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When is a Guinness not a Guinness?

… when it’s a golden ale?

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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.

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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

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Beer of the Week: Anspach & Hobday “The Stout Porter”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnspach & Hobday, a microbrewery in Bermondsey in south London, taps the vintage vibe of the Victorian brewing quarter where it sits in the shadow of the Shard.

This hefty, tarry stout porter recalls smokey post-industrial brewing – proper porter. It pours full fat milk thick with a light, lasting head.

Like the sort of dark chocolate you buy on a whim in artisan delicatessen, this tastes almost mouth-puckeringly cocoa-y. But it’s balanced by mellow vanilla notes. Pack in some leathery smokey fireplace-y undertones and you’ve got a smashing beer to string out the last few blustery days before the clocks change and we all start drinking pilsner.

Hops: British East Kent Golding & American Cascade

ABV: 8.5% 

Cost: £3.70 at Highbury Vinters