When is a Guinness not a Guinness?

… when it’s a golden ale?


We loved the beers that emerged from Guinness’ last Brewers’ Project, historic reinterpretations of a pair of 200-year old porter recipes that transmogrified into a Dublin Porter and a West Indies Porter last September.

So we were excited to hear that, for beer experiment number three, a brewery famous for making a beer so chunky and dark it was practically a health food supplement would come out with a golden ale.

Born in a microbrewery at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, the Golden Ale pours crystal clear and sunset-amber, with an exuberantly cloudy head that did slightly collapse in on itself. There’s a lot of fruit on the nose, which makes its initial dryness even more surprising – this is a malty, biscuity dryness rather than a hoppy one. Speaking as someone whose palate is regularly blown by IIPAs and nuclear saisons, Guinness’ Golden Ale – by virtue of its extreme lightness – tasted to me honeyed and sweetly light, weirdly not unlike the Kolsch I sampled in Cologne recently.


Spookily, something in this beer did remind me of Guinness’ trademark stout. The Golden Ale is brewed with Guinness yeast, but I doubt I could tell one yeast strain from another if it walked up and gave me its business card, so this association could be down to a: reading the press release a lot and b: obstinately drinking it out of a Guinness glass for kicks. Nevertheless, like many beer drinkers, I have a special place in my heart for Guinness – its Dublin HQ was the first brewery I visited, it was my major source of vitamin intake throughout university – so it was nice to get a heady whiff of something so familiar.

Brewer Peter Simpson said this was intended to be a balanced beer “that would appeal to a broad range of people”. I’d agree with that – at 4.5% abv, I could imagine happily drinking pint after pint of this with a Sunday roast. Ideally outside in a sunny pub garden. But it’s a session, not an event, ale; it’s polite, to hop-bomb pales like Kernel and BrewDog what Guinness’ stout is to a bottled-black hole from Mikkeler.

Renowned for their stout, Guinness was always going to fall foul of the seasons among those drinkers who wouldn’t touch a dark beer after the 30 May. This Pale is a truly respectable shapeshift onto the premium ale market – starkly different (in colour alone) but true to its roots. For a company that’s largely been brewing the same beer for 256 years, that’s not bad going.

At a glance:

Guinness Golden Ale
4.5% abv

Drink: with food, sunshine, reckless abandon; if you’re a fan of other Golden Ales like Fullers’ Honeydew

Available in selected pubs and shops

ICIP was sent two bottles of Guinness Golden Ale to sample


1 thought on “When is a Guinness not a Guinness?

  1. The Beer Nut

    Nice review. I’m always madly intrigued by the Guinness beers that are made in Dublin but never sold in Ireland. ‘Course, what they don’t tell you is that EVERY beer they make, even the industrial lagers, are born in the St James’s Gate microbrewery — that’s just their development process. They all go into production on the giant industrial brewkit too.

    And the same beer for 256 years? Guinness Stout as we know it is no more than about 35 at this stage. They have such a fascinating history I don’t know why they allow their PR people to fib about it so much.


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