There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.
(Nigel Tufnel, This Is Spinal Tap)
The 1001 Beers book is filled with BS. We have finished around 25% of the book and in the 100+ entries bumped into quite a few mediocre brews and a bunch of beers that for lack of more powerful words can be only described as atrocities. Many of the beers that fall to the above-written adjectives are products of Big Breweries. The object of this post is a Diageo product, but one that doesn’t need a 1001 beers list: it belongs to *any* must-try beer list. Like it or not – Guinness is a classic, a must-try, which can’t be ignored. In fact, it is such an attention whore that it is listed 3 times in the book!
I am not a big Guinness fan. I usually like my stouts to be drier and roastier and Big Brewery stouts tend to feel too crowd-pleasing in my mouth. When I go out to a common bar that stocks the local duopoly’s products, I’d usually opt for a German wheat beer or the local, ever popular Goldstar (mental note: gotta write about Goldstar already!). But when I do crave Guinness I become a picky bitch: I’d only drink it in places known for their Guinness, where the pipes and taps are being taken care of and the kegs are replaced within a couple of days tops.
This is why The Secret Agent and I walked to Amiram’s Pub the other week. This small, homey, quiet public house is located in the northern part of the city, in a quiet corner just across the street from the busy clubbing area, Tel Aviv Port. I saw Amiram for the first time many years ago, before The Secret Agent and I moved to Tel Aviv – hell, it was even before we met really – the outer mural, lack of any sign and the fact that it was always closed when I passed by it on Friday nights misled me to think that it’s some sort of Guinness training/ marketing center. I tried to google pictures of the outside, but instead found many photos from our Hebrew blog, so you’ll have to trust me on that.
Anyway, Amiram is one of the city’s oldest existing pubs – it’s been around since the 1970’s, family owned and operated, sold a couple of years ago to a customer, and was recently sold back to the family.
The small space, not much bigger than a living room, is filled with souvenirs, old liquor bottles and beerchendise from days of yore. We sat on a wooden table, in front of the best promo shot Guinness ever did and drank our glasses of black gold. Amiram’s Guinness pours perfectly, with a finger-thick creamy tan head and no shamrock doodling. It starts with a delicate chocolate aroma followed by delicately bitter taste that my tongue that’s so used to hardcore-coffee-wooden stouts finds hard to grasp. The body is medium and the finish is delicate and smooth, a little watery even. With all the merchandise and dedication, Amiram Pub probably pours a perfect pint, but the beer itself is, well, Big-Brew stout.
Other than Guinness as we know it, the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die lists two other Guinnesses. The first is Guinness Foreign Extra Stout a %7.5 abv, sold in bottles and marketed all over. Shachar shared it in a recent tasting and I liked it alot: wine, a little roast, a little fruit, a little sugar and coffee aroma and roasty, coffee, bitter taste. The beer has full body and roasty dry finish and is less creamy than the usual Guinness. It is not a nice beer and I like it for this. In that tasting we also tried Guinness Special Export – Belgian version of the Foreign Extra Stout with 8% abv. that’s brewed in Ireland especially for Benelux. Its aroma is little milky and fruity with rich chocolate notes, and its taste is dry and reminds me of bittersweet chocolate. Chocolate is present in the finish and the body is lighter than the regular, slightly less alcoholic Foreign Extra Stout.
The third Guinness in the book is also Guinness Foreign Extra – the Nigerian version. Same abv. as the regular Foreign Extra, but brewed locally since colonial times. Apparently Nigeria is the second largest market for Guinness in the world. Marketing strategy and campaigns over there are local – no Bloomsday or Saint Patrick, but rather football and local imagery. The Irish harp logo remains though. The Beer Greek brought a can of Nigerian Guinness from a business trip. It smells sweet, fruity, faintly alcoholic like cheap wine and has some blackcurrants too – a rather nice aroma actually. It tastes like sweet wine and thankfully its texture lacks the nitro-smoothness that I usually don’t like. Full-bodied, fizzy with a long, fruity finish and quite interesting.
Out of the four, the I think that the Irish Foreign Extra Stout is the best, but nothing beats Amiram’s ambiance.
All three Guinnesses have rightfully gained their pages in the book and Guinness, Guinness Foreign Extra (Ireland) and Guinness Foreign Extra (Nigeria) are beers #242, #243 and #244 I Must Try Before I Die.