Variations keep on coming from Guinness

December 1, 2009
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The electrical plate of the Guinness Surger unit generates ultrasonic waves that excite the nitrogen in the beer and create the surge-and-settle effect. Source: Diageo North America.

A maltier, more potent version of Guinness stout in bottles and cans helped mark the 250th anniversary or Arthur Guinness’s signing of a 9,000-year lease for the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland.

Iconic advertising and a powerful ethnic pull have helped Guinness stout become one of a handful of truly global beers. The Diageo plc division celebrated the accomplishment September 24 with a worldwide toast and party marking the 250th anniversary of Arthur Guinness’s signing of an up to 9,000-year lease for the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland. The Arthur’s Day event included musical celebrations in Ireland, Malaysia and Nigeria (a top four market for Guinness). As part of the year-long celebration, the brewery in April released 250 Anniversary Stout, which features a sweeter, more malty flavor and higher alcohol content (5%) than Guinness Draught. “It has given publicans in the US an opportunity to offer customers something different,” says Master Brewer Fergl Murray. It’s also the first new Guinness brew in North America since 1989, when cans of Draught arrived with a plastic widget to diffuse the dissolved nitrogen in the container and create a creamy head. (The “rocket widget” metering device in bottles debuted eight years ago.) Anniversary stout has no nitrogen and therefore no widget. Carbon dioxide gives it more fizz than either Draught or Extra Stout. The St. James Gate brewery has dabbled with a variety of beer styles, including pilsner and wheat beer, but except for limited editions like 250 Anniversary, it has restricted production to Draught and Extra Stout in recent years, Murray says. However, package innovation continues, with the Surger can an example.

The widget-less Surger is designed for use with an electrical device that emits ultrasonic waves to agitate dissolved nitrogen in the beer after it is poured. Available for home use in the UK, Surger units and cans are distributed exclusively to bars and restaurants in North America. “We’ve got a lot of great feedback on the theater of the Surger,” says Patrick Hughes, Guinness brand director at Diageo North America in New York, “but making sure it’s executed properly is a challenge.” Training and, “a little bit of TLC,” have been necessary when placing the device in pubs too small to accommodate a traditional keg-and-tap system.

Changes in draught cans also are being made, with bolder graphics and a larger Brian Boru harp, according to Hughes. Functional changes, including a larger opening for a smoother pour and creamier head, are also included.

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