history of brewing. It took on the London agency, Bensons, who hired the artist John Gilroy to advance the cause of Irish stout. Gilroy used a menagerie of animals, including lions, sea lions, kangaroos and elephants to promote the beer and its perceived strength of purpose.

But the enduring advertisement from that period was the result of Gilroy teaming up with crime writer Dorothy L Sayers, who was a copywriter at Bensons. When Gilroy sketched a pelican with a glass of Guinness in his beak, Sayers suggested replacing that bird with a toucan and wrote the memorable lines: “If he can say as you can Guinness is good for you, How good to be a Toucan: Just think what Toucan do.” The image is being used again to celebrate 250 years of brewing but there will be no suggestion that drinking stout may improve your health or sex life.

Guinness remains a beer giant.

Following a few difficult decades in Ireland, with younger drinkers switching allegiance to lager, it’s in the ascendancy again, with sales rising by between two and three per cent a year. Guinness accounts for 60 per cent of all the draught beer sold in Ireland.

Britain remains the biggest market – the Brits drink more Irish stout per head than any other country – followed by Ireland, Nigeria, the United States, Cameroon, Canada, Ghana and Indonesia.

Three million pints of Guinness are drunk every day throughout the world.

It’s on sale in 150 countries and brewed in 49. While Australasia, Britain, Ireland, Maylasia and North America drink Draught Guinness, most of the world consumes bottled versions, all based on the legendary FES – Foreign Extra Stout, which accounts for 40 per cent of international sales.

The driving force of Guinness worldwide is the vast brewhouse in Dublin. It’s so vital to the enterprise that it has its own electricity generating station in case the city is hit by blackouts. It can handle 12 brews a day in busy periods, based on a system of mash tuns, lauter or filtering vessels, and brew kettles for the boil with hops.

Fermentation is in giant conical vessels.

Around 20,000 tonnes of malt are used for each batch of beer, with 10 per cent of the recipe made up of roasted barley.

All the grain is homegrown and does miracles for Irish agriculture.

Hops are sourced from the Czech Republic, England, New Zealand and the United States. The main varieties used are Galena, Nugget and Target.

“Brewing liquor” – water – comes from the Wicklow Mountains and reaches Dublin via the delightfully named rivers Dodder and Poddle: telescope the names and you could say brewing Guinness is a Doddle.

In fact, brewing is remarkably fast.

The single-strain yeast culture creates stout within 60 hours but the beer then enjoys five days secondary fermentation before bottling or kegging. Amid all the new tech equipment, there is a palpable link to the porters and stouts of the 18th and 19th centuries: all the versions of stout are blended with a portion of aged beer that has been matured for several months to give the characteristic aroma and flavour.

The most fascinating product is FES.

The 7.5% beer – 8 per cent in Belgium – is turned into what is called ‘essence’ in Dublin. It’s a dehydrated version of the beer, similar to home-brewer’s malt extract. It’s transported to African countries, where it’s difficult to make black stout due to the absence of barley, and blended with a pale beer made from sorghum or other local grain.

The abiding strength of Guinness will be celebrated this summer and autumn.

There will be musical events in many countries, principally in the Dublin Storehouse and the U. S. There will be gigs in London, too.

A portion of the sales of beer and profits from the events will go to the Arthur Guinness Fund, which aids communities throughout the world.

And on 24 September, the birthday of the founder of a brewing colossus, we will all be asked to raise a glass “to Arthur”. Slànte!

The Storehouse The visitor centre was opened in 2000 and cost 38 million euros. It’s now Ireland’s biggest tourist attraction, with one million visitors a year. It traces the history of brewing in Dublin with many old photos and films, including one of coopers at work making wooden casks. There are samples of barley, grain, hops and water to taste and many old fascinating brewing artefacts. There are several restaurants and the bar at the top of the building serves a free glass of stout to every visitor as well as offering fine views of Dublin.

Guinness Storehouse, Market Street, St James’s Gate, Dublin 8.

Open 7 days weeks, 9.30-5; 7pm July-August. Closed Xmas Day, Boxing Day and Good Friday.

For further details, including prices for admission: Tel: + 353 1 408 4800 E: guinness-storehouse@guinness.com www.guinness-storehouse.com The beers All versions of Guinness are brewed with pale malt, flaked barley and roasted barley: proportions may vary from beer to beer. Hops are Galena, Nugget and Target.

DRAUGHT GUINNESS (4.2%) Chocolate, coffee and burnt grain on the nose, with smooth, creamy malt, roast, hop resins and burnt fruit in the mouth.

Coffee and dark chocolate notes in the finish are balanced by tart fruit, roast and gently bitter hops.

EXTRA STOUT (BOTTLE: 4.2%) A big fruity/blackcurrant aroma with roasted grain, hops resins and chocolate.

Bitter hops dominate the mouth with roasted grain and burnt fruit. The finish is bitter with hops, roast and chocolate.

FOREIGN EXTRA STOUT (7.5%) This world classic has the slightly sour and musty nose that brewers call “horse blanket” and which comes from the large proportion of aged beer used in the blend.

The bouquet is highly complex, with bitter roasted grain, a woody and vinous note and spicy hop resins. The palate is bitter from roast and hops, balanced by dark fruit, with a long, dry and bitter finish with powerful hints of liquorice and dark mysterious fruits, including something akin to sour bananas.

GUINNESS 250 (4.2%) This beer has been brewed only for the American market. It has a hoppy/resinous nose, with big roasted grain and chocolate in the mouth with a good balance of bitter hops. The finish is smooth, creamy and fruity with notes of hops and chocolate.