Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Guinness: An Icon in Decline?

I've written a piece about Guinness for the Independent. It's an appreciation of a brand in decline, and you can see it here, and it partners a more general article about Guinness' decline - you can see that here. It was supposed to go into the print edition of the paper today, but I've been told that space has been squeezed to give coverage of the returning England football team. That's a shame, but at least it gives me yet another reason to be ambivalent towards the beautiful game.

As I was writing the Guinness piece, I chatted with my partner, and she told me that she used to drink Guinness with a shot of Tia Maria in it*. Apparently delicious, but ruinously expensive. And as I was trying to remember the last time I drank a pint of Guinness, I realised that it was probably years, and I'd had it with a shout of bourbon in it. Maybe that's the way forward for Diageo - market a series of pre-mixed spirit-enhanced Guinness editions. They certainly have a broad enough spirit portfolio to make that an easy option.

* you're right - she's a keeper.


  1. In my travels around the rugby clubs of the West Country on Sunday mornings I always have Guinness if there is no cask and I got to the stage of marking each rugby club’s effort. South Molton’s Guinness for example was excellent, though wasn’t so sure about Bridgwater’s…

  2. Could it be related to the fact that Guinness is usually the most expensive beer in the pub, and pub prices have risen beyond inflation for years?

  3. Well you let it off rather lightly, though I can understand, you won't want to publicly bash it. I do think though, rather than a loved standby, for most seasoned drinkers of other beers, it's a distress purchase. And it really isn't as good as it was despite the odd decent pint, though when it was good is probably over 25 years ago.

  4. I buy Guinness when there's nothing else on, I'd never pick it over a cask ale that I've not had before.

    To be honest I don't understand the negativity towards it, I've never had it and thought "yuk ... can't drink that". Maybe I'm too young to remember it being great?

  5. Chunk. Yup.If you can't remember it when it was actually black and had roast barley and hops predominating instead of clumsy pasteurisation, you can't remember it being great.

  6. Adrian, Chunk - that's exactly my point. It was a standby beer for me for years, and I believe that's the same for many drinkers. As you say Chunk, I wouldn't pass over cask ale for it, but if I'm going to drink a smoothflow nitro beer, I'd rather it be Guinness then John Smith's or Boddington's

    Tandleman - that is actually what I think, rather than some Diageo-friendly rhetoric. I come from that awful cheery-beery place that thinks there's nothing wrong with the odd pint of industrial pap. It's usually refreshingly cold, clean and consistent, if not satisfying or particularly enjoyable.

  7. You're too touchy Zak. If you like it - fine and equally if you think it - fine.

    I'd have been less kind and I thought I detected in your piece a slight holding back - but thre isn't, so again - fine.

    To me though there is a difference between "standby" and "distress". I first drank Draught Guinness in 1972 or 1973 and have drunk countless points of it since - probably around 30 a year since then. Technically no doubt it will be a "better" beer, but it isn't a better drink.

    Then it was a drink of choice. It's in decline now because it isn't.

  8. As far as I know Guinness is one of the few breweries around to world to take up the wonderfull/awfull (depending on your view point) invention of continuous fermentation that New Zealand gifted to the world. It definitly had had an effect on the product, much more so that pasturisation I suspect. Here in NZ we have Irish brewed in the can and Lion Nathen brewed lager with dark extract added on tap. Is definitly a distress purchase.


Sorry about the word verification - the blog was getting spammed to bits.