I’ve reviewed a few Guinness Brews here at The Brewclub, and recently made a pilgrimage to St James’ Gate brewery in Dublin – there’s a review of the experience here.
If you find yourself in Dublin’s fair city, I can recommend a visit, but there’s no rush, they still have 8,644 years (at the time of writing) still to run on their lease.
While at St James’ Gate I enjoyed their ‘Connoisseur Bar Experience’, and one of the brews I sampled was their ‘Foreign Extra’, brewed to a hearty 7.5% ABV.
Indeed I chose this as the ‘souvenir’ bottle I took away from the experience although, to be honest, it’s available at my local supermarket.
Foreign Extra Stout – I learned – is derived from Guinness’ ‘West India Porter’ (a modern take on which I reviewed here), West India Porter was first brewed in 1801 with a higher alcohol and hop content to better enable it to survive the journey to the Caribbean. It was exported in wooden barrels and bottled locally.
West India Porter was shipped beyond the West Indies, reaching the United States in 1817, Africa in 1827, South East Asia in the 1860’s.
It was renamed ‘Foreign Extra Stout’ in 1849.
It’s brewed with pale malt, 25% flaked barley and 10% roasted barley (when asked about the strains of barley that Guinnes use, the only response was that they varied the blend based on availability and quality). The barley is roasted (if I recall correctly), at precisely 229.5 degrees Celcius – it would burn at 230 degrees. The hops are Galena, Nugget and Target, more hops than Guinness draught but still only 47 bitterness units.
This is the darkest of all the Guinness brews I’ve tried, closer to the ‘black stuff’ so beloved of the marketing men; with a mocha coloured head that’s less tight than the head of nitrogenated Guinness draught. It’s chemistry (or possibly physics), nitrogen produces smaller bubbles than carbon dioxide, or so I learned in Dublin.
The nose is bitter, ristretto coffee, a dark, smokey roast.
The flavour, despite only having those 47 IBUs it tastes bitter, there’s a bite that catches the back of your palate. Beyond that bitterness there’s the dark roast,black coffee/burnt toast flavours, some liquorice, some sweetness and the tiniest hint of diacetyl butterscotch.
The mouth feel is full bodied, almost chewy, this is the real deal and at 7.5% ABV it deserves to be handled with respect. I’m not afraid of strong beers, I’m still working my way (slowly and respectfully) through my case of 10% Jaipur X, but I really couldn’t handle more than one Guinness Foreign Extra in a session, and it only comes in a 330ml bottles.
As I mentioned, this is the real deal, the true essence of Guinness, amplified. A classic and worthy of the full five Brewclub stars.