Guinness Toasts 250th Anniversary With New Brew

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Guinness will brew a fizzier, maltier version of its signature creamy brew. But it'll be rolling it out only in the United States and a few other countries — not in Ireland, where the original beer is cherished. Marcus McCough, the bar manager at the Irish Channel in Washington, D.C., discusses the new recipe with Jacki Lyden.


And what's a party without a little beer?

(Soundbite of song "Drink It Up, Men")

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) But there's nothing that's squeezed from the grape or the hop like the black liquidation with the froth on the top. Drink it up, men.

LYDEN: It goes by many names: black gold, mother's milk, the perfect pint. Guinness is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. It all began in 1759, when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on a modest parcel of land in Dublin at St. James's Gate. Annual rent, 45 pounds. The real estate market in Ireland's gotten a bit tighter since then.

Here in the States, Guinness is certainly a respected libation, but in Ireland, it's a religion. One key, smoothness, the blend of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

Lyn Kruger teaches brewing and beer tasting at Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Ms. LYN KRUGER (Teacher, Siebel Institute of Chicago): Nitrogen bubbles tend to be smoother. So like Guinness, it has that very tight foam. So it gives a completely different mouth feel and body to the beer.

LYDEN: That different mouth feel means it's not like fizzy American beers that leave out the nitrogen. This weekend, though, Guinness is rolling out a new 250th anniversary stout with plenty of fizz. And curiously, or maybe not so curiously, it won't be on tap in Ireland, just the U.S. and a few other countries.

Well, I just thought I should try it. A few blocks from NPR is a pub named the Irish Channel. Bar manager, Marcus McCough, poured me a pint of both, the brand new 250 and the original, the Mother's Milk.

Marcus, how would you describe the taste of Guinness to someone who hasn't tasted it before?

Mr. MARCUS McCOUGH (Bar Manager, Irish Channel): It's an acquired taste. The first time you drink Guinness, a lot of times you won't like it. But the second or third time, it grows on you. It's a heavier drink, so even though it's actually less calories in Guinness than there is Miller Lite, but the actual texture is what makes it feel heavier.

LYDEN: I'm glad to know that about the calories. Now, the original Guinness has that light, foamy tan. It's almost like a café au lait cream at the top.

Mr. McCOUGH: Yeah.

LYDEN: You can write your initial in it. (Unintelligible).

Mr. McCOUGH: The head on the original Guinness is creamy and thick, whereas the head on the 250…

LYDEN: It's a little looser.

Mr. McCOUGH: It's darker, it's looser, but it will hold the head on the beer the whole way down, as against most beers over here that the head dies off pretty quickly.

LYDEN: Well, I'm going to give this a try. (Unintelligible). It's nice.

Mr. McCOUGH: It's nice.

LYDEN: Yeah, it's lighter.

Mr. McCOUGH: It's lighter, definitely a lot lighter. As a Guinness drinker myself, I would have no problem drinking the special brew.

LYDEN: I was surprised to learn that the 250th anniversary stuff isn't being offered in Ireland. Does that mean nobody would deign to drink it?

Mr. McCOUGH: Irish people can be very fussy about their Guinness. Guinness is not to be messed with. So the new brew probably would not pay off in Ireland.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: What do you think of that old advertising slogan, Guinness is good for you?

Mr. McCOUGH: It's actually prescribed to pregnant women in Ireland.

LYDEN: Still?

Mr. McCOUGH: Still, yeah. They're allowed to drink one glass of Guinness a week while pregnant. Even the blood donations in Ireland, the first thing they give you is a bottle of Guinness afterwards to build your iron back up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: I like a country that knows its own strength. Thank you so much.

Mr. McCOUGH: Thank you very much.

LYDEN: Marcus McCough is the bar manager at the Irish Channel in Washington. He hails from County Mayo.

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