Friday, March 19, 2010

Micreview: Guinness Extra Stout and Murphy's Stout

Well, it's the night after St. Patty's. And, although I may be late about it, I suppose I'm a obligated to review some Irish stouts. But there's a problem: I think the big names are shite, to be honest, including and especially all the Guinness I've had. I'm told, of course, that I've never had the real Guinness - and I reserve an open mind for if I try a pint of it one day - but I can state with certainty that all the Guinness that I've had in Chicago bars or in cans has been a muted watery mess not worth the material used to brew it.

Let's see, then, if a bottle of the Extra Stout does any better. This particular example was proudly brewed in Toronto, Canada Ireland, and it's got the same cream-on-black bomber design you've seen in every grocery store everywhere (especially in March). So: is it any good?

Well, it certainly looks like a stout should, pouring jet-black with a finger and a half of tan head. The nose is rather unassuming, though: the coffee-like note of roasted barley comes first, and there's also just a little bit of fruit if you concentrate. Sour fruit, not sweet - underripened cherries, maybe. It's not bad, but it's nothing to knock you over, either by detail or by raw power.

The taste is quite dry, as it should be, and fuller than I recalled. There's a touch of cacao at the start, which then expands into a full-on roasted malt frenzy. Halfway through it's chiefly lots and lots of charcoal and cacao, with a sweet-and sour note sneaking in towards the end. The hops aren't exactly no-shows, but they don't do much to relieve matters: mostly they just seem to add a slightly rusty effect, which isn't great. The aftertaste, to no one's surprise, is dry, consisting entirely of the bitter, lingering roasted flavors. It's a decent brew, I guess - it's a hell of a lot better than the nitro stuff they sell in bars - but it still fails to have any hook for me. The thing I'm most disappointed in, I think, is the mouthfeel: initially I found this stout rather full-bodied and creamy, but halfway through the bottle it's getting increasingly watery with every sip.

This beer, I would say, is exactly average. If you've got some roasted goose on the carvery (or some really nice Swiss cheese) and you need a beer to pair with it, this'll do nicely: it does its bitter thing, and it does it well. Beyond that, though, there's not much need to bother. It's really not worth drinking on its own, and the roasted malts do get annoying after awhile.

At this point I was faced with a problem: I wanted something to compare the Guinness to, and there aren't many other stouts with Irish ancestry around aside from the aforementioned Guinness Draught (which I avoid) and Beamish (which I couldn't find). I did find Murphy's Stout, though - four-packs were on sale at Binnys, and I snagged them. It comes in a can, too, which dutifully reports on its side that Murphy's is made in Edinburgh, Scotland Ireland. Should be interesting.

Well, the head on this thing is just amazing - it bubbles up from the bottom and forms a frothy beige of about two fingers. It's absolutely beautiful. And the color, again, is totally black - darker than black, in fact. It's a stereotypical, picture perfect stout appearance, even moreso than the Guinness ES; it looks fantastic. And the nose... the nose is... oh, no. The first thing I notice is that it smells like sour barley. With a little bit of a roasted hue, maybe some lactose and some yeast. And... that's it. It's one of the dullest aromas I've had in awhile, not only in the sense that it's boring but that it actually feels like it's been blunted. Oh, man. I may have made a horrible mistake here.

Onto the taste, where the misses just keep on coming. It's got a smooth consistency, to be sure, but it's also rather watery and unpleasant. Think skim milk. And the flavor? Bzzzt, sorry, there really isn't much. Somewhere - way way in the back - are some traditional Irish stout notes like roasted malts and cacao and a dry finish, but they've been so muted that there's almost nothing left. It's as if someone drew a stout with a pencil, and then erased it (but didn't completely finish the job). No, worse than that: seeing a half-erased stout right in front of one's eyes is still too direct an experience. Drinking Murphy's is like hearing your neighbor down the hall drink an Irish stout.

There's just nothing here. No flavor, no alcohol (4% abv), barely any texture. It's a 16 ounce can of nada that happens to look good when you pour it. I'm not sure exactly what I can blame this on: the can? the apparent nitrogenation of the can? the Edinburghers? Who knows, and I suppose it doesn't really matter. If you like beers that look pretty, get yourself a four-pack asap. If you like good stouts, avoid this stuff like a SARS case.

Really, Ireland, come on. You invented this style, and all you send us is a tasteless draught, a middling beer that any halfway-decent American microbrewer could better, and flavored stoutwater? We get drunk in celebration of your patron saint, dammit. You can do better than this. And until then, I think we should celebrate St. Patty's with stouts that are actually good - like Old #38, Black Hawk, Out of Bounds, or Black Sun, say.

Guinness Extra Stout
Grade: C
Summary: It's an Irish stout. It's roasty and a little dry. Meh.

Murphy's Stout
Grade: D-
Summary: Stout flavors dying cold and alone in a (very pretty) submarine, trapped at the bottom of an ocean.

1 comment:

  1. Scott, you are a clueless DICK!!!!!

    From St. P.A.D.D.Y.

    You DICK.